John Mayer — “Waiting on the World to Change”

Released: 8.1.06

Peak: #14

John Mayer is smarter than you think and dumber than he wishes. Mayer senses the complexity of those interpersonal relationships that pop necessarily simplifies, but each time he tries to add a thoughtful lyrical wrinkle to a commonplace he trips over his own dick. “Daughters” could have been an anodyne celebration of little girls; instead Mayer seems to encourage good parenting so that he won’t have to date crazy bitches. And yet, in spite of himself, dude offers accidental insight into the privileged yet conflicted perspective of the straight white male.

Mayer’s weakness and his gift is an inability to mask his less flattering side, so of course he leads off his anthem of political alienation with “Me and all my friends/ We’re all misunderstood.” (Something about that double “all” really hammers the self-pity home.) And yet, he’s on to something, a collective sense of disempowerment that affects the entire electorate. Privileged straight white males may derive undue benefit from our political system, but they’re still mostly powerless to change it.

Mayer would have been forgiven if he simply revived  “A Change Is Gonna Come” or some other fond Boomer memory. Instead, he sacrilegiously adopted a Curtis Mayfield template to diagnose a political anemia we prefer to deny. We’d rather join Greg Kot in condemning the way “Waiting on the World to Change” “advocates” passivity, or, like Pitchfork, which similarly panned the song, we prefer to celebrate the implicit passivity of a hermetic, post-verbal indie aesthetic. “We just feel like we don’t have the means / To rise above.” Do you honestly feel otherwise?

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