John Mayer

Room for Squares [Aware]

(CD - Aware Records #110)

Review by

After making minor waves with his 1999 debut, Inside Wants Out, John Mayer hired veteran producer John AlagĂ­a (a longtime associate of the Dave Matthews Band) to lace his first major-label effort with commercial appeal. Released in September 2001, Room for Squares proved to be a savvy, well-timed album, quietly heralding the end of teen-pop's glory days with nuanced wordplay, a relaxed gait, and intricate (although nevertheless accessible) songwriting. Songs like "No Such Thing" and "Neon" mixed jazz chords with digestible choruses, fashioning a sort of brainy, college-educated pop hybrid that found a home amongst discerning listeners and mainstream fans alike. Of course, it didn't hurt that Mayer also loaded the album with more straightforward numbers -- particularly "Your Body Is A Wonderland," a bubbling piece of bedroom pop that helped swell his female audience. Mayer's heralded guitar solos and bluesy, Stevie Ray Vaughan-styled flourishes were sorely absent from the mix, though, as he initially limited the bulk of his fretwork to the acoustic guitar. It would take a jam-friendly concert album -- 2003's Any Given Thursday -- to introduce the breadth of Mayer's axman skills to the public, but Room for Squares still provides a nice introduction to the songwriter's catalog, highlighting his blend of collegiate pop/rock and sensitive acoustics while only hinting at the eclectic, genre-hopping chameleon he would later become. [Aware also released the CD.]

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