First posted on Mark Is Cranky:
I rock so poorly.
Uhmm…my love, and my skill, is being smooth.
So begins Liane Hansen’s interview with pop singer-songwriter John Mayer.
You might think that this is yet another attempt to get Mayer-haters forehead veins to throb extra hard this morning. It’s not. If you haven’t been paying attention (or maybe have a life, and are unconcerned with such things) there’s been a little back ‘n forth going on concerning Mayer. It all started with Blogcritics own DJ Radiohead’s excellent tribute podcast to the late Elliott Smith. I made the mistake of admitting that I don’t ‘get’ Smith and would instead prefer to listen to John Mayer.
Hoooboy, much snarling ensued. Then the One Big Happy podcast tosses a small can ‘o gas onto the fire. Please, somebody reach for the fire extinguisher!
Does it have to be this way? Heck, I don’t know. Why we like or dislike things is a fairly mysterious process. I tend to have emotional reactions to music. I hear it, my cells all start pulling in one (or another) direction and I immediately know. Just this morning I switched on the Sirius and tuned in to the all-Springsteen channel “The Bridge”. They played his live version of Jimmy Cliff’s “Trapped”. For whatever reason, the chorus of that song just gets to me. I literally well up as the chorus swells. Why?
I have no idea.
So I’ve listened to the Elliott Smith tribute five times. I can sense the author’s passion for the music…music that just does not speak to me. One thing I can say about it is that I tend to not respond to male voices that are soft, whispy and (supposedly) melancholy. I say ‘supposedly’ because my emotional reaction to the texture of the voice is to draw away and completely miss the emotion that I take it is supposed to be there. Obviously, it’s just me because just two days ago, I listened to Petra Haden and Bill Frisell. The first tune “Satellite” really caught my ear. Yea, it was written by Elliott Smith.
The irony of the Mayer interview is that he goes on to say that because he’s not a good rocker he couldn’t ever see releasing a record like that. I don’t know what that Mayer Trio record is going to sound like but from what I’ve read it’s a move (or an attempted move) away from ‘smooth’.
So did I have an emotional reaction to the music on this record. Sure I did. I immediately liked the way Mayer layered electric arpeggios on top of the acoustic guitar strumming. I was a little surprised at this because I’d read so much negative bluster about the guy. So much that I figured that there was nothing there. Yet I bought the album because I liked the vibe of “Neon” (the main riff remined me of a pop version of jazz bass-torturer Charlie Hunter) and Mayer’s unpretentious attitude in that interview. That was enough for me.Powered by Sidelines