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‘Search for Everything’ review: John Mayer falls short

"The Search for Everything" can be found

"The Search for Everything" can be found on Columbia Records. Credit: Columbia Records


“The Search for Everything”


BOTTOM LINE Mayer’s “Search” falls a bit short.

John Mayer’s new album “The Search for Everything” (Columbia) feels more like a political campaign than an artistic work.

Mayer is on a mission to tell the world that he is no longer that guy who self-destructed in 2010 with talk of his sexual exploits and ill-advised racial epithets. He wants to remind people he remains a gifted blues-steeped guitarist and a salable singer-songwriter who can still crank out a love song to set hearts aflutter. And with “The Search for Everything,” he wants to prove all of that true.

The problem is Mayer also wants everyone to think that he’s clever — able to outsmart all the people all the time — and that makes some songs feel less than genuine. It’s a problem for a repentant singer-songwriter trying to regain “Your Body Is a Wonderland” earnestness.

Sometimes, he pulls it off. “Rosie” sweetly channels vintage Hall and Oates. The pretty ballad “Changing” may be Mayer’s most straightforward song in years, declaring, “I am not done changing,” before launching into a stunning guitar solo. “Never on the Day You Leave” works through the melancholy idea of leaving and all its regrets before deciding to stay. It’s a questioning process he also uses on the nature vs. nurture singalong “In the Blood.”

But sometimes it feels like the mask slips a bit (or returns). He captures a bit of sunny, George Benson-styled jazz with the groove-driven “Moving On and Getting Over,” until the overwrought line “It’s taken me so long just to say, ‘So long’ ” breaks the mood. The single “Still Feel Like Your Man” begins as charming neo-soul, until he goes on a bit too much about shampoo. The jam band vibe of “Roll It on Home” screeches to a halt with “Journey on the jukebox singing don’t let the believing end.”

Mayer’s search, it appears, is still on.

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