John Mayer is by far my favorite musician and what better way to exercise that fact by creating a top 10 list.
I first discovered John Mayer in college when Daughters was at the height of its popularity. I had thought John was just a fleeting pop artist, but when a coworker 15 years my senior mentioned how good he is, and I must check him out. I started with the only two albums he had out at the time, Room for Squares and Heavier Things. Both of those pop albums were not the Mayer we know today. Outside of his hit singles, I was instantly drawn to Why Georgia and Neon where he flexed his guitar skills. Having an early appreciation for John Mayer’s deep cuts positioned me, as a fan, for the release of his masterpiece Continuum.
I’ve listened to the Continuum album probably more than any other music album in existence. Every song is great and conjures indivdual feelings, much like Usher’s Confessions. Since his third album, I’ve been a fan. More than 15 years later, he’s still putting out classic music and living up to what I would call the greatest guitar player of my generation.
I’ve had the pleasure and opportunity to see John Mayer live in concert twice in the past five years. Listening to his studio recordings are great, but being in an arena with him live brings it to a whole new level.
This list was hard to create because there are so many great John Mayer songs. Some may say limiting it to a top 10 is not constructive with his large library, but this is about fun. Over the years my favorites have changed and I’m sure as he continues to release new music, it will evolve.
- Something Like Olivia
Released as the third single from Born and Raised six months after the album, and was already a favorite of mine. A more upbeat and poppy-sounding song on an otherwise country-ish album, Something Like Olivia has everything that makes a great John Mayer song. His most recent live rendition during his solo set for Rise for the River solidified this as the top song.
- Wild Blue
The newest song on this list released in 2022 of his polarizing album Sob Rock, Wild Blue is a jazz-inspired classic. Hard to describe, but it mixes bluegrass, jazz and 80s rock. John recently described this song as his favorite on the record and every time he hears it, he can’t believe he made it. I agree. Wild Blue features not one, but two guitar fantastic guitar solos.
Probably the most popular song in the world from John, and for good reason. Gravity appears on the masterpiece album Continuum. Not much more to say about this song. If you haven’t heard it, give it a listen. If you’re not a John Mayer, this may be the only song on this list you’ve heard before.
Another song from Continuum, Vultures is sung in almost all falsetto. It has a different vocal sound over intricate guitar riffs. It’s crazy to think that both Vultures and Gravity appear on the same album from the same artist.
- Roll It on Home
Another song from The Search for Everything, Roll It on Home sounds like a country song, but in a way only John Mayer could do. With catchy lyrics and steel guitar accents, it’s a great song to listen to in the car.
- I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You)
If I had enough spots, every song from Continuum would probably be on my top list. I Don’t Trust Myself is yet another classic song with deep lyrics that make you think and feel. It’s heartbreak and forgiveness all rolled up in to a ballad.
- Queen of California
The first single on Born and Raised, Queen of California was another pop entry for Mayer. He released this album right before having vocal surgery and rest so was unable to tour on this record. This song has one of my favorite guitar playing throughout. Hearing this is what Bob Dylan fans probably experienced in his prime.
- Love on the Weekend
John’s first song after a long break dealing with personal and voice issue, Love on the Weekend was packaged on his experimental album release The Search for Everything. When this song was released I was so excited for new John Mayer music. I happen to be on a roadtrip during the release and I recall putting it on repeat for hours.
- Badge and Gun
A short acoustic gem appearing on Paradise Valley, Mayer’s least successful album. You can feel the spirit of his new Montana home on this. Badge and Gun has a country western feel to it with subtle story telling and catchy refrains. If it hasn’t already I can imaging this song on a modern western movie soundtrack.
- Perfectly Lonely
John followed up Continuum with Battle Studies which gets less praise than it deserves. Perfectly Lonely was released as the fourth single on this record and is one of those catchy songs you will sometimes randomly hear while pushing your cart through the bread aisle in a supermarket.
I decided to not include covers in my top 10 list as John Mayer is a singer/songwriter and while Crossroads is a great song, he didn’t write it. Crossroads is a Cream (Eric Clapton) song released in 1969 of the Wheels of Fire album. Not a traditionally popular song by Clapton and not taking anything away from him, but John’s cover on Battle Studies is better.
- Bold as Love
Part of the masterpiece of Continuum, Bold as Love has always been one of my favorite John Mayer songs. Only within the past five years did I find out that it’s a cover. Written by Jimi Hendrix and released in 1967 on the album Axis: Bold as Love. John puts his own spin and guitar sound on this track so much so that most people (me previously included) don’t realize it’s a Hendrix song.
A deep cut from The Search for Everything, Rosie is a fun song about a troubled relationship. Like other John Mayer songs, Rosie contains a guitar solo that I’ve memorized just as much as the lyrics.
There you have it. The John Mayer top 10 (+3) according to me. If you’ve never given John Mayer the time of day, I get it. His past is checkered with personal opinions and “bad boy” persona. He’s grown as a person and an artist in the last 20 years. Take a moment to check in on what he’s been doing, and you may be surprised.
John recently became part of the new Grateful Dead ensemble Dead and Company. That side-gig has led me to discover Dead songs that I never heard that I now enjoy. Thanks John!