Musically when I think of someone who is in the middle, I think of artist like John Mayer. The middle in no way implies boring. Mayer himself stated on NPR in April of 2017 that his intention with this album was to push emotional buttons.
The attempt at hitting that emotional sweet spot places Mayer into a long tradition of adult contemporary artists who’s music borrows from just about everything around it to become a synthesis of what’s popular. Decades ago this type of artist might have been Kenny Loggins, The Doobie Brothers or Hall and Oates. More recently it was the Dave Matthews Band and Hootie and the Blowfish who captured the middle during much of the ’90s and the early O’s.
John Mayer’s music uses elements of pop, folk and even soul to make a sound that goes over easy to most musical tastes. Go to any trendy casual restaurant and you’re likely to hear something from Mayer playing on the patio. It’s easy to hear why. As an artist his interest, abilities and influences are diverse. His talents are not limited to music, but when he goes off script he can end up in collaborations with artists as diverse as Kanye West to Dead & Company, a band made up of former Grateful Dead members which he is the lead vocalist.
His seventh album The Search for Everything has that warm familiar vibe that makes this the musical equivalent to comfort food. Considering his medical problems and self imposed exile a few years ago, The Search for Everything comes across as bright happy and cheerful. Soulful tracks like the opener “Still Feel Like Your Man” and “Moving On and Getting Over” have a assured style and swagger about them that will insure blue eyed soul comparisons. Speaking of which, “Rosie” pays tribute to Hall & Oats with echos of “Sara Smile”.
The influences don’t stop with just mainstream pop. There are even hints of a Keith Richards-like rhythm section in the catchy upbeat blues rock of “Helpless”. More telling to the suburban nature of The Search for Everything is the inclusion of songs that could easily pass as country. The title track and “Love On the Weekend” could have be written Blake Shelton or Brad Paisley, but like all the albums tracks here were written by Mayer himself. Mayer also co produced the album along with Steve Jordan and Chad Ranscoviak, proving his versatility.
John Mayer albums have been consistently strong and The Search for Everything is no exception. As popular music goes, Mayer proves that it’s possible to appeal to the masses and still keep artistic integrity. It’s far too early to predict a legacy like that of Elton John or Billy Joel, but at his current rate John Mayer is easily the Dave Matthews Band of his time.