John Mayer — ‘Sob Rock’ (review)

At just under 40 minutes in total, John Mayer’s Sob Rock is an enjoyable listen, but not likely something I’ll be revisiting very often.

After listening to the album while at work today, and then again in the car, I’ve come to the conclusion that Sob Rock is great for background music, but it feels a bit dull when it’s center stage.

The album focuses on 80s nostalgia and features lyrics that seem a little too self-aware to be accidental (which is definitely something I do like, and it feels classic John Mayer).

In an interview with Blackbird Spyplane, Mayer said he wanted to “pretend someone made a record in 1988 and shelved it and it was just found this year.”

While the 80s vibes do shine throughout the record, there are definitely some lackluster spots, as well.

Pros

  • The songs are catchy, the listening is smooth. As mentioned, it’s good for playing in the background while working on other tasks. It’ll put you in a better mood without distracting you too much.
  • It wouldn’t be a John Mayer album without the occasional guitar solo sprinkled in, here and there. We definitely need more of those in today’s music.
  • There are moments when you think, “wait, is he being serious, or is this satirical? Is he poking fun at himself?” Mayer is a funny guy, and way more intelligent than people give him credit for. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say he’s being a little self-deprecating at times, which I can appreciate.

Cons

  • “New Light,” “I Guess I Just Feel Like,” and “Carry Me Away,” are old tracks. “New Light” came out in 2018, while the other two were released in 2019. That leaves only 7 new songs on an already super short album. I can understand keeping “I Guess I Just Feel Like” and “Carry Me Away” because, ya know, pandemic delays and whatever, but “New Light,” while a good track, had its radio time already. Let’s leave it in the past.
  • “Why You No Love Me” sounds childish. He sings, “Why you no love me, why you no even care.” He sounds like Kevin from The Office when he decides to cut out words to save time, but only ends up sounding even more like a toddler than he usually does. Perhaps Mayer’s poking fun at himself. Even if he is, it’s not working well. Huge miss.

Listen to…

  • “Shouldn’t Matter but It Does”
  • “All I Want Is to Be With You”
  • “Shot in the Dark”
  • “I Guess I Just Feel Like” (I realize I mentioned this song might not belong on the album, and I stand by that. However, I can’t deny that I’ve always loved it.)

All in all, Sob Rock feels sorta like a thing Mayer just threw together in his spare time. A hobby record, if you will. He himself told Youtuber Kerwin Frost that he found himself laughing while working on the album, saying “I’m not even sure if [I’m laughing] because I think it’s great, or because I think it’s insane.”

After a few listens front-to-back, I’d say Sob Rock is somewhere in between. Maybe a little closer to the positive end. But the record is not without its flaws. And that’s why I give this album…

6.5/10

Featured image taken from John Mayer – Shot in the Dark (Official Video) via John Mayer.

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