Song of the Day #1,480: ‘Queen of California’ – John Mayer

It’s a testament to how good this year has been for new releases that John Mayer’s Born and Raised can climb to only number four on this list.

Since his great 2006 record Continuum, Mayer has made headlines for everything but his music. He gave two disastrous magazine interviews, had ugly break-ups with Jennifer Aniston and Taylor Swift (with the latter excoriating him in song on her most recent album) and developed granulomas on his vocal chords that prevented him from singing.

The only album he released during that 6-year span was 2009’s Battle Studies, a disappointing effort that boasted a few memorable songs but mostly sounded like he was running on cruise control. He himself dismissed the album as mediocre shortly after its release (I’m sure the record company loved that).

Faced with this onslaught of mostly self-imposed problems — by-products of soaking up every bit of the spotlight aimed at him in his 20s — Mayer sold his Los Angeles house and New York apartment and retreated to a ranch in Montana to finally grow up.

Who knows if Mayer will successfully stay out of the tabloids, but one thing is certain: the voluntary exile resulted in his best album yet. Born and Raised is a laid-back, mostly acoustic record that brims with honest emotion.

Mayer takes his cue from 70s singer-songwriters, tapping into a Laurel Canyon vibe that’s well-served by his peerless guitar work and raspy vocals (given more character thanks to his throat surgery). Mayer has David Crosby and Graham Nash contribute backing vocals on the title track, a perfect little slice of folk rock, and several songs channel his longtime hero, Eric Clapton.

He name-drops Joni Mitchell and Neil Young and alludes to Bob Dylan on lead-off track ‘Queen of California’ (today’s SOTD). He also makes room for a little southern rock, delivering an Allman Brothers-worthy coda that I hate to hear come to and end.

Born and Raised is a spectacular comeback record. Will it lead to a new phase in Mayer’s rocky career — one based on his music and not his Twitter feed? I sure hope so. He has the chops to leave behind quite a legacy, if only he stays out of his way.

Goodbye cold, goodbye rain
Goodbye sorrow, goodbye shame
I’m headed out west with my headphones on
Boarded a flight with a song in the back of my soul
And no one knows

I just found out her ghost left town
The Queen of California is stepping down, down

Hello beauty, hello strange
Hello wonder, what’s your name?
Looking for the sun that Neil Young hung
After the gold rush of 1971

I just found out her ghost left town
The Queen of California is stepping down, down

If you see her say, “Hello”
Just don’t tell me, “I told you so”
Joni wrote Blue in her house by the sea
I gotta believe there’s another color waiting on me
To set me free

I just found out her ghost left town
The Queen of California is stepping down, down, down
Get down

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2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,480: ‘Queen of California’ – John Mayer

  1. Dana says:

    I dislike Mayer and generally am annoyed by his music. This song, however, doesn’t suck.

  2. Clay says:

    There’s a quote for the CD cover!

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