TO CONSIDER THE REMARKABLE LEGACY OF JOHN MAYER SLATED TO PLAY MSG THIS OCTOBER ONE MUST INEVITABLY START AT THE BEGINNING, GROUND ZERO FOR A CAREER THAT HAS STRETCHED OVER MORE THAN TWO DECADES
BY EVAN MONROE
While not technically the blues man’s first long player (that distinction belongs to 1999’s Inside Wants Out), the spiritual beginning of the superstar was 2001’s Room for Squares. Originally released digitally in June of that year, the album was actually re-released on September 18 (a result of label giant Columbia Records acquiring the label that signed Mayer, which led to a bigger roll out that included physical copies), hardly the most auspicious time to release an album by a then-unknown.
But that’s how undeniable and eventually ubiquitous Room for Squares was back then. Most commonly remembered via the monster paragon of blues ballads a la “Your Body is a Wonderland,” the album’s success spawned two other hits, “No Such Thing” and “Why Georgia.” (An aside from the author: having lived through that era as an adult, I can conclusively attest that “Your Body” made Mayer an immediate favorite among the blues lovers and women with a soft spot for sensitive, hooky ballads.) Though technically blues, “Wonderland” and the album it came from were so much bigger than that kind of label. It paid debts to pop, classic rock, and blue-eyed soul, too.
With pristine, crystalline production by John Alagia, Room for Squares was, like its name, a brilliantly inclusive album for the kids and the adults who spawned them as well. Even the cover of the record indicated its mission statement. There’s Mayer, with a haircut that suggests he’s just left the barber (and it might be a good idea to find another one next time). His out t of what appears to be an old pair of black jeans and orange-blue striped button down shirt give a powerful aura of “cool Methodist youth pastor,” but that’s the whole point here. He’s not the Mayer who became an object of lust for a wide swath of women (and who dated so many beautiful celebrities that it eclipsed his musical fame). The Mayer he presents here is a welcoming hug to people of all ages who don’t love (or even follow) the popular musical fads of the day.
Room for Squares is a proudly old-fashioned record filled with impeccably crafted music, a record that does proud all WONDERLAND John Mayer johnmayer.com W the genres in which it dabbles. It sounds great in every format, not just one for the vinyl-only crowd. Moreover, Mayer’s playing is a genuine wonder throughout, recalling Stevie Ray Vaughn if he’d given more time to hooks, rather than just showing the full breadth of what can be done with a Fender Stratocaster. But Mayer provides plenty of clues to those kinds of electric pyrotechnics that would come later, on 2003’s jam-band-adjacent, Any Given Thursday.
Between Room and today, a funny thing has happened Mayer never went away. He’s forged a grand career making more great records in a variety of styles, and he’s also paired up with some of pop culture’s biggest heavyweights. He’s been embraced by classic rock royalty (he’s currently on tour with Dead & Company) and the kings of comedy (see his collaborations with Dave Chappelle over the years). On October 3, he’ll bring his SOLO tour to (and will undoubtedly sell out) Madison Square Garden. Even a publication so closely aligned with indie-underground snobbery like Pitchfork has come to acknowledge what millions before have: great music is great music, no matter how square.