John Mayer’s performative contrition

Lainey Posted by Lainey at March 24, 2017 15:16:47 March 24, 2017 15:16:47

John Mayer has a new album coming out. It’s called The Search For Everything. And it’s his return to, as he calls it, “blockbuster” music. Basically he says he was on a self-imposed exile from big pop because he hated himself after being a douchebag so he went off and wrote non-commercial music for a while and now he’s ready to come back to being a major pop force.

Seriously.

All of this is in a new interview with The New York Times. Here’s the direct quote – and his inspiration was George Clooney:

“There’s a guy who can make art house films and then just decide that he’s going to be in a blockbuster,” Mr. Mayer said. “I remember thinking to myself, O.K., I’m going to basically come out of retirement from blockbusters. It’s a choice to write pop songs, just like it’s a choice to write blues songs or folk songs. Let’s write the big ones that we are capable of writing.”

So… John Mayer thinks John Mayer is the George Clooney of the music industry?

It’s actually so hilariously awesome I don’t even want to bother objecting to it. This article is pure John Mayer: self-indulgent and sorry – he’s sorry for being an asshole, for being gross, for behaving badly because of his fame, for getting addicted to the attention, for letting the pursuit of attention f-ck up his focus. Which, I mean that’s fine, but that need is still there. That need, the desperation hasn’t gone away – it’s just that he’s performing a new message: contrition. The contrite famewhore – is that even a thing? It’s there in the 30 minute-plus MONOLOGUE he delivers at the journalist assigned to write about him. It’s there in the way he speaks. In an incessant string of metaphors:

At 32 and obsessed with outsmarting the idea of a “clichéd rock star,” he explained, “I started to invent my own grenade.” (His big mouth.) He was “a Mack Truck without brakes.” Tabloid fame was “a human-growth hormone” and “extracurricular stuff” anyway, Mr. Mayer said. “I basically realized I’m no good at that, so I’m going to drop that major.” Also: “What I did was probably semiconsciously just reboot it — control, alt, delete.” “It was an induced coma.” His career had “flatlined.” “It was cat and mouse,” he said, “and the mouse lost.”

Soldier, driver, science, school, computer, hospital, and animal kingdom – seven, SEVEN!, metaphors in less than a hundred words! It’s actually kind of impressive… if you’re impressed by that kind of thing. And celebrities, they are. They think that’s how you talk smart. I couldn’t keep listening though. In my opinion, there’s no way to really communicate with someone who speaks like this. Because this is drawing word pictures to be admired, not using words to be understood. Which is why it’s so hard to take him seriously, not when his alleged sincerity feels like such a performance.

Like, is he being sincere about Katy Perry? Or is his admission that one of his songs is about Katy Perry part of the performance? It’s called Still Feel Like Your Man. He sings about how he’s out somewhere at a party or a club and the “prettiest girl in the room she wants me” and tells him as much, but he can’t go there because “I still feel like your man”. Later on he confesses that he still keeps her shampoo in his shower, I guess so that if/when she comes back, she can use it. Or he can smell her. Or beat off to the scent, whatever. The point is he confirms that this is for Katy Perry:

In sweats at a Hollywood soundstage, Mr. Mayer was quick to pick up the choreography for the ensemble number that would be the centerpiece for his new video. The song, “Still Feel Like Your Man,” is throwback for him: a wistful but upbeat breakup ditty that, like much of his new music, “moves and throbs and has women in it again,” Mr. Mayer said.

It’s also pretty plainly about missing his most recent ex, Ms. Perry, a fact that he acknowledged might get the tabloids chirping again. “Who else would I be thinking about?” he said. “And by the way, it’s a testament to the fact that I have not dated a lot of people in the last five, six years. That was my only relationship. So it’s like, give me this, people.”

To take it further, the video for Still Feel Like Your Man, which he was shooting at the time of this interview, features a “makeshift bamboo forest, a woman in full geisha garb and two people in giant panda suits, making up a bizarre tableau that Mr. Mayer called a “disco dojo.”

A woman in full geisha…

Oh you mean like this?

Now I’m starting to get uncomfortable. John Mayer once used the n-word in an interview with Rolling Stone, talking about whether or not he’s been embraced by black artists. He’s referred to Jessica Simpson as “sexual napalm”. So we’ve known him before as both a racially insensitive prick AND a gross pig. And now he’s making a music video for a song in which he pines over a woman who once dressed up as a geisha and there’s a geisha in the video?

Jesus.

Are you worried? Well don’t worry. Because John Mayer spent a lot of time thinking about it OK?

Yet for someone so attuned to the risk of offending people again — “I have nightmares about a second occurrence of” the Playboy era, he said — Mr. Mayer seemed sanguine about the possibility of a controversy over cultural appropriation, an issue that has dogged other pop stars.

“I think we were as sensitive as we could possibly be,” he said over burgers at the Polo Lounge the day after the video shoot. “It was discussed at every juncture.”

“Part of cultural appropriation is blindness,” he added. “I’m on the right side of the line because it’s an idea for the video that has a very multiethnic casting, and nobody who is white or non-Asian is playing an Asian person.”

The video’s director, who goes by Mister Whitmore, said he and Mr. Mayer “thought long and hard about how to approach” the “fantasy element” of the concept without offending. “I hope there’s an understanding that we were sensitive to it,” he said.

Still, Mr. Mayer acknowledged the current discourse. “Do I think that someone is going to tweet that this is cultural appropriation? Yes,” Mr. Mayer, an internet obsessive, said. “It’s going to be interesting to see.”

His ex-girlfriend once culturally appropriated Japanese culture by performing as a geisha and this is a song about how he might still be in love with her and there’s a woman dressed up like her when she dressed up like a geisha and… there won’t be any fetishising. There won’t be any possibility of insult. Because John Mayer’s on the “right side of the line”. Because they thought about it “long and hard” and they’re “sensitive” so… you know… it’s going to be fine. This is totally going to turn out fine. Sure. But this song? It SUCKS.


Attached - John Mayer out in LA at the beginning of the month.

Photos:
London Ent/ Splash News, AKM-GSI

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