Review Summary: Mayer tries to find his sound on his debut, but still releases a quality album of acoustic, pop influenced music. Apparently the music community did not know how to recieve this at the time of its release, other than to ridicule it for one song.
It’s a bit comical how the music community has received John Mayer’s work in a chronological fashion. First, they all said they didn’t like his breathy voice and his typical singer songwriter image. Then, “Try!” was released, and since it was a Blues influenced album, music snobs worldwide seemed to forget that they hated Mayer’s work just a few years earlier. When Continuum came out, they all seemed to think that pop music like that was ok, but “He’d better do another Blues album soon!”. Now, bear with me on this, as this brief summarization on Mayer’s reception from the music community is not meant to be a knock on Blues music, or any genre for that matter. It is simply meant to convey how we, diehard fans of music, can sometimes miss the point of an artist that we hear, and how many of us, completely missed the point about John Mayer, and his first pop influenced album “Room For Squares”.
If one were to assume, like many who do not favor John Mayer, that he gained fame and fortune lacking any hard work or musical talent, you would assume dead wrong. Mayer, a dropout of the prestigious Berkeley College of Music, payed his share of dues in the local coffee houses, and spent hours upon hours practicing guitar in his room during his high school years. Throughout all this, he had written 13 songs that he deemed quality enough to appear on his first album, and there is no doubt he selected the right ones, for this well more than satisfactory debut album.
The style that John Mayer employs on “Continuum” is not a very good representation of what we find here. Most of the songs on this release feature Mayer on acoustic guitar rather than electric, and his lyrics tend to deal with subjects more akin to relationships or emotions. The album opens with “No Such Thing” which is a good mix of everything to expect on the album. Immediately we hear a very dominant, fast, guitar riff, with the lyrics dealing with the everyday’s preconceived notions on what really is the path to take in life. The song is easily one of the best on the album, and Mayer’s vocal melodies and lyrics will be stuck in your head for quite a while. A great opener.
“Why Georgia” and “My Stupid Mouth” keep the album flowing nice and steady. “Why Georgia” was one of the first songs Mayer ever wrote and opens with a choppy infectious guitar riff. The vocals are a bit melancholy, and seem to represent wanting to move onto better things. Mayer also gets a chance to show off his falsetto in the chorus of the song. “My Stupid Mouth” actually has one of the only guitar riffs on the album to use conventional guitar riffs, as many of the others are quite difficult to play, and are a testament to Mayer’s skill. The song grooves along with superbly catchy vocals, with an extremely bouncy feel. A great example of Mayer’s airy instrumentals, and well done pop songwriting. Both of these songs, along with “No Such Thing” make the album start out as a true classic, but there are significant drops in quality spread out on the album.
The Grammy winning “Your Body Is A Wonderland” is really just a cheesy, repetitive, run of the mill pop love song. The instrumentals are nothing special, and Mayer’s voice just seems generic on this song, almost as if he didn’t want to be singing. The low point of the album for sure. “Back To You” isn’t much better, and sounds like it should be on “Heavier Things”, rather than this. There’s nothing really terrible about it, except that it sounds completely generic and dull. It isn’t a song you would openly complain about, but it’ll get the skip button every time you play this album.
Thankfully, songs such as “St. Patrick’s Day”, “City Love”, and “Neon” compensate for the album’s drop in quality. “St. Patrick’s Day”, the longest song on the album, exemplifies everything good about John Mayer. The vocals, lyrics, and guitar playing can all be sighted as some of the best on the album. Even an organ is added to the song to give it another positive effect. “City Love” sounds like something off “Continuum”, mainly because the featured electric guitar playing by Mayer. The song grooves along with a slow blues vibe, until midway through the song Mayer erupts with his only real guitar solo on the album. With the first taste of Mayer’s Hendrix influenced electric playing, we can safely say that he can handle the electric just as well as he can his acoustic. The opening riff in “Neon” gave guitarists another reason to rejoice. The staccato like single notes with slaps all around feel, is sure to impress any guitar player. The lyrics are often overlooked, but are the usual, but solid offering from Mayer.
Every other song is decent enough to listen to several times individually. “3x5”, “83”, and “Not Myself” could have all been highlights with some minor adjustments made to them, and they certainly aren’t a negative on the album, but at the same time don’t hold the same quality that the highlights on the album do. Perhaps Mayer got a bit lazy, recording his first album and all, but a little extra effort could have gone a long way in this case, however the songs are perfectly acceptable additions to the album.
Listening to this album again, I can conclude that Mayer was disliked by some after this release, if nothing else, because of “You Body Is A Wonderland”. And yes, as I mentioned above the song is absolutely terrible in every sense, and is sure to have any member of the male gender using any method of avoidance to never hear the song again. The problem is that when you judge an entire album on one song, you really aren’t getting the full picture of the artist, which is exactly what happened with “Room For Squares”. This debut release from Mayer, while still trying to find his sound, is a great collection of music featuring stellar guitar, and above average vocals/lyrics. While Mayer would eventually hit gold with his 2006 album “Continuum”, this release is more than a worthy addition to your collection of singer songwriters, if you want a pop influence, and Mayer does that better than just about anyone else in mainstream music today.