Tuesday, May 15, 2012
The Economy of Mercy - Tia
I'm not sure how I want to begin this. So I'll start by saying, if you're interested, John Mayer's new album Born and Raised is streaming in its entirety on iTunes. I have no idea for how long, so if you want to listen to it I would suggest heading over ASAP.
But this post isn't about John's new album (which by the way, I have grossly indifferent feelings about. I don't hate it. I don't love it. And I continue to believe that Continuum is his opus.) No, this post is about my feelings toward John and how despite it all, yes, I'm still a fan of his music.
A couple of weeks ago I posted the video for "Shadow Days" and one of our readers wondered how we could still be fans of John. I have been mulling that comment over in my head ever since. (By the way, Tiffany, if you're reading, thank you for your candor. This post is in NO WAY a slam against you or your willingness to be honest. We actually appreciate readers who are willing to speak their minds in an intelligent way.)
After the whole Playboy debacle, it came as a surprise to absolutely NO ONE that Mr. Mayer came under fire from a lot of people (black, white and other) for his offensive, racist, and just down right TACKY comments about his exes, his sexual preference, and his Black fan base. As I repeatedly read the article, I was appalled and a bit confused. Was this the same man I'd seen on the cruise interacting with his Black female fans in a...ummm...extra way? This couldn't be the guy who sang the mess out "Lesson Learned" with Alicia Keys. Aside: I still love this picture.
But it was. One of my favorite singer songwriters proved to the world the he was kind of a d-bag.
The night after the proverbial poop hit the fan, John was in concert in Nashville. I wasn't there but Toya was. Per her account, and those of several other people, John appeared contrite and broken. Again, I wasn't there but from the footage I've seen and the comments I've heard from those there, his apology was not one of a man who'd been caught doing something naughty. Rather, it was the apology of a man who'd been slapped in the face with his own ignorance and shameful behavior. It was an apology brought on by compunction and not by necessity.
CLEARY, he made MANY mistakes. While I'm not so naive to say, "Oh, his comments were just taken out of context" I do believe that he genuinely meant no real malice or offense. In an effort to be accepted or as he sings in "My Stupid Mouth", "I just want to be liked, I just want to be funny" the joke was truly on him. But the difference between John and the rest of us is that his mistakes don't just quietly go away. Mistakes on a public stage are far reaching and long lasting. The public may forgive but thanks to technology we never have to forget.
The difference between those who are famous and the rest of us, is that we when screw up the entire world doesn't know about it 6 minutes later. If I say something ignorant, 20 billion people don't hear about it. I have time to consider what I've said and make the necessary amends without the world watching. I'm not inundated with the opinions of complete strangers and I have more than a mere moment to learn from my mistake and grow as a person. But when everyone knows your name, sings your songs, recognizes your face, when you screw up it becomes headlines. And the larger the offensive, the bigger the fallout.
I'm not famous and know very few people who are. But I have had a small glimpse behind the curtain and I've seen some things that aren't pretty. And while I will in no way condone what John said, I've personally seen enough to know that his words, though of his own mind, weren't solely of his own making. What I mean is this: John didn't became a d-bag overnight. He paid his dues singing at Eddie's Attic in Decatur (one of my favorite small venues in Atlanta.) He worked and hustled and got famous. And with fame comes "people." As in, "I'll have my people call your people." And a lot of times, those people are merely "yes men." They're the ones who geek you up and tell you you're awesome even when you're not being awesome. They co-sign on any and all behavior. You want to do drugs and drink at 6am? Yes, that's fine as long as you make it to the studio. You want to wear clothes 4 sizes too small for your frame. Yes, that's fine as long as it increases page views. You want to be 4 sheets to the wind drunk and give an interview that will damage your persona and alienate part of your fan base? Yes, that's fine as long as it sells more magazines and keeps people talking about you so that you can continue to tour and make more money for the machine. Yes, all that you do is fine. Until you crash and burn and realize it's not.
I think John became a victim of himself. I think he drank his own Kool-Aid and got caught out there. He forgot to be the guy with the guitar and decided to be the clever guy, the funny guy, the guy who says things to get attention. And I'm certain that every step of the way, there were people cheering him on, laughing at his bad jokes, and not truly giving a damn about the d-bag person he was becoming. So because he'd been lifted up so high, his fall was far and painful.
There's a line in "Lesson Learned" that kills me every time. "Falling down ain't falling down if you don't cry when you hit the floor." I wouldn't feel any kind of way about deleting every JM song I had and never listening to his music again, if he'd persisted in d-bag ways. If I truly thought he was a racist twit, I'd have no qualms about leaving him behind and never looking back. But from what I've gathered the fallout from the Playboy thing rocked his paradigm in such a way that he was forced to take a good long look at the man he was becoming. And apparently, he didn't like what he saw. So rather than just trying to be better at the social media game, he deleted his Twitter account, got off the blogsphere and decided to work on John Mayer, the grown up. And while I will never give a pass to the awful things that he said, I can easily extend grace and mercy to a man who's trying to be just that: A Man.