When you’re dreaming with a broken heart
The waking up is the hardest part
You roll outta bed and down on your knees
And for the moment you can hardly breathe
Wondering was she really here?
Is she standing in my room?
No she’s not, ’cause she’s gone, gone, gone, gone, gone….
These words form the opening lyrics to John Mayer’s “Dreaming with a Broken Heart”, a song off his most recent album Continuum. It deals with the heartbreak of losing someone you love, and would strike me as quite poetic and touching if not for the fact that Mayer sleeps with anything that moves. But have you ever actually wondered why the work of so many songwriters seems to revolve around love, loss and heartbreak? Is it because these are universal themes, easily translatable throughout the world’s culture? In short, yes and no. Allow me to explain.
When the typical singer-songwriter begins their career, they are more often than not completely broke. This could be attributed to a number of things: too much time spent playing the guitar, not enough emphasis on formal education, or perhaps because of a healthily growing acid addiction. They may be stuck in a dead-end job, earning just enough money to pay the rent for a crummy apartment. Sound clichéd? Well maybe that’s because they’re true.
Bereft of a Wordsworth-like appreciation for nature, the artist will put these depressing scenarios into song form. If they’re lucky, these songs will be bought by millions of people. Suddenly, the struggling songwriter is now an international superstar, playing to thousands of adoring crowds. Their life has undergone a complete transformation; private jets replace public transport, groupies replace prostitutes, and caviar replaces baked beans (which, in the infinitesimally minute chance I ever become famous, I will still eat on occasion, smothered over 8 pieces of toast. Some things will never lose their appeal to me.). But soon enough, the evil record company (and isn’t it about time we stop referring to them as “record companies?) demands a new album be written and released. The fabled writer’s bloc strikes; having escaped from the rat race, they soon realise that the thing they despised was in fact the very thing that inspired them. Unfortunately, the songwriter will be much too egotistical to allow this line of thinking to permeate their music, and thus will be faced with two viable options: either write an album whilst high and hope it is hailed as ground-breaking and innovative, or write one about love.
Now why is it that the artist cannot write about anything else? Mainly because their insulated lifestyles prevent them from doing the things that make life great (or that actually make up life). Things like grocery shopping, picking up the kids from school, and mowing the grass. Alright, maybe they’re better off not doing these things, as their time is now spent mingling with the bourgeoisie. But people don’t want to hear this interpreted through song; they’ll watch television about this lifestyle non-stop, yet when they can’t actually get a glimpse of Kim Kardashian’s cleavage their attention plummets.
(On a side note, and to be totally honest, I am fascinated with the Kardashians, or to be more precise and pretentious, the concept of the Kardashians. In no other era would they have been known outside of their hometown. However, they are now well and truly a piece of today’s pop culture landscape, in spite of having no discernible talents whatsoever. Amazing!)
But now back to the idea at hand. So the songwriter writes an album about love, or more specifically, girls*. Why do they do this? Mainly because it’s the easy way out. Whining about the other sex is a skill the majority of our species has. Being able to convert this into a melodic pop tune, however, is a talent only a special few have. So when John Mayer sings “Tell me why, Georgia, why?” the listener feels as they can relate to Mayer; even he has his problems with the fairer sex.
So maybe you’re wondering why I’m picking on John Mayer? Well, it just so happens that he’s releasing a new album next month, strangely titled Battle Studies. I say strangely titled only because when I checked out the track listing, it became abundantly clear that he was not talking about the real-life battle soldiers are fighting everyday. Rather, it is more from the Pat Benatar, “Love is a Battlefield” school of thought. For an instant, I was disappointed**; after all, he’d promised a new sound on this album, one closer to the Stevie Ray Vaughan and BB King-influenced blues that I knew he was capable of performing. But then I came to a sudden realisation. For, as much as he changed his musical style, John Mayer’s lyrics would always continue to be about a girl. And for this reason, he is the music industry’s greatest phony.
You see, John Mayer doesn’t pine for a singular girl- he wants conquests. He wants the biggest belt in the world. He wants so many notches on his bedpost that he has to go and buy a new one every second week. He is like Chris Klein’s character in “Just Friends”- he writes a nice song about a girl, and then interchanges the title of the song depending on who he is singing it to, in case this turns them suddenly into an animalistic sexual being that will bang like a barn door. This whole thing with Jennifer Aniston? He’s faking it. I mean, notice how he just got back together with her right before his album is out? It’s sickening.
Having said that, I still love John Mayer.
*This is why Katy Perry is popular. Writing a song about dabbling in lesbianism? Hot!
**Should probably mention that I’m actually a John Mayer fan. If you can ignore the lyrics, you’ll see that he’s one of the better musicians in pop/rock today. However, his “O-face” method of playing the guitar is incredibly disturbing to watch.