In Defense Of John Mayer, On His Birthday

Carl Williott | October 16, 2012 6:00 am

And now for that ol’ Google trope: when you type “John Mayer is” into the search bar, “a douche” is the first Autofill result. While this notion of Mayer’s rampant douchery is common, it is probably untrue. So today (October 16), which happens to be his 35th birthday, I hope to illustrate why it’s untrue with the following Defense Of John Mayer. At the very least, I aim to show that the ratio of Mayer Vitriol to Mayer Douchery is perplexingly high.

I assure you this is not an exercise in pop music trolling.

I suppose we must start with the love life. The first firestorm came with the Jessica Simpson comments — which, it should be noted, were extremely complimentary. While it was tasteless, let’s all admit that having our exes tout our sexual prowess is about the greatest thing we can hope for from an ex. And let’s keep in mind the people who were up in arms about the “sexual napalm” comment are probably the same people who were buying the magazines that reveled in Simpson’s weight gain. Which is the douchier move?

Obviously, John Mayer would be better served to unleash his inner guitar hero more than he does his peen — or, at least, more than he talks about his peen and its involvement with sad sack starlets. But I’d bet the origins of Mayer contempt have nothing to do with his penchant for overexposing his exes. Rather, the connotation is a result of the gulf between his super-sensitive early songs (e.g. “Daughters,” “Your Body Is A Wonderland”) and his actual, regular-dude personality.

People are mad that the man whose “love was comfortable” is actually the man who wanted to “snort” lines of J-Simps. So he’s a hound, just like EVERY guy in a band (also, every guy). Why are we singling him out when he isn’t even a superlative hound? The man admitted he preferred masturbation to sex, for God’s sake. That may very well make him the ideal life partner!

By the time Mayer got around to dating Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, he was a known quantity. Those two knew exactly what they were getting into (which, again, wasn’t anything that bad). And are we really going to argue that John Mayer damaged Perry more than Travie McCoy or Russell Brand did? (Also, John and KP are apparently back together now?)

As for Taylor, her clever little plan took two years thanks to Mayer’s self-imposed media blackout, but she finally lured him into her “Dear John” trap, getting him to say the song was hurtful. Of course, as soon as he uttered those words, Swift swiftly slammed him, saying he is “presumptuous” to think the song is about him. And everyone accepted that narrative, because John Mayer is so vain and he totally would think it’s about him.

Look, Taylor’s a sweet gal, but as if. She knew exactly what she was doing when she decided to call the song “Dear John.” She Wendy Peffercorn‘d that shit. Some artists write songs about exes. John Mayer happens to talk about them in interviews instead. Which is the douchier move?

The talk of sex, girlfriends, porn and drugs was all part of his “quest to be as clever as possible all the time” — which is a sickness we all suffer from thanks to social media, so there’s the whole pot-kettle thing at play here. Mayer gave outlandish, entertaining, often regrettable interviews. That’s great! We need stars like that! He was one of the first celebrities savvy enough to embrace Twitter and he’s one of the few entertainers who actually aims to entertain. When is the last time you remembered a Justin Bieber quote?

Of course, that itch to be interesting led to the unfortunate N-word incident. Ill-advised, unacceptable, ignorant, stupid, yes. I’m not defending it, but he did apologize for it on Twitter and in concert where he broke down in tears. Plus, if Frank Ocean is cool with him after all that, then we should be, too.

If there’s any real reason Mayer should face scorn, it’s for his insistence on using his unique, effortless voice and legit guitar chops to make toothless coffeehouse rock. He has a weirder, guitar-nerd wild side, but many people don’t even realize it. The John Mayer Trio churns out rollicking, bluesy rock. He does a blistering cover of The Mamas & The Papas“California Dreamin’.” He covered Radiohead‘s un-coverable sad android anthem “Kid A”.  But the kicker — the Michael Jackson tribute.

You remember that whole affair — the somewhat awkward concert with a casket in front of the stage, with a bevy of stars straddling the line between tribute and peacocking. So in comes the “douche” John Mayer for a heretical cover of “Human Nature.” And what ensues is the most tasteful tribute of the day, a virtually wordless, completely emotive cover.

That’s the stuff that gives the seven-time Grammy winner cachet in the music world. It’s why he has been enlisted to work with Eric Clapton, Frank Ocean, Kanye West, Common, Demi Lovato, B.B. King, Dave Chappelle and others, plus opened for The Rolling Stones.

Am I saying artistic talent overrides a person’s terribleness? I dunno, ask Roman Polanski.

But John Mayer isn’t terrible. Not even close. What he is, is a deceptively good guitar player with a knack for soccer mom hooks who happens to be an over-sharing smart ass. He’s not the treacly rom-com character his music makes him out to be, so, yes, despite promises otherwise, your head will hit the bed without his hand behind it. But that doesn’t make him a douche.

And if you still aren’t convinced, we can at least agree on one thing: he’s not Chris Brown.

What’s your take on John Mayer? Let us know in the comments, or sound off on Facebook and Twitter.