RS500 #486: John Mayer — Continuum

John Mayer Continuum album cover art

Year Released: 2006

Have I Heard This Before?: Despite the alleged “good reputation” that this album has in comparison to the rest of John Mayer’s oeuvre, the only song I’ve heard from this album is the single “Waiting on the World to Change,” one of the most reprehensible songs ever released whose message comes across as downright despicable in the current era.

High Points: Okay, I’ve been told by people before that I can be excessively negative, so I’m going to try to focus on the nice things here…

Here goes: John Mayer is not an untalented individual. He can play guitar very well, and while his voice isn’t specifically to my taste, it’s not as if he can’t sing. And while there are problems with his smoothed over, sterile approach to blues and soul, the overall mood of Continuum is very much preferable to the douchebag singer-songwriter vibe of his earlier albums.

Low Points: Okay, that’s enough of that: Jesus, this album is boring as hell. Mayer’s idea of the blues appears to be borrowed wholesale from post-heroin addiction Eric Clapton; it’s all clean tones and devoid of any life or excitement. This is blues as a perfunctory genre exercise, performed with no attempt by Mayer to place his own stamp on things. The thing is, Mayer doesn’t have a stamp to put on things; he’s a record industry exec’s dream in that he can put out a gold-selling album without kicking up much of a fuss about “artistic integrity” or any of that shit. Continuum is the blues album that you hear over the loudspeaker in Duane Reade or a Starbucks while you go about your day. It’s music deliberately designed not to be intrusive.

And it didn’t have to be this way, either. Mayer had a great band put together for this album, with guys like Ben Harper and Roy Hargrove contributing. No, the blame here has to be placed on Mayer for refusing to take anything resembling an artistic risk. Hell, the only songs that stand out here as being something other than half-hearted attempts at blues-rock only stand out because they sound like the same weak-ass singer-songwriter shit that Mayer was doing already. If Continuum is the deep expression of Mayer’s inner soul that we were sold, then it’s clear that the dude’s lacking a bit in the soul department.

Further Listening: I guess I should do this since this Mayer’s only entry on the list, so here’s what I recommend: listen to anyone else. Seriously. Your life is too short and precious to waste a second of it on a John Mayer album.

Loose Thoughts: I’m sincerely baffled that this even made the list. I know a few people were sold on Mayer’s mid-career pivot to Serious Blues Artist, but I didn’t expect anyone to continue carrying the torch for this guy, especially after his 2010 interviews where he outed himself as a weird creep. God help me if there’s another shift in critical consensus in the next few years and a whole generation of music fans is raised on the outright lie that John Mayer is Good, Actually.

Rating: Here it is, our first album so far to get the dreaded Woof rating. I hated this album, and I’m happy that I never have to listen to it again. This was so bad that it almost had me longing for a solo Eric Clapton album as a replacement; at least that guy would have better sense than to write something like “Waiting on the World to Change.”