The Bottom Line
John Mayer is arguably the most respected and commercially successful solo singer-songwriter in pop music today. "Who Says" shows him at the peak of his art thus far. On repeated listening, the deceptively quiet song introduced by the attention getting line, "Who says I can't get stoned?" reveals emotional depth and connection that marks it an instant classic. Mayer's fans will be very pleased, and those with a long-range view on music history will realize acoustic singer-songwriter pop has rarely been better than this.
- Affecting, intimate lyrics
- Subtle, perfectly fitting musical arrangement
- John Mayer's warm delivery
- No problems here
- Written by John Mayer
- Produced by John Mayer and Steve Jordan
- Released October 2009 by Columbia Records
Guide Review - John Mayer - "Who Says"
It's easy and understandable on a first, cursory audio trip through "Who Says" to see it as a first cousin to Bob Dylan's classic "Rainy Day Women #12 and 35" and a celebration of the joys of marijuana. However, before long it's obvious John Mayer is digging deeper into a bigger picture of personal freedom. It's difficult to tell for sure if elements of the song are commentary on restrictions due to life as a celebrity. However, anyone who has a shiver late at night feeling they are locked into a particular definition of life will relate to the words here.
The intimate production takes listeners back to the singer-songwriter and California-based light rock of the early 70's and possibly even further back to folk-pop of the 60's. The melody is instantly memorable and feels a bit like a warm quilt wrapped around on a cool fall night. Subtle background vocals and instrumentation provides just the right amount of sonic heft to make the song feel full and finished.
Recent major hits from Colbie Caillat and Jason Mraz have proven there is a market for singer-songwriter pop. John Mayer is likely to expand the appeal beyond those artists' core fans and pull in appreciation from the rock community as well. "Who Says" is a reminder that a well-written song, simple arrangement and quiet delivery can create some of the most powerful pop music. We will all be eagerly waiting for the full-length Battle Studies. Also, do not miss the "Who Says" music video and the highly cinematic style of director Anthony Mandler.