Who Did You Think He Was?
In the world of music, John Mayer has left his footsteps in almost every genre. He caught his fame in pop, stomped into the blues, camped out in country for some time, and even visited rap on occasion. His vocal skills have improved throughout the years, but his guitar is an extension of his voice. In terms of skill, some people would be surprised to hear that Mayer is one of the best guitarists currently in the industry. He’s earned praise from both Eric Clapton and B.B. King. He’s proven he makes every artist around him better even if they aren’t in his band. Here’s five moments where it is well-proven.
Maren Morris- “The Bones”
“The Bones” showcases Maren Morris’s vocal talent, putting her up in the ranks of female country artists. For an upcoming artist with tons of potential, she could have carried her recent Grammy Awards performance alone. However, she had John Mayer backing her up.
His presence in “The Bones” brought him back to his Born & Raised era. His ego was aside despite the heavy spotlight. Once his time came for a solo, it elevated the dramatic tension to the song. Morris’s already powerful performance was lifted by his energy. His solo also allowed the entire band to play louder. In the end, Morris’s Grammy performance was brought to a higher status through a touch of Mayer.
Mac Miller- “Small Worlds”
Mac Miller was one of the most talented musicians of our generation. His death in 2018 left the music world in a depressed mourning period that is still felt today. The memorial concert for him named “A Celebration of Life” in L.A.’s Greek Theater featured Chance, the Rapper, Travis Scott, and the wild card John Mayer.
“Small Worlds” was Miller fusing his rap bars with jazz instrumentals. This blended style just made sense for Mayer to cover the song. He may not spit the bars at the level of Miller, but his vocal melodies flow with the jazz music. As usual, he had to jam out a little solo, which was cool and didn’t change the mood of the song. “Small Worlds” is in the atmosphere of Mayer’s “Gravity”. Mayer improved on the instrumental aspect of Miller’s song, but it felt empty without Mac Miller himself.
If this concert piqued any interest, check out Mayer’s appearance in Thundercat’s performance of “Them Changes” from the same night!
Ed Sheeran- “Don’t”
John Mayer, the comedian? Yes, there was a time in 2015 where he hosted The Late Late Show on CBS. His monologues were quite funny as he made himself the target of many punchlines. He even teased Taylor Swift for ignoring his friendly gestures.
One artist that joined in on the fun was Ed Sheeran. Fresh off his platinum album x, the duo performed a late-night version of “Don’t”. This track’s studio version is a quiet, coffee-shop pop song. Meanwhile, Mayer turned the tables.
While Sheeran rapped the verses and strummed the beat on an acoustic, Mayer was doing his thing in the background with a bright-pink electric guitar. It’s entertaining for the sole purpose of Mayer and the drummer playing in their own world. Mayer’s falsetto back-up vocals do the job, but the solo is electrifying. This song may be his best work with a whammy-bar, too. Sheeran will never be able to top this performance of “Don’t” ever again.
Alicia Keys- “If I Ain’t Got You”
Alicia Keys is the John Mayer of female pianists. “If I Ain’t Got You” elegantly places Keys at the top-tier level of our generation. This performance only gets better as the song progresses. Audiences did not know it could get better after inviting drummer Questlove and John Mayer onto the stage to the vibe.
This is an instance where Mayer’s vocal talent actually became the highlight of the performance. He steps in on vocals for the second verse while Keys does her thing on piano. For the chorus, the duet between the two is unmatched. It became the collaboration the world did not know they needed. It was a mistake to not have these two work together in the past for an album such as 2006’s Continuum. It only gets better once they medley the song into “Gravity”. These two powerhouses made one another’s songs better and it needs to happen more.
Jimi Hendrix- “Wait Until Tomorrow”
Where The Light Is is top-tier John Mayer material. The live album includes Mayer’s most popular cover, “Free Fallin’”, with over 390 million streams on Spotify. However, this is not the best cover on the album.
The show features a set from the John Mayer Trio, all in coordinated Blues Brothers suits. It was bold (as love) for them to touch Hendrix material, but they were prepared to shock the audience. “Wait Until Tomorrow” had the Jimi Hendrix Experience delve into a slower, jazz-like beat which slightly escalated over time. This blues trio took the song to the other side of the axis, turning it into an upbeat rock song.
Mayer’s young ambition is the soul of this cover. It’s his version of Marty McFly playing “Johnny B. Goode” at the high school prom. His guitar licks are smooth, Steve Jordan’s drum beats are intense and Pino Palladino ensures a hard bassline. Mayer’s ending solo is prolonged and we wish it was longer. He unleashes sounds in the vein of Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Even Jordan can be seen grinning ear-to-ear, knowing he is witnessing something special.
Bruce Springsteen- “I’m On Fire”
Mayer’s cover of Springsteen’s somber song was an Apple Music exclusive for his 2008 album Battle Studies. This finger-picking version is a quiet one and worthy to at least get an honorable mention.
The Police- “Message In The Bottle”
Any Given Thursday is an early live album from his career. His melancholic acoustic cover of The Police song was a surprise on the setlist, but not enough to surpass the original.
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