Seven-time Grammy winner John Mayer has accomplished a lot since his grass roots beginnings at Atlanta clubs like Eddie’s Attic. His rise to fame started with the 2001 release of his debut album Room for Squares which spawned several radio hits like “No Such Thing,” “Why Georgia” and Grammy-winning single “Your Body is a Wonderland.”
Five studio albums and more than a decade later, Mayer has not only established himself as a brilliant lyricist, composer and arranger but an accomplished guitarist who has triumphantly brought the Blues to a new generation. One of the most distinctive things about him is his outside-the-genre-box approach to songwriting and performing. He excels at ad-libbing during live shows to play mammoth, extended guitar solos that are both colorful and conversational.
In short, John Mayer is a master storyteller, both musically and lyrically. He grabs his listeners’ hearts and minds with vivid vignettes that zoom into intimate details about love, relationships and other meaningful moments in time in a way that is definitively his own. Therefore, it’s incredibly difficult to pick John Mayer’s 10 best songs.
After heavy debate and fervent deliberation, here are 10 essential John Mayer songs that could be found on the perfect Mayer mix CD.
This song is the first track on Mayer’s second album, Heavier Things. It’s such a feel-good song about the clarity and sense of freedom that comes after letting go of worry. The trumpet in the intro is great and his falsetto “Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh” rocks.
9. “Stop This Train”
Anyone who has ever stopped and considered their own mortality can appreciate John Mayer’s emotional reflection about the speeding train of life in this song from his Grammy-winning third album, Continuum. Mayer taps into a very universal feeling and fear with “Don’t know how else to say it/Don’t want to see my parents go/I’m one generation’s length away/From fighting life out on my own” and “So scared at getting older/I’m only good at being young.” It’s beautiful, heartbreaking and impossible not to get goosebumps hearing it – especially live.
Most of John Mayer’s songs are relationship driven and this one applies to all kinds of relationships and arguably carries the biggest, most important message in his entire catalog: Say what you need to say. Mayer penned this Grammy-winning song for the 2007 film “The Bucket List.” It was his first commercial single that was released independently of an album, though it was later included on a re-release of Continuum. It would be really nice to know how many relationships were mended or healed after following Mayer’s straightforward and simple advice in the song.
7. “Come Back to Bed”
Mayer doesn’t need to do a whole lot to woo the millions of adoring female fans he has garnered over the years. This pleading, emphatic song from Heavier Things draws them even closer with an intimate look at a couple mid-fight. It also oozes sex appeal and plenty of regret. The slow bluesy guitar is brilliant and his extended live solo on this is just superb – he brilliantly injects the guitar right into the argument.
6. “Edge of Desire”
This song from Mayer’s Grammy-nominated fourth studio album Battle Studies was never released as a single. The haunting melody wraps beautifully around the desperation of the lyrics “Don’t say a word/Just come over and lie here with me/Cause I’m just about to set fire to everything I see”. We feel his pain and anyone who misses someone to the core knows exactly how he feels. As he says in his Hollywood Bowl live intro, “Life is short. If you love someone… ” Do something about it, tell them.
5. “Your Body is a Wonderland”
Females worldwide praise John Mayer for lyrically getting it right in his vivid description of taking his time with a woman beneath the sheets. The song was the second single from his debut album Room for Squares and earned him his first-ever Grammy Award in 2003 for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.
4. “Why Georgia”
This autobiographic song from Room for Squares was also included on John Mayer’s first live DVD Any Given Thursday. It’s a fan-favorite sing-a-long at any live show. The catchy melody and swelling, unforgettable chorus make “Why Georgia” one of the most indelible songs of Mayer’s career.
This insightful ballad marked a professional triumph by earning Mayer a Grammy for Song of the Year in 2005. It’s an open and honest admonition to fathers everywhere to be good to their daughters, because the way they are treated will eventually impact how they relate and behave in a relationship. The melody is lovely but the stark truth the song conveys is the most beautiful thing about it.
2. “Covered in Rain”
John Mayer skillfully weaves an emotional post 9/11 tribute in this sad and romantic sequel to “City Love.” It’s featured on his live Any Given Thursday CD/DVD and ranks second in this list for its overall expressive brilliance. Mayer’s guitar takes on a life of its own and arguably adds a third dimension by perfectly capturing the color and mood of our broken-hearted and bruised nation in the wake of that horrific time in history. His live extended guitar solo on this is one of the best he’s ever done.
Mayer himself has credited “Gravity” as “the most important song I have ever written” during a live show at Eddie’s Attic. It musically and lyrically showcases everything he is as an artist, though it talks about the heavy job he’s been saddled with to “not screw up” and somehow stay grounded under the weight of fame. It has appeared on Try!, Continuum and the live Where the Light Is version won the Grammy for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance. “Gravity,” quite simply, remains John Mayer’s masterpiece.