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The 11 best John Mayer songs

Why have a Top 10 when you can have one more? Here are our 11 favourite John Mayer songs, ranked

The turn of the millennium coincided with the greatest change in John Mayer’s life, as he shifted from playing smokey Atlanta bars to becoming one of the busiest pop stars on the rise. Two decades later, he remains one of the most decorated and respected acts in the business, eager to develop his sound while keeping his smooth vocals and masterful guitar work at the core.

The latest arrangement in Mayer’s arena-filling live shows is The Solo Tour, coming to the UK in March 2024, which will see the 45-year-old perform his greatest hits alone, with just his guitar and piano. For now, here are 11 of our all-time favourite songs from the man himself.

11. Still Feel Like Your Man

(The Search For Everything, 2017)

Featuring lines such as “I still keep your shampoo in the shower/ In case you wanna wash your hair,” Mayer’s not afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve on this otherwise angular and funky track from his heartbreak concept album. (The singer later admitted to The New York Times that the track is about Katy Perry). There’s a cool City Pop feel to this track, which he doubles down on with the Japanese feel of its accompanying video.

10. No Such Thing

(Room For Squares, 2001)

This is the track where it all began for Mayer, releasing his debut single as a fresh-faced 24-year-old that would become his highest charting song for five years. You can hear an older version of it on his 1999 EP Inside Wants Out, and though the core quality of the track remains, the album version signposts an ear for rich and golden instrumentation that Mayer would soon begin exploring. Anything to escape being pigeonholed as another singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar.

9. Belief

(Continuum, 2006)

‘Gravity’ is the big hit of Mayer’s third album – it was even played regularly on Space Shuttle Endeavour – but we have enough candlelit ballads on this list. ‘Belief’ has a Sting-like sultriness to it, not least from those harmonies on the chorus. Ben Howard joins Mayer for a little transatlantic guitar-off.

8. Half Of My Heart

(Battle Studies, 2009)

A gorgeous acoustic ditty about feeling not fully committed (f*ck boys, take note!), this one apparently came to Mayer in a dream. He then took to Twitter to say, “I want to sing it with Taylor Swift. She would make a killer ‘Nicks’ in contrast to my ‘Tom’ of a song”. Lo and behold, Taylor turned Mayer’s dream into a reality, adding those velveteen harmonies on the chorus. The rest was history…

7. Wheel

(Heavier Things, 2003)

A deep cut from second album Heavier Things, ‘Wheel’ is a crystalline and cutting reminder of the cyclical nature of relationships. His guitars sound especially delicate here, but he still manages to wangle a little heartfelt solo moment in there.

6. Queen Of California

(Born And Raised, 2012)

Mayer might be considered a pop star by today’s standards, but he’s also got the approval of the folk-rock greats. Why else would the Grateful Dead ask him to fill Jerry Garcia’s shoes on Dead & Company? Born And Raised is his own slice of halcyon 70s reverie, as its opener ‘Queen Of California’ searches for the “Sun that Neil Young hung” with a roaming contentedness.

5. New Light

(Sob Rock, 2022)

This relentless earworm is proof of Mayer’s ability to adapt and progress the style of his pop sound. Yes, this track and much of Sob Rock doesn’t hide its 80s aesthetic, but ‘New Light’ came out in 2019, two years ahead of his pal Harry Styles’s mega hit ‘As It Was’. Play them back-to-back and their connection becomes a touch more obvious.

4. Love On The Weekend

(The Search For Everything, 2017)

OK, let’s bring the tempo down. ‘Love On The Weekend’ sounds like putting on your dad’s Springsteen record and playing it on the wrong speed. It just works, with that beat just driving enough to give the glimmering atmospherics some oomph and body.

3. I Guess I Just Feel Like

(Sob Rock, 2022)

‘Love On The Weekend’ might have come close, but this is the real slow-burner. Really, it’s music made to be enjoyed gazing into a fire long into the night, perfect for the sweltering ripples of that wailing guitar and weary percussive shuffle. “There’s nothing hit-like about it,” Mayer said when he debuted it live on a radio performance, “but sometimes you’ve just got to tell the truth with a guitar and then you can get back to playing some hit songs”.

2. Clarity

(Heavier Things, 2003)

I guess I just feel like… Heavier Things is often overlooked as one of Mayer’s best. Its opener sets the bar: a simple piano twinkle with inviting claps, culminating in a euphoric gust blown through the brass that enters at its climax. The guitars do a lot here too, acting percussively on the acoustic to compliment the hefty hits of Questlove. At the same time, the slow and sustained notes on the electric mirror his “Oooh’s”, before hammering on the chorus to reflect the spiralling of thoughts ruining the calm glow of the opening lines.

1. Slow Dancing In A Burning Room

(Continuum, 2006)

If there’s a better metaphor for the bittersweet feeling of burning but failing love in pop music, let’s hear it. One of Mayer’s ultimate hits (though it was never released as a single), ‘Slow Dancing In A Burning Room’ leans into the blues with a slight Southern drawl and a sliding and wailing guitar, while still keeping a sense of hushed intimacy befitting this swansong of a dance. Mayer’s guitar solo strikes a great balance of face-wincing flair without being too distracting, letting the simple melody follow the natural steps of its eponymous hook.

Find tickets for John Mayer’s solo shows in March 2024 here