There’s not really a bad John Mayer album. But after the hits he continuously cranked out with his first four albums, something seemed to plateau on his next couple of albums. Even though Mayer’s sixth effort included a collaboration with his most recent ex -- then girlfriend Katy Perry (“Who You Love”) -- and a shot at another famous ex (Taylor Swift, “Paper Doll”), Paradise Valley didn’t seem to have the vocal gusto Mayer had brought with previous material. We can cut Mayer a little slack, considering he was dealing with vocal cord issues at the time, but the chill vibes of Paradise Valley still blended together more than evoking a series of instant classics.
6. Born & Raised (2012)
As indicated by the set lists for Mayer’s most recent tour, this album and Paradise Valley didn’t produce too many classic jams and sing-along moments the way that his earlier albums had. In fact, the slower tunes on Born & Raised almost brought out a folksiness in Mayer’s music, which was practically even greater emphasized on Paradise Valley a year later. Sure, Mayer can do folksy, but it just doesn’t feel like a John Mayer album without the occasional ripping guitar solo.
5. Heavier Things (2003)
When you put out a record as quality as Room For Squares as your introduction to the music world, you make it a little difficult to reach that bar again – at least on round two. But Mayer held his own on his sophomore LP, delivering dynamic anthems like “Bigger Than My Body,” falsetto showcases like “Clarity,” and one of his most classic slow songs, “Daughters,” all in one record. While it didn’t necessarily match up to its predecessor, what Heavier Things did do for Mayer was prove that he wasn’t a one-and-done kind of artist.
4. The Search for Everything (2017)
With nearly four years since his last album, Mayer had fans reeling over what he’d put out next, if ever. And although his initial single from The Search for Everything, “Love On The Weekend,” wasn’t as epic as fans’ built-up anticipation would’ve expected, it served as a warm welcome for what was to come with subsequent song unveilings in Waves One and Two of the complete album.
Even without hearing Mayer’s 2017 comeback in full, fans could already see that he was incorporating his trademark fierce guitar licks on tracks such as “Helpless” and “Still Feel Like Your Man,” while also showing perhaps his most vulnerable side yet with more somber tunes like “You’re Gonna Live Forever In Me.” And once the other four songs were released on April 14, including the wavy toe-tapper “In the Blood” and heartfelt piano ballad, “Never On the Day You Leave,” it was beyond clear that Mayer’s hiatus allowed him to get his groove back (literally).
3. Battle Studies (2009)
By 2009, Mayer had three albums to his name, all of which did a pretty stellar job at displaying his versatility as an artist, combining his smooth voice with a quality mix of both acoustic and electric singer-songwriter tunes. That impressive blend was continued with Battle Studies, as highlighted by the track list that sees the whispery, almost rustic “Who Says” followed by a bouncy single-man’s anthem “Perfectly Lonely.” Those are just a couple of the memorable tracks on Mayer’s fourth album, with no real weak spots to be found -- further indicating Mayer’s longevity.
2. Room For Squares (2001)
Whether you’ve been a Mayer fan from the start or caught on in more recent years, almost every single track on Room For Squares either results in an instant belt-out (hello, “No Such Thing”) or a squeal over how fantastic the opening guitar riff is (try not to do that with “Why Georgia”). Although the album only spawned a handful of actual hits, in the eyes of a hardcore Mayer fan, every song is a bonafide smash. Sure, many artists' debut albums are memorable and special to them for different reasons. But for John Mayer, this was hardly an introductory piece of work – it was just a damn good record, from start to finish.
1. Continuum (2006)
It’s hard to beat the classics Mayer produced with his debut, but if there’s one album of his to put up a solid fight, it’s the one that has “Waiting On The World to Change,” “Gravity” and “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room.” Oh, and “Belief” and “Vultures” and “Dreaming With a Broken Heart.” Wait, that’s almost the entire album? Our point exactly.
The songs listed above may be the standouts, but they’re far from the only successes on the album (and even if you disagree, they still make up half the album anyway). Continuum is just about as iconic as they come, with Mayer’s insane guitar playing presented perhaps most poignantly as it ever will be. It’s a genius mix of the slow-tempo acoustics he brought from the start while also being the most prolific display of who he is as a musician. Who knows if we’ll get one like this again from Mayer, but with a collection this remarkable, who needs another anyway?
Listen to The Search for Everything in full below.