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ISSUE 117 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/10/2003

Critic's Corner

By Byron Vierk
Staff Writer

Friday, October 10, 2003

To put it simply, “Heavier Things” was an album John Mayer had to make. Following a critically acclaimed, top 20, Grammy–winning and triple–platinum debut album, “Room for Squares,” Mayer found himself the leader of a new pack of multi–genre artists.

Expectations couldn’t have been higher for Mayer’s newest effort, so pressure to deliver on his sophomore album must have been immense. Fortunately for Mayer, “Heavier Things” is the perfect second effort – accessible enough to keep old fans interested, yet diverse and adventurous enough to show how deep Mayer’s talent for melody and rhythm really runs.

“Clarity” gradually develops amidst piano and backbeat, while Mayer’s smoky voice sings a story of a love doomed to fail. The song seems to be a grim assessment of Mayer’s own time in the spotlight, as he laments, “By the time I recognize this moment/This moment will be gone.” Next up is Mayer’s current single, “Bigger Than My Body,” which sounds like it could have fit in just about anywhere on “Room for Squares.” It’s a safe single, and it’s certainly hard to resist the pure pop fun of Mayer’s melodic guitar and uplifting lyrics.

The middle of the album is a mixture of the mid–tempo and slower numbers that have come to define Mayer’s sound. “Something’s Missing” is another “Why Georgia” with better production. “New Deep” resembles the energetic feel of Mayer’s earlier work, with a driving bass line and killer guitar licks. The only real misstep on the album is Mayer’s attempt to recreate the silky early–morning romance of “Your Body is a Wonderland” with “Come Back to Bed.” The song never really catches fire, and what could be a nice melody is bogged down with uninteresting rhythms and forgettable lyrics.

Where Mayer’s “Come Back to Bed” fails, his atmospheric ode to loneliness, “Split Screen Sadness,” succeeds and then some. Written shortly after his breakup with Jennifer Love Hewitt, the song expresses his sorrow and anger at the distance that separates us all, physical or otherwise. Mayer’s frustration and anxiety is almost palpable as he croons, “All you need is love is a lie/’cuz we had love but we still said good–bye.” It’s obviously not all wine and roses being the new darling of the pop world.

The last half of the album contains Mayer’s most open and mature work to date. “Daughters” is a perfect folk song, with a strong positive message and a spare, breathless acoustic melody. “Only Heart,” on the other hand, churns along a powerful electric groove, reminiscent of “Love Soon” from Mayer’s first EP, “Inside Wants Out.”

“Homelife,” however, is the real revelation on “Heavier Things” – enough Motown bounce to make Al Green jealous, and deep, insightful lyrics expressing Mayer’s wish to “finish on a Friday/ and sit in traffic on the highway” and how he’s still waiting – “holding out for a home life.” Mayer even accepts that even the best relationship could fail, but he emphatically declares, “I will marry just once/ and if it doesn’t work out/ give her half of my stuff.” The song is a serious departure for Mayer, both lyrically and musically.

In the end, that’s the point of “Heavier Things” – it announces Mayer’s arrival as a serious, mature artist with intelligent, moody and truly insightful wisdom to impart. Very heavy indeed.

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