“Someday I’ll fly. Someday I’ll soar. Someday I’ll be so damn much more.” – John Mayer (Bigger Than My Body)
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After 20 years in the music industry John Mayer has reached the pinnacle of his profession. Six studio albums, seven Grammy awards (19 nominations) and countless hits, in a lot of ways Mayer has become the archetype for the singer-songwriter. Not one to rest on his laurels, Mayer has always taken pride in straying from the expected and stretching his range. Often jamming with artists from other genres, creating a myriad of tracks that’ll stand the test of time. Today, Mayer seemingly gets as much joy from splits as he does from creating his own music. So for JM’s 42nd birthday, we’re taking a look at some of his best works from outside his comfort zone.
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Go! – Common
After going to see Jamie Foxx’s Ray together, Common, Kayne West and Mayer were inspired to hit the studio. Those sessions would produce a couple of tracks. The first of which was Common’s Go! Which ended up on the rapper’s third album Be. Production for the track was handled by West, while the trio handled the lyrics. Linda Lewis’ track Old Smoke was used as a sample, Go! is about some rendezvous’ from Common’s past. Mayer’s contribution might be the most memorable part of the track as he sings the catchy hook.
Bittersweet Poetry – Kanye West
A bit of a hidden gem, Bittersweet Poetry appeared only on the Japanese release of Kanye’s Graduation album (though it was originally recorded for West’s Late Registration album). At the heights of their respective genres, Mayer & Kanye effortlessly blended their unique styles and treated fans to a harmonious duet about the trials and tribulations of a bittersweet relationship (as the song title would suggest).
D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune) – Jay-Z
In his celebration of the release of his The Blueprint 3 album, Jay-Z put on a special ‘Answer the Call’ concert. Emanating from Madison Square Garden the concert was simulcasted by Fuse TV and featured star-studded cameos from the likes of Rihanna, Diddy, Kanye, Mary J. Blige and of course Mayer. John joined Hov on the stage for a face-melting rendition of ‘D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune).’ Often lauded for his guitar playing, Mayer put on a performance that even left Jigga in awe.
Wildfire – Frank Ocean
Frank Ocean and Mayer have put in multiple efforts together. On the former’s 2012 album Channel Orange, Mayer plays guitar on the tracks White and Pyramids. During promo for the album John joined Ocean’s Saturday Night Live set for a sultry performance of the aforementioned Pyramids. The duo joined forces again on Mayer’s fifth album, Paradise Valley. The track, Wildfire, only comes in at 1:28 but it’s a melodic dream. Only featuring Ocean’s voice (Mayer is on guitar duty again), he sings about a lover who’s going through a tough time. “Only a nascent trying to harness huge fire. Out on the beach in the darkness starting bonfire. So gorgeous, a man might cry.” Only thing wrong with this track is that it’s not longer.
Small Worlds – Mac Miller
“I got to Mac’s house and he played me this thing he had just worked on that morning, and I went, ‘Give me a guitar. I’m in.’ I think it had something to do with him having worked on it that day — it was still wide open and fresh,” Mayer said in a 2018 Complex cover story. That work would turn into Small Worlds, which would be the lead single on Mac Miller’s fifth album, Swimming. Honest and highly introspective, Miller opens up on the track. Rapping about his battles with depression, his inability to keep his shit together and the loneliness of success. Unfortunately Miller passed just a month after Swimming’s release. During the Mac Miller: A Celebration of Life tribute show, Mayer picked up his guitar and performed a touching rendition of Small Worlds.
Astroworld – Travis Scott
Critically acclaimed, Travis Scott’s Astroworld was the talk of 2018. Mayer played a small part in the album’s success, assisting in producing the tracks Wake Up and Astrothunder. He also laid the guitar on Can’t Say as well as the two aforementioned tracks. During Scott’s SNL set he formed a power trio with Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker and Mayer. The trio performed the melodies for Astrothunder and Skeletons. The following week, on his Instagram show Current Mood, Mayer told viewers that he agreed to perform with Scott in exchange for a pair of Scott’s unreleased purple Air Jordan 4 collab. Scott also gave Mayer a napkin which read “love you forever man,” which Mayer quipped was the real reason he did it.
Outta My Head – Khalid
Sometimes fate has a way of bringing people together. A chance encounter at Henson Studios [in Los Angeles] would bring singer Khalid and Mayer together. During a recording break Khalid ran into Mayer and mentioned that he was working on his sophomore project Free Spirit. Mayer asked to hear some of the tracks that were still in progress, Outta My Head caught his ear. “Khalid played him the album and he was like, ‘I love this record, this song is massive! Could I play on it?’” recalls Courtney Stewart, Khalid’s manager in an interview with Pollstar “We looked at him like, ‘What? Can you play on it?!’ He just jumped on the song and played on it and it was amazing. It literally happened just like that.” A certified banger about young love, Outta My Head is a perfect summer track. You know, the kind of song you listen to while driving with the windows down.