by Kevin Burton
It turns out my inelastic brain, not just a fondness for The Stylistics and Little River Band, keeps me spinning old tunes, not trying the new ones.
In a recent post I explained that my brain’s corticofugal network recognizes the music I am hearing and keeps me grooving by helping produce dopamine (“My Brain Prefers Old-School Music,” June 8).
With the help of a friend I broke briefly out of that mode, purchased and liked recommended newer music by John Mayer, Maroon 5 and Norah Jones.
I liked it so much I bought other music by those artists but never bothered to listen to it much.
Not sure the corticofugal thing explains that. Anyway I am belatedly exploring the follow-up music, starting this week with Mayer and his album Heavier Things.
The John Mayer sound would have fit in with the sound coming out of my radio in the 70s and 80s. Glad I’m hearing him later in life though because I could not have understood or appreciated his lyrics back then.
The original John Mayer I bought was “Room For Squares.” The sticker on front says “No Such Thing,” “Your Body Is a Wonderland” and “Why Georgia” are the featured songs. The sticker on Heavier Things mentions “Bigger Than My Body.”
Since I don’t listen to the radio anymore I don’t know what the hits were, I just know what I like.
Mayer won a Grammy for “Your Body is a Wonderland” according to Wikipedia and I don’t even hear it as a single. It’s one of the few songs I dislike. Shows what I know. Still, it feels good to have my musical enjoyment divorced from what Joni Mitchell called “the star-maker machinery behind the popular song.”
“City Love” is not my favorite song on Room For Squares but it includes by far my favorite lyric: “She keeps a toothbrush at my place, as if I had the extra space.”
That line speaks to young, exploratory love and learning (we hope) not to be so selfish. Reviewer Robert Christgau said “lyrics like ‘She keeps a toothbrush at my place, as if I had the extra space’ on “City Love” are an improvement over Norah Jones.”
I was hoping for another gem or two like that on Heavier Things. One musical gem was the Stax-like horn riffs on “Come Back To Bed” only without the high volume.
“Bigger Than My Body” is growing on me, but “Home Life,” is my clear favorite on this record. It has a different feel I can’t explain except to say that I bet Bonnie Raitt likes the song. It contains a lyric, “I’ve got to leave cause my ride is here” that I can relate to. Also liked the lyric “I was born a house cat by the sleight of my mother’s hand.”
“Clarity” and “Split Screen Sadness,” are displeasing in the same way. Though they both improve, they start out sounding as if they were made from a metronome track. The latter song has a line “hand on the trigger of a telephone” that I like.
“Daughters” came out as a single because Columbia Records thought it would be well received. Mayer was reluctant to release it, according to Wikipedia, because it isn’t in the style he was moving to musically.
But the song won two Grammy awards, so the label was right this time. It has an obvious presence to it. It’s not the kind of song you hear every day. I can see why anybody who has or is a daughter would relate to the song. It helps that it is in three-four time.
This story reminds me of reading about how much Sammy Davis Jr. hated “The Candy Man,” refusing to record it at first.
Mayer has released six records after the two that I have, according to Wikipedia. I haven’t heard a note of any of the newer stuff. I may check it out online but I won’t be buying any. If his Wikipedia article is accurate, he’s not someone I want to support financially.