Thursday, October 19, 2006

Continuum

I vividly remember when I got my first John Mayer CD. It was a present from my dear friend (and fellow square ;p) Chris, right before I left to study in China. John Mayer was still an obscure name back then, but Chris, who's a talented musician himself and always in the know about the latest in music, had already discovered JM's first commercially released album, Room for Squares, months before it would make waves in the local scene. As his farewell gift to Beijing-bound me, Chris decided to let me in on the wonderland that is Mayer's music. Because he couldn't find the CD in any record bar in Manila yet at the time, he gave me his own copy (I don't think I ever thanked you enough, Dee =D), and I brought it with me to China. That album became the soundtrack to my stay in Beijing, a period when I was going through an emotionally charged phase in my life, and Mayer's wistful-without-being-whiny, soulful-without-being-sentimental, poignant-without-being-painful songs were the perfect accompaniment to my soul-searching. I don't know how many times I played that CD during my 7 months in China (I think I barely took it out of my Discman), but I never got sick of it. To this day, I can still listen to the whole album over and over again, and still feel stirred by each track, every one of which I know by heart.

Today I bought JM's latest album, Continuum (yes, some of us still do buy CDs-- I only do so for artists I really, really like and would not mind supporting with 460 of my pesos). I ripped open the plastic covering of the CD (why do they make it so dang hard to tear open, huh?) and almost dropped it in my excitement. The crystal case came in a paper sleeve, and when I slid it out, I saw the album cover, and thought I had gotten a defective CD. The cover was blank, a pure white square with nothing on it. Then, upon closer inspection, I realized that the title "Continuum" was UV-printed on the cover in white, making it invisible at first glance.

I liked the album already, and I hadn't even listened to it yet.

I got around to popping the CD into the player, and the first track was the already familiar "Waiting on the World to Change", which has been played on the radio for quite some time now. This weak attempt at a voice-of-our-generation, hippie/pacifist ditty is not my favorite JM song, and I question the grammatical correctness of the preposition in the title (if you can't spot it, never mind). But I do like the line "It's not that we don't care/ we just know that the fight ain't fair." It's reminiscent of words from a Bob Marley song: "
People are crazy and times are strange/I'm locked in tight, I'm out of range/I used to care, but things have changed." Now there was a song of passive aggression.

Aside from "Waiting...", "Gravity" (Track 4) is the only song that has gotten airplay locally, as far as I know. I like Gravity for its laid-back and bluesy sound, but it doesn't have the most impressive of lyrics. The rest of the songs on Continuum are more mellow compared to Mayer's previous hits; the upbeat tempos of "No Such Thing" and "Bigger than My Body" are scarce to be found in this album, although "Vultures" (Track 6) does have head-bop-to-the-beat potential (even if Mayer's falsetto on the chorus bothers me a bit), and "The Heart of Life" (Track 5) and "Stop This Train" (Track 7) approximate the whimsical tones of two of my favorite older JM songs, "3X5" and "83". But the tracks that I enjoy the most are, inevitably, the songs that deal with that nasty 4-letter word: love. "I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You)" (Track 2), Dreaming With a Broken Heart (Track 10), In Repair (Track 11) and I'm Gonna Find Another You (Track 12) are classic Mayer in the sense that they border on being cheesy and lame, but stay safely within the confines of plaintive and tender. Even the quality of JM's voice tends to change a bit when he's singing about heartache; there seems to be a more raw, honest timbre to it that heightens the emotional appeal.

Continuum does not surpass JM's previous albums in terms of lyric and sound quality, entertainment value and overall impact. I don't know if it's just my strong attachment to Room for Squares, but in my opinion, none of his succeeding albums have come close to topping it. However, no matter what he continues to come out with for the rest of his musical career, John Mayer will always be one of those musical acts I adore unconditionally for deeply personal reasons (2 others who have that distinction: Alanis Morisette, and the defunct matchbox twenty). Though some critics dismiss him as pop-disguised-as-alternative (my brother would be among them), I consider JM one of the best song-writers of my generation, and his lyrics never fail to touch a nerve in even this most jaded of twentysomethings. A line from Mayer's first hit, the overplayed-yet-never-cloying Back To You, best captures how I feel about his music: "Something about you/ it's just the way you move, the way you move me..." He may be no Marley, but Mayer knows how to tug at the hardened heartstrings of our generation, and his voice, his music, speaks volumes for us-- frustrated loves, discontented lives, bittersweet lessons and all.

13 Comments:

At Saturday, October 21, 2006, Anonymous frank√© said...

is this my cousin, chris?

well, just an update in case you didn't know yet... he's getting married september next year! :D

 
At Saturday, October 21, 2006, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

Yes, it's your cousin Chris, and yes, I know he's getting married next year. I'm really happy for him and Alexi. :) You'll be home by then, right? ;)

 
At Saturday, October 21, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello ling!

I discovered a really good artist a few weeks ago, Regina Spektor. I'm not a big music fan, but this girl got me hooked... If you've time, try listening to her songs online. I already bought her CD... it's really good. ;-)

 
At Sunday, October 22, 2006, Anonymous pamy said...

oooh i love john mayer <3!! i didnt know you were a fan too. i agree with you that room for squares is his best album to date. i could listen to the cd all day hehe

 
At Monday, October 23, 2006, Anonymous Laura said...

I always did this comparison of Jason Mraz and John Mayer, both of whom I love. Jason Mraz has the whimsy. John Mayer has the depth.

 
At Monday, October 23, 2006, Blogger Stone_set said...

i love love love love love love love john mayer! good taste, Ms. Lim! Did you like Split Screen Sadness from Heavier Things? That and Bigger than my Body are my favorite of his "discovering myself musically" tracks.

 
At Monday, October 23, 2006, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

I just love this outpouring of JM adoration. =D

Wyatt: My favorite tracks from Heavier Things are "New Deep" and "Something's Missing". Very much angst-ridden, but without any undercurrents of anger. That's what I love about John Mayer: he's the voice of quarterlife crisis. I just hope he grows along with us, so that I'll still have a soundtrack to my life when I'm in my 30s. ;p

 
At Monday, October 23, 2006, Anonymous frank√© said...

yep, i'm not missing that for anything!!! hehehe!

and to add to this john mayer mania... i do love his music too. but aside from being the lyrical genius that he is, i adore him even more for his mad skills with the guitar. i wish i could play even half as good as he does. :)

 
At Monday, October 23, 2006, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

I agree! I mean, I'm no music expert but I can tell the dude's hella talented with the guitar. Bonus hottie points. =D Although I don't think I like how he's wearing his hair long these days. :p

 
At Wednesday, October 25, 2006, Anonymous MoJo said...

aha! point of dissent #3 (1 and 2 being clive owen and rob thomas, respectively... i'm starting to notice a pattern here!) :P

 
At Wednesday, October 25, 2006, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

It's kind of reassuring to know we have SOME differing opinions. :)

But I stand by my men. Especially Clive Owen. Hot, hot, hot. :p

 
At Friday, November 10, 2006, Anonymous Laureen said...

I have a soft spot for Gravity, because it was used for what I like to think is one of the most heartbreaking scenes in House history (season 3 ep 2). :D But I wholeheartedly agree that none of his later albums can compare to his first one. And somebody who loves 83 too! Odd as it may seem, it was my favorite track in Room for Squares (even though it really is hard to pick a favorite from that album).

 
At Friday, November 10, 2006, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

"Odd as it may seem, it was my favorite track in Room for Squares" -Definitely odd, considering you hadn't even been born yet in 1983. :p

Hmm. Must get started on Season 3 soon...

 

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