Waiting on Sexual Healing
For a few moments when I first heard John Mayer's “Waiting on the World to Change”, I thought it was a cover of Marvin Gaye's “Sexual Healing”. The two songs share the same chord pattern and a very similar meter/rhythm. It also kind of made sense to me that John would cover it. He already scored a pop hit about sex a few years back so, why not give Marvin's tune a go at it? This train of thought derailed as soon as I heard the opening lyrics.
I listened closely to John's message about how our generation is powerless and how we are just waiting for our turn. I waited for the very familiar chord changes to be over and, then I immediately proceeded to spit out the small amount of bile that rose in my throat. It wasn't the morose theme of the politically correct lyrics that made me feel ill. It was the sad fact that he put them over Gaye's wonderful ode to the healing power of sex. The tune was just like blindly biting into a stale cracker. But, not only is the cracker stale, it's was also in a brand new box labeled as chocolate chip cookies.
John Mayer was born in 1977. It's quite obvious that John is an R&B fan. Marvin's tune came out in 1980. Marvin's tune was a serious hit and many would consider it to be an R&B standard. Put it all together and you have to wonder were John's songwriting “voice of reason” (a.k.a. common sense) was when he penned this tune. You know, that voice that says you just re-wrote an immensely popular tune and maybe you can afford the time to come up with something slightly more original. I also have to wonder if anyone else involved in the recording process had heard of Marvin Gaye and noticed the slight similarity in the tunes. I guess its a case of the Mayer's lyrics ringing true. Even if they wanted to change it, they were just too powerless to do anything about it.
To compound my knee jerk hate for this song is the fact that I knew John Mayer was at least capable of co-writing an original pop tune. His first hit “No Such Thing” was a quirky mix of “XTC”, “Lite FM” and clever chord extensions. Some of his later hits also had a decent slice of merit to me. No matter how sappy you might find “Your Body is a Wonderland” or “Daughters” you have to at least give the cat credit with dressing up the music enough to make it his own. And, in this case, both of those tunes were about sex or, the result of it and I can't really criticize a guy for coming up with a clever way of singing about the oldest song topic on the planet. Now, on the other hand, I can't help but call him out for releasing the musical equivalent of Star Wars Episode One. Yup, it's that movie that disappointed an entire generation by taking all the fun and mystery out of the immensely popular setting that came before it.