Image Courtesy of Celebrity Land
Released on July 16, 2021, John Mayer’s latest studio album Sob Rock pays tribute to a time that used to be. With the influence of 80s classics, Mayer builds songs which his listeners can relate to, making it clear that the purpose of this album is to inspire nostalgia, as well as to transcend time in order for this album to be relevant for years to come.
To accomplish this goal, Mayer dropped teasers of his songs on TikTok. He did this in an effort to reach a younger audience, for which he is not normally known.
In his own words, Mayer explains, “Pretend someone made a record in 1988 and shelved it and it was just found this year.”
Even in creating new music, he seems to dream of his music being doomed to be lost to time through his choice to make an album that is explicitly dated. In this album, Mayer explores the emotions and ‘baggage’ that are all a part of the human experience. He deals with heartbreak, growing up and getting older, and looking back on a time that you miss. Looking back in time is what this album is all about.
Mayer’s childhood was during the 80s, so much of this album draws inspiration from the music that he listened to growing up while still incorporating major themes that have run his adult life. The music that is presented brings about a sense of nostalgia for both Mayer and the listener. When you listen to this album you definitely feel like you are taking a step back in time. So if you just allow yourself to listen and experience the music, you will find that you can relate to many of the lyrics, as well as enjoy the guitar riffs and rhythmic synthesizers that were coined by 80s music.
Take a step into the Delorean Time Machine and take a trip back to the 1980s:
The first song on the album, “Last Train Home”, is about a man falling in love with a woman. He sees her as “the one.” The title lyric is essentially saying that this woman whom he has fallen in love with is the last woman he will ever love. There seems to be a certain hopefulness in the tone that pairs well with the more upbeat rhythm of the song. On the other hand, there is a certain sadness that is evident in the lyrics.
Mayer has been able to make people feel with him and relate to him for just over two decades. Combining his finesse of the guitar with his proficiency for lyricism, Mayer has a unique ability to both tell a story full of grit, sadness, and emotion while being able to create an atmosphere of hope and love. Mayer, a proven prolific guitarist, takes inspiration from the late Jerry Garcia and Eric Clapton, two of the most influential guitarists that music has ever seen. Mayer uses the technicality that comes from Clapton’s style of guitar playing to master the riffs and scales while taking a page from Garcia’s book in his use of a more free-spirited style to get in touch with the emotions that he is tackling in his music. Both Garcia and Clapton have been known to make people feel a specific way with their mastery of the guitar. On the tracks “Last Train Home” and “Shot in the Dark” the listener can hear guitar solos that pay homage to these two famous guitarists. I think that this song works well on the album, but for me it is #3 in my rankings of the songs on Sob Rock.
On the second track of the album, “Shouldn’t Matter but It Does,” Mayer talks about a failed relationship that seems to have ended some time ago. This song brings to mind the experience of imagining a future with someone, as in the line: “we could’ve been busy naming baby number three.” It can be far more difficult to simply move past the relationship and not wonder about what could have been.
This is my #1 personal favorite song on the album. This song is quite sad, so it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think that if you allow yourself to experience the emotions that Mayer presents through the lyrics you will find that he describes a situation or emotion to which you can relate. Experiencing music is about finding a common emotion or feeling between you and the artist and letting yourself get lost in the music. In this sad love power ballad, the listener can hear the guitar weep with the riffs and scales that make up the solos and background of this song. While this song is very sad, it still has a kind of glimmer of hope within the lyrics.
The song “Wild Blue” on the album talks a lot about “finding myself when I lost you.” This particular song has influences from the Dire-Straits and Fleetwood Mac, both of which are quite influential bands from the 80s. This song walks on the path of self-discovery after the end of a hopeful relationship. This song is #2 on the album for me on the rankings. Every time I hear this song, I instantly think I am listening to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” This song brings me a sense of nostalgia and joy because of the allusion to “Dreams.” This is truly the summer song and it is genuinely so easy to vibe out to and sing along with whether you’re walking down the street or going on a long road trip with friends and family.
All of the songs on this album seem to have an underlying hopeful tone. This is apparent in the album art, music videos, and music as well as the lyrics. There is a lot to be said about this album and the way it transcends generations. This album as a whole seems to be about finding the silver linings in the dark clouds.