John Mayer - Daughters

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“See that skin?/ It’s the same she’s been standing in/ Since the day/ She saw him walking away/ Now she’s left/ Cleaning up the mess he made.”

This isn’t even my favorite Mayer track. In fact, I’ve heard approximately fifteen better by him; songs that fill me with ‘skipping fourth period economics to go sit in a Brighton coffee bar flicking through glossy magazines and dreaming of the life I’ll lead’ sunshine memories. Songs that perfectly capture the youthful naivety of simple hope in love. Songs which are, at the very least, vaguely more interesting and memorable than this.

But infuriatingly, this one hypnotizes me. A sort of Philip Larkin for suburban America, (who obviously can’t quite take the brutal honesty of “They fuck you up/ Your mum and dad”) It alone deserves a post simply because I feel so blatantly manipulated, yet utterly sold on his wee homily. ‘Look’, John is telling me from under his artfully rumpled college-boy fringe, ‘I get your abandonment issues and deep-set fear of another man ruining you like that. Aren’t I an insightful modern metrosexual, all in touch with feminine behavioral determinants?’

And what kills me, is he is. So few lines, so irritatingly accurate. I mean, it’s trite! Straightforward, teeth-clenching, Hallmark catchphrase-worthy, clichéd self-help book material! There’s such a smug sympathy to it, as if merely stating that absent fathers tend to fuck up their daughters doesn’t even deserve a jaunty chord sequence. You’ve just identified how I’ll never be able to muster a decent relationship, my dear; the very least you could do is allow me a catchy few middle eight bars! I’m doomed to a life of intimacy problems, don’t I even deserve a proper pacy little number?

Sigh. But no, apparently as one of the damaged millions, all I get is this plodding guitar strum-a-thon. If my abandonment issues weren’t enough to send me into therapy, then the aftermath of this mind-numbingly dull verse arrangement may well be.

The part that really gets under my skin is the sheer eye-rolling inevitability of, “Girls become lovers/ Who turn into mothers…” Neatly summarize universal patriarchal attitudes to female identity solely in relation to our reproductive characteristics, why don’t you? Yes, I am a woman, and I exist solely to have sex and rear children. Glad we cleared that up, I was beginning to aim for a fully autonomous life of which a man was only an additional part. Imagine that!

Yet, bemusingly, John manages to eek out a corner of affection in my embittered heart. Maybe it’s because he’s provided a kind of understated anthem teenage girls can cradle close to their overflowing hearts (beside Jimmy Eat World’s ‘The Middle’) as they attempt to navigate the strange terrain of emotional scarring. Maybe it’s because sometimes its nice to have things spelt out in such simple terms, to look at and smile and nod and say “Ooo get me and my universally recognized issues.”

Or perhaps I’m just a sucker for his ruffled little cough syrup rock thing.

5 Responses to “John Mayer - Daughters”

  1. Blogger Al Shipley 

    very well put. thank you for joining me and Miccio in our conflicted Mayer love.

  2. Blogger Raised By Bees 

    Anthony told me about your Mayer conflict on your excellent blog and I'm glad he sent me here. Consider yourself bookmarked. Your Mayer piece makes me want to like him more.


  3. Anonymous Anonymous 

    i love your analysis of daughters—such a perfect articulation of what makes me so irritated with a song that, for some reason, i can't help humming along to. why do i love his sissy-ass rock? because it's like he's here...and here (hand over head and heart).
    dig your blog, i'm sending friends here:)

  4. Anonymous Anonymous 

    Your analysis of the lovers-to-mothers paradigm is great, but the couplet that gets me is this one: "on behalf of every man looking out for every girl/you are the god and the weight of her world." A nice sly attempt to counter the blatant assertion of ultimate patriarchy with the acknowledgment that said system burdens its subjects. the "on behalf" is interesting: is John apologizing for this situation, asserting its necessity, or suggesting that by speaking "on behalf," he's letting all his girlie fans know that the boys who push them into blow jobs do realize their responsibility in such matters? Scary! And I'm sorry, but anyone who claims to be anyone else's god has a big ego problem in my book (see George W. Bush). My love/hate with Mayer started to stop at this point. Though I still think "Your Body is A Wonderland" is an excellently sexy song.
    ann p, who hates to sign in places

  5. Anonymous Courtney 

    Hi, I just stumbled uppon this page. After hearing this song, I could only come up with the conclustion that John Mayer is an anti-feminist. I totally agree about the "Girls become mothers" line. Also, the lyrics are stating that females can only exist happily because of their (male) fathers. I just found this song really irritating, and mildy enfuriating.


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