After whetting our appetite with two new “waves,” showing off his dance moves in his visual for “Still Feel Like Your Man” and kicking off a world tour in Albany, NY, John Mayer is officially back. Throughout his 15 years of mainstream success — which includes 17 songs on the Hot 100 Chart and eight Grammy wins — Mayer has shown enormous musical growth as a multi-talented recording artist since wanting to run through the halls of his high school on 2001’s “No Such Thing.” In honor of finally dropping his seventh studio album, The Search for Everything (April 14), Billboard rounded up 10 of Mayer’s best deep cuts from his first six albums for your listening pleasure.
10. “Born and Raised” from Born and Raised (2012)
After he “headed out West with his headphones on” Mayer migrated from California to Montana while recovering from throat surgery. His breathy vocals, plus the smooth harmonica melody, shine on this simple folk-rock track.
9. “Waitin’ on the Day” from Paradise Valley (2013)
With thoughtful lyrics about anticipating the day he finally settles down to start a family, Mayer’s new affinity for folk-rock taps into our natural desire to eventually build a home life with our loved ones. Plus, his ability to shift between acoustic and electric guitar with ease about halfway through the song enhances the hopeful melody.
8. “Speak for Me” from Born and Raised (2012)
This song isn’t a diss track of Drake vs. Meek Mill proportions, nor is it aimed at anyone in particular, but “Speak for Me” is a commentary on pop culture and a lack of exciting music (in his eyes). When he notes “They’re celebrating broken things / I don’t wanna world of broken things / You can tell that something isn’t right / When all your heroes are in black and white,” it’s a gentle reminder that we don’t have to like something just because others enjoy it.
7. “3×5” from Room for Squares (2001)
Released nine years before Instagram was even created, it’s as though John was peering into the future on this song, emphasizing the importance of experiencing life’s beauty beyond nailing the right photograph. “Didn’t have a camera by my side this time / Hoping I could see the world through both my eyes” he sings over a cheerful beat.
6. “Wheel” from Heavier Things (2003)
Sure, this song has a much slower tempo when compared to catchy singles “Clarity” and “Bigger Than My Body” off his sophomore project. But this closing track perfectly exemplifies the honest lyrics and laid-back vibe on Heavier Things, while also giving a small preview of his future on multi-platinum album Continuum.
5. “83” from Room for Squares (2001)
Mayer’s kicking it old school and taking listeners back to a much simpler time — the first grade — with his upbeat song about “romanticizing years ago” in Fairfield, CT. This jazz-influenced melody features a flute solo, making it one of the more unique cuts in Mayer’s catalog and a standout track on his debut Room for Squares.
4. “Stop This Train” from Continuum (2006)
Life comes at you fast. Some moments you “try to keep an open mind” on adulthood and other days you “play the numbers game / to find a way to say life has just begun.” On the cusp of turning 29, Mayer addressed the urge to press pause on day-to-day responsibilities and reflected on accepting the speed of our metaphorical trains (lives) on this soothing soft rock track.
3. “Assassin” from Battle Studies (2009)
After gaining a reputation as a ladies man who knows how to “get in, get done and get gone,” Mayer gets reflective on this dreamy pop-rock song. Throughout his love life, he was the “assassin” who could “steal your heart before you ever heard a thing,” until he was caught off guard by a woman who rejected him as a long-term love interest. As the roles reverse and Mayer’s underlying vulnerability becomes apparent, the final lap of the chorus and outro is reworked in a high-energy vein that boasts a sweet guitar solo.
2. “In Repair” from Continuum (2006)
Lyrics about improving your life after tough times and Mayer’s signature guitar tone create a soulful catharsis on this song. And if you ever wonder what goes into the creative writing and production process for John, check out his nearly 19-minute video called “In Repair”: One Song, One Day filmed over an 18-hour period at Avatar Studios. “‘In Repair’ might be a benchmark for me now to try and top as a writer,” Mayer explains almost 18 minutes into the video, adding that he was “scared” to “go out on such a limb” working with Steve Jordan and Charlie Hunter. “The end of the day, you go to sleep with a song you didn’t know when you woke up, you were ever going to have, and that’s the joy of making music, and that’s what keeps me hungry to keep coming up with stuff.”
1. “In Your Atmosphere (LA Song)” from Where the Light Is: John Mayer Live in LA (2008)
Halfway through his opening acoustic set at the Nokia Theater in Downtown Los Angeles, John Mayer surprised fans with an unreleased premiere that ironically enough opens up with the lyrics “I don’t think I’m gonna go to LA anymore.” Although John has performed the song sporadically since the show’s DVD was released, this is the only official recording of the melodic and soothing track. Most recently, during the Toronto leg of The Search for Everything World Tour, Mayer and Shawn Mendes performed a sweetly harmonized take on “In Your Atmosphere” and Mendes’ single “Mercy.”