John Mayer Wonders Whether He Needs to Like His Own Music

"Why do I even have to like what I'm writing?" the musician asked during a recent interview

John Mayer performs onstage during his Sob Rock Tour 2022 at Madison Square Garden on February 20, 2022 in New York City.
John Mayer performs onstage during his Sob Rock Tour 2022 at Madison Square Garden.
Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

When an artist puts out a new album, it’s generally a pretty safe assumption that regardless of what we may think of it, they stand by their creative output and are satisfied with its quality. But if a recent John Mayer interview is any indication, that’s not always the case — and perhaps, Mayer asserts, it doesn’t have to be.

“Why would you do what you normally want to do anymore?” Mayer asked Andy Cohen while discussing his latest album, Sob Rock. “What’s normal anymore? I’m now at the point where I’m [asking], why do I even have to like what I’m writing? What if I can write things that I don’t even like at the moment?”

“If you don’t like it, it’s just that it exists a little bit beyond your own tastes for that moment,” he continued. “That’s what happens as a writer; you write something and you go, I bet this isn’t any good, but your tastes catch up to it. It’s a very complex, kind of twisted thought but why does liking my idea stop me from writing the idea? What you like and don’t like right now is not essential.”

On its surface, that argument is a little tough to stomach coming from Mayer. Putting out music you don’t personally like isn’t challenging yourself; it’s just phoning it in. It’s fine to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and explore new sounds outside of your own personal tastes, but presumably you’d still eventually get to a point — hopefully before you actually put the record out — where you stand by the work and can say you like it.

This isn’t the first time that Mayer has alluded to not liking the songs he wrote for Sob Rock. Last year, he admitted he had “shitposted” the record, saying, “I went, ‘Well, I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do. And in fact, I can make a record that’s in some way provocative, if not antagonizing.’ And then I did what I thought was going to be antagonizing, and this is the most important part of the conversation, I think, creatively. For me, it was like, ‘I want to get in trouble. I want someone to tell me this is shit.’ And I made a record that to me at the time, only in a way to coax something out of me that I wouldn’t have normally done: shitpost a record. It’s called Sob Rock because it’s a shitpost.”

The problem with all of this is that nothing on Sob Rock is particularly challenging or avant garde. As we wrote when we reviewed the record last year, “It’s fine if Mayer used the whole ‘shitposting’ angle as a way of forcing himself to break away from any preoccupation with being ‘cool’ and just make the album he wanted to make. But, despite what he says, there’s nothing ‘provocative’ or ‘antagonizing’ about Sob Rock; if you really happen to despise Phil Collins, this one’s maybe not for you, but ultimately the ’80s schtick only goes so far, and it mostly just sounds like every other John Mayer album — bland, inoffensive soft-rock tracks that you can ignore in a coffeeshop.”

Mayer’s apparently still waiting for his tastes to catch up to his writing, but what about our tastes?

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