Ranking Every John Mayer Album
Re-evaluating Mayer a month after the release of Sob Rock
Sob Rock has been out for about a month now. It’s largely been a success with most Mayer fans appreciating the compact and cohesive string of songs that perfectly recall 80s rock. I’ve had time to think and reflect on the album as a whole, allowing it to fade out of its novelty into familiarity. For that reason, I feel now is a perfect time to rank every John Mayer album.
8. Heavier Things
The second album in Mayer’s repertoire, Heavier Things cemented his standing as a bona fide pop-rock writer. It features hits like “Daughters” and “Bigger Than My Body” which have become two of Mayer’s most well-known songs. In my opinion, however, it does the least of all his albums. It doesn’t go for much; it just tempers the inexperienced sound of his first album. In doing so, though, it loses some of the flare that made Room For Squares such a good album. The majority of the songs on the album don’t do anything special and just sort of meander in and about the cornerstones of the album, those being “Daughters”, “Wheel”, and “Clarity.” With that being said, those three songs especially are some of Mayer’s most poignant works and carry this album for me.
Best Song: “Wheel”
7. Paradise Valley
Paradise Valley was the second installment in Mayer’s country phase, released only a year after Born and Raised, evoking the same style, but lacking the same quality and depth of music. Overall, Paradise Valley is a sound album, but it lacks the same punch missing from Heavier Things. Many of the songs feel a little flat and are melodically uninteresting. However, the songs are still good, as the production, performances, and lyricism are all stellar throughout. The two standout songs from this album are by far “Wildfire” and “Dear Marie” with the former being a perfect feel-good summer song and the latter channeling classic acoustic Mayer while also maintaining the album’s folksy twang. All in all, just as Heavier Things fails to live up to the billing of Room for Squares, Paradise Valley fails to meet the expectations set by Born and Raised.
Best Song: “Wildfire”
6. Room For Squares
Starting here with Room For Squares, we’re getting into the great John Mayer albums. Don’t get me wrong, Heavier Things and Paradise Valley are both really good, but are a cut below the following 6. As his first and breakout album, Room For Squares really showcased Mayer’s songwriting abilities. The majority of the songs on this album feature brilliant guitar work, and the melody writing is extraordinarily interesting while also maintaining a palatable sound that made him so popular. He established the pop-rock, singer-songwriter sound that he became so known for with this album. From start to finish, there isn’t a single dud, with “No Such Thing” and “Neon” being exemplary songs. What is lacking with this album, however, is the sophistication and refined performance that his future albums have. While there is a sort of charm in the rawness of the production and performance, the edges are a little too sharp at times, and can make the album a cumbersome listen after a while. With that being said, the album is still spectacular, and is probably the perfect sound that Mayer could have achieved for his first album.
Best Song: “Neon”
5. The Search For Everything
Of all the albums that Mayer has released, this is the one that continually surprises me. This album is a mixed bag; it’s got some spectacular songs, some good songs, and some okay songs. “Still Feel Like Your Man”, “Rosie”, and “Moving On and Getting Over” are the standout songs on this album for me. They’re the grooviest of any songs that Mayer has released, and they’re always fun to listen to. All the songs feature a sheen that Mayer had not used up until this album. They feel immaculate and are especially fun to listen to due to the album’s fantastic production. Your ears never get tired of listening to this album, because the choices are so interesting and catchy. This is the one album of Mayer’s, other than Continuum, which perfectly toes the line between experimentation and pop, meaning that this album is both accessible and fun to listen to. With that being said, the album does have a few duds in “Emoji of a Wave” and “In The Blood”, which aren’t necessarily bad songs, but just aren’t the most interesting on an otherwise interesting album. Moreover, the album does lack a sense of continuity, and is a little patchy with the tone it conveys. Overall, this album is a great time, and is an easy recommendation to those who have never listened to Mayer before.
Best Song: “Rosie”
4. Sob Rock
The new kid on the block. Sob Rock feels like the perfect response to The Search for Everything. Where The Search for Everything lacks in continuity, Sob Rock makes up with the perfect microcosm of an album. The album is diverse, yet constant, and it feels the same no matter what song you listen to. It maintains the same maturity that The Search for Everything featured, with brilliant production, and even better performances. The entire album sounds as though its recorded live, through the most rudimentary means, but in the best way. It’s extremely catchy in its entirety, recalling 80s pop and rock perfectly. Sob Rock is like a lucid dream; you’re in a completely different world when listening to it, but you’re aware of it. It creates a connect between the past and the present in a way that other artists have recently attempted. Mayer, though, does it best. There isn’t a single song on this album that I would consider bad, or even okay. Every song is at least great. The standout songs here are “Wild Blue”, “I Guess I Just Feel Like”, and “Carry Me Away”, though I could have named any other three. The fact that this album is ranked only fourth on my list tells you how highly I rate Mayer’s songwriting abilities.
Best Song: “Wild Blue”
3. Battle Studies
From 2006 to 2013, Mayer was in his songwriting prime. And in that time, he spanned the gamut. Battle Studies was released in 2009, right in the middle of this period of songwriting. As a follow up to Continuum, it certainly had big shoes to fill. And that, it did. Battle Studies is a perfect pop album. It’s maybe the poppiest of all Mayer albums, but it does not ever resort to the cheap gimmicks that much of the current pop landscape utilizes. It is still guitar-driven, still real and authentic, like every other Mayer project. The album is brilliantly produced, with none of the songs ever getting tiresome. Similar to Sob Rock, this album has perfect continuity, with every song sounding like it was cut from the same cloth as the previous. This may be Mayer’s best lyrical project. Each song has absolutely phenomenal lyrics that cut right to the bone. Like usual, he’s very metaphorical, and in this album, every song conveys the deep and abstract tone he’s famous for. My favorite lyric is off of “Heartbreak Warfare”: “How come the only way to see how high you get me is to see how far I fall?” Yeah, I know. Amazing. This is Mayer at his most confident, both in terms of his celebrity at this point in his career, and his songwriting abilities. However, like his celebrity status, he quickly had to turn to a more modest tone after this album.
Best Song: “Edge of Desire”
2. Born and Raised
At this point in his life, John Mayer made his way out of Hollywood and into Montana, as a way to shield himself from the scrutiny (much of which he brought onto himself) of celebrity. This album reflects this change in his life to a tee. It sounds like a man who had taken his time to introspect about his own faults, while also punching back and pointing out that he still got a little more flack than he deserved. Not only are the lyrics far more introspective and poignant, but the music also reflects this upward turn in self-reflection. The album is folk and country to the core. Not pop country, but real, heartfelt Americana. The majority of the songs are mellow, and the guitar work is intricate yet tasteful. Production-wise, this album is raw, unlike Battle Studies which was pristine and flawless. But that’s what this album needed to be. It couldn’t be soaked in reverb or have its imperfections touched up. Like the man who made the music, it had to be scratched up, and a little rough around the edges. The acoustic sound of the album is phenomenal and was the perfect choice for such a personal and reflective album. Overall, this album is spectacular, with every song conveying a different side to Mayer’s changed self.
Best Song: “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967”
Mayer’s magnum opus. This is the best album of Mayer’s and one of the best albums of the 21st century, in my opinion. Continuum took Mayer from a catchy pop rock writer and turned him into a seriously lauded blues songwriter and guitarist. Every song on this album is spectacular, perfect even. They all fill in the gaps evenly, with each song offering a different tone, that makes up a continuum (pun intended) of music. The songwriting, performances, lyrics, and production are all phenomenal, and they lend to an album that is both raw yet refined, tempered yet exciting, and interesting yet familiar. I struggle to even think of a flaw that this album has. None of the songs are ever tiresome, and there is always something new to glean off this project. The standout songs from this album are “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room”, “Stop This Train” and “Gravity”. Every time I think I have named all the 10/10 John Mayer songs this album has produced, I am surprised to see that I left off a few. That’s how good this album is. Overall, this is by far Mayer’s best album, and it is a definite recommendation for anyone who has never listened to his music before.
Best Song: “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room”