“And I will wait to find / If this will last forever” sings John Mayer on “Clarity,” the jaunty opening cut on his sophomore album “Heavier Things.”
The question is couched in a romantic context, but the young heartthrob might have had something more basic in mind, like, how long will I be able to sustain a career that depends so disproportionately on the cooing affection of young women?
Put another way: Will I be playing to 40-year-old women, 20 years from now, who remember me with the same fond nostalgia now bestowed on, say, David Cassidy?
This is not to knock Mr. Mayer — well, yeah, it is, sort of — but the young singer-songwriter has skipped the Police and beelined straight for late-period Sting. A greenhorn’s lyrical sense prevails: His observations are tritely gitchy-goo, and accented with newly discovered big words such as “satiate.”
Sorry, but he makes it too easy: “I’m dizzy from the shopping mall,” he cavils on “Something’s Missing.” Might have something to do with the nubile company he’s keeping, no?
“I know a girl / She puts the color inside my world,” he gushes on “Daughters.”
It’s nice to hear that Mr. Mayer’s getting out, though; I was starting to envy the home life he so steamily shared with us in his smash single “Your Body is a Wonderland.”
Sadly — or happily, as the case may be — there are signs of homebody inclinations here, too: the song “Home Life,” for one; “Come Back to Bed,” for another.
Not for Mr. Mayer the romance of wanderlust, apparently.
All that time spent indoors has paid off at least in one respect for Mr. Mayer: His guitar work is inspired and technically inventive; he’s one of the most interesting young players in the business today, with equal facility on acoustic and electric.
There’s little trace of the influence of the late Stevie Ray Vaughn, whom he so frequently cites. He does, however, come pretty close once, on this album’s choicest cut: the aforementioned “Come Back to Bed,” an old-timey, Memphis-style soul ballad, stylistically a nice departure for Mr. Mayer and a chance for him to sport some bluesy chops.
The norm for “Heavier Things” is far from blues or soul, though. Jack Joseph Puig’s production is lush and modern, with lots of saccharine, tech-y flourishes and programming.
That, combined with Mr. Mayer’s always-earnest, throaty vocals, in a generational line that traces back to Sting and Peter Gabriel by way of Dave Matthews, makes for a strangely adult atmosphere, the kind of easy-on-the-eardrums experience usually reserved for the over-40 crowd.
For a guy who probably cut his teeth on Stevie Ray’s “Texas Flood,” Mr. Mayer seems like he graduated to a steady diet of light, airy, digestible pop; he gave up meat and rediscovered pabulum, so to speak.
If you go in for that sort of thing, have at it. Me, I’m going to wait for John Mayer to apply those guitar chops to some weightier material. I’m waiting, in other words, for the “Heaviest Things.”