John Mayer
Room For Squares
Aware/Columbia
2001
B

john Mayer has really stepped in it Big Time.


Not only has this major-label debut (the acoustic Inside Wants Out was self-released in 1999) set him up for lofty comparisons to Dave Matthews and David Gray, but Mayer is just so damn good, he’s gonna have one hell of a time topping his own achievement.


All that aside, Mayer’s sincerely rendered Room For Squares openly lays bare his self-admitted “quarter-life crisis” (he’s barely 24), and “the stirrings in {his} soul”. There is a poet’s grace and innocent sensuality in this east-coast native’s major release. It’s also the kind of recording that increases your pleasure with each listen because something more alluring is revealed with each and every spin: A turn of a phrase, a nuance in a guitar riff, a melodic shift that went unnoticed before.


The lyrical phrasing of “My Stupid Mouth” (‘no filter in my head/what’s a boy to do/ I guess he better find one soon’) offers only a glimpse at Mayer’s keen songwriting talent. The same can be said for the song, “83” wherein Mayer laments the loss of his childhood (‘whatever happened to/whatever happened to my lunchbox/when came the day/ when it was thrown away?), followed by his wondering out loud why he hadn’t been consulted first!


Room For Squares is all about where the artist is at this juncture in life: facing issues about his life choices, his experiences on the road and making a go of it in the music industry. Love relationships suffer, hotel rooms are lonely and there is a longing for relevance in the day to day aspects of being who he is. Sounds strangely familiar. But John Mayer puts a twist on this common story and finds a way to tell these tales with a new vision and new verve. His music is plush and lively and he celebrates life at every turn, even when laying on his floor on a Friday and writing love songs to no one (“Love Song for No One”).


What you have here is an apparently typical acoustic singer/songwriter presentation (starting off with the lively hit single “No Such Thing”) that quickly becomes uncharacteristically thick and abundant in Mayer’s competent hands, with a full band providing slick electric, keyboard and percussion flourishes.


Room For Squares successfully blends the best aspects of a variety of music genres ands styles (funk/jazz bass grooves stand out in the vibrant “Neon,” and the romantically sexy “Your Body is a Wonderland”; while sweeping, classical strings shine in “City Love,” and pure pop guitar lines resonate throughout “Back To You” and “Why Georgia”), with the end result being a complete package of infectious tunes with moving vocals and nakedly honest sentiment.


Mayer is touring Europe for the latter part of 2002 (finally headlining!), and Aware/Columbia has recently released his debut acoustic work under their auspices. A new single and video for “Your Body is a Wonderland” is bringing attention back to Room For Squares, which was originally released late in 2001. Good thing, because I don’t believe enough people paid attention the first time around. It’ll be good to see what effect, if any, the new single, new video and post-European tour buzz has on sales and interest in John Mayer and his music.


Room For Squares is quite good just for what it is (READ: nicely constructed pop music) and signifies John Mayer as the genuine article: A pop recording artist certain to achieve recording popularity.


Reviewed by: Roxanne Blanford
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01
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