John Clayton Mayer:
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By: Jordan Kurtz

John Clayton Mayer was born on October 16, 1977 in Bridgeport, Connecticut and raised in Fairfield, Connecticut. At the age of thirteen, John found his unconditional inspiration for music in the melodies and rhythms created by famous blues musicians such as Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix, and several others. He also admits that Michael J. Fox’s guitar performance in Back to the Future was an integral part to his initial interest in music. After highschool, John worked at a local gas station, where he would save up to buy his own guitar. Although he was never motivated by the thought of school, John attended Boston’s Berklee College of Music for two semesters until he finally decided to drop out and relocate to Atlanta, Georgia in order to pursue music on his own terms. He gained local name recognition by playing his music at pubs, bars, and coffee houses. Interested in exploring the sounds of pop music, John expanded his social network and met his soon-to-be bassist, David LaBruyere. After touring nearby states, Columbia Records eventually signed John and released his major debut album, Room For Squares in 2001. The multiplatinum album included pop hits such as “Your Body Is A Wonderland”, “No Such Thing”, and “Why Georgia.” After winning a first Grammy for the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for his song “Your Body Is A Wonderland”, Mayer went on to release three more studio albums including Heavier Things, Continuum, and Battle Studies. In 2005, he also formed the John Mayer Trio with bassist, Pino Palladino, and drummer, Steve Jordan in an attempt to experiment with the blues and build upon his genre of music. The trio went on to release a live album called Try!. Throughout the last few years, John has created the “Back To You” Fund, participated in the Live Earth project, and toured with famous musicians and bands such as Train, Ben Folds, One Republic, Sheryl Crow, Counting Crows, Maroon 5, and several others. The media has also embraced Mayer’s private life as a result of his relationships with Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jessica Simpson, and Jennifer Aniston. He continues to flourish as one of the most successful, talented, contemporary musicians.

Trait and Skills Aspects of Personality:
A common approach that is used to assess the celebrities embedded in our popular culture includes the use of the trait and skill aspects of personality. Hans Eysenck narrowed the Big Five traits into three distinct dimensions that were the result of our underlying biological systems: extroversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism. Of these dimensions, John Mayer tends to exhibit the traits that are associated with neuroticism such as instability and apprehensiveness. In particularly, his neuroticism can be explicitly detected through the lyrics of his music. For example, in the song, “Clarity”, on his album, Heavier Things, Mayer opens the song by singing, “I worry, I weigh three times my body/ I worry, I throw my fear around/ But this morning, there’s a calm I can’t explain/ The rock candy’s melted, only diamonds now remain.” While some ponder about whether Mayer is referring to a past relationship, I affirm that “Clarity” is one of the first songs in his musical career that provides the audience with a sense of John’s apprehensive self-concept. At the age of seventeen, Mayer suffered from cardiac arrhythmia. This incident was one aspect of his life that made him become more self-aware. Interestingly, John admits that he throws his fear around, indicating that his unstableness surpasses the dynamics of any ordinary relationship and diffuses into other aspects of his life; however, at the same time, he follows up this notion by admitting that this overwhelming feeling passes during the most unexpected times such as morning. In fact, several of the lyrics displayed in Mayer’s music allude to his hypersensitivity of instability and fear, and then these feelings are immediately resolved. For instance, on his first acoustic album, Inside Wants Out, Mayer illustrates his feelings about being alone at night when he sings, “3:02/ The space in this room/ Has turned on me/ And all of my fears/ Have cornered me here/ Me and my TV screen”. He resolves his own sense of worry by admitting at the end of the song, “The world awakes/ And now I am safe/ At least by the light of day”. As a result, it seems as though John is able to wholeheartedly admit his unstable nature, and at the same time, he is capable of realizing when the apprehensiveness has resolved itself. Finally, in one of Mayer’s latest unreleased songs, “Age of Worry”, he aggressively battles the notion of apprehensiveness by saying, “Alive in the age of worry/ Rage in the age of worry/ Sing out in the age of worry/ And sing Worry, why should I care”. As opposed to passively resolving his inner conflicts, this song directly fights the feeling of apprehensiveness and almost seems to put this lifelong struggle of worry to an abrupt end.
In addition to his reflections of personal neuroticism, Mayer also seems to be heavily influenced by different types of motivation. Henry Murray identified four central needs that different people display across their lifetime in order to respond to the demands of different conditions: need for achievement, need for affiliation, need for power, and the need for exhibition. Specifically, John has demonstrated the need for exhibition as well as the need for affiliation through some isolated events in his life as well as in his musical endeavors. In 2004, John appeared on a comedy special titled, “John Mayer Has a TV Show” and disguised himself in a bear costume as he antagonized some of his fans in order to see how they typically prepare for his concerts. He later opened the concert revealing to the crowd that it was he who was the one responsible for pulling the prank earlier that day. In fact, Mayer often admits that a part of him wanted to enter the comedy business at one point in his life. Mayer’s need for exhibition was also exemplified in 2008 on the Mayercraft Carrier, when he decided to wear a bright green bathing suit that was literally a replication of the bathing suit-thong hybrid that Borat wore in the famous movie. The stunt was a response to a friendly dare, and Mayer followed through for all of his fans to witness.
Furthermore, Mayer’s need for affiliation can be identified through the most intimate lyrics of his songs. In order to win the affection of women, Mayer expresses his sensitivity through his conversational lyrics in the song, “St. Patrick’s Day”, when he sings, “In the dark, on the phone/ You tell me the names of your brothers/ And your favorite colors/ I’m learning you”. It is these unconventional but well-thought out lyrics that mark the cornerstone to Mayer’s success with women because the song elegantly showcases an intimate situation by which mostly anybody, who has been in a relationship, can relate to. Mayer is most well known for his passionate lyrics in “Your Body Is A Wonderland”. He opens the chorus to the song by saying, “And if you want love/ We’ll make it/ Swim in a deep sea/ Of blankets/ Take all your big plans/ And break ‘em/ This is bound to be a while”. His use of creative metaphors coupled with the breathy intonation in his voice truly captures the hearts of millions of women, and as a result, he is successful when it comes to gaining the affection of others.

Neo-analytic and Ego Aspects Perspective:
John Mayer’s personality can be captured and analyzed from the neo-analytic and ego aspects perspective as well. Alfred Adler adopted a theory of Individual Psychology, which emphasized a person’s perception of him or herself and their individual role in society. In particular, Adler believed that the core function of personality was a person’s tendency to strive for superiority. Analysis of Mayer’s personality lends myself to believe that he may have a superiority complex that includes an exaggerated self-esteem as well as overcompensation for feelings of inferiority. John’s superiority complex overtly shines through the confidence he displays in the lyrics of his music. In his single, “Bigger Than My Body”, Mayer puts forth a loud self-assurance that he will emerge successfully in this world when he sings, “Some day I’ll fly/ Some day I’ll soar/ Some day I’ll be so damn much more/ ‘Cause I’m bigger than my body gives me credit for.” It seems as though Mayer understood that the minor failures that he may have experienced as he wrote the song would soon be substituted for a more brilliant place in the world. He puts forth the notion that his physical body is bogging him down from the superior creature that he knows he can be, and perhaps, John even believes that his talent is so great that it shouldn’t be compressed inside the physical world. In addition, Mayer even acknowledged the idea that several people feel as though he thinks of himself as superior. When he was interviewed about this very rumor he replied, “If cocky is when, before someone throws you a pitch, you think you’re gonna hit it, then yeah, I’m cocky. Arrogance is talking about it in the dugout all day.” Therefore, Mayer is aware of his musical superiority because he directly confronts the issue and admits to it for the public to hear. Mayer denies being arrogant and that may be true, but there is no doubt that his superiority complex is reflected in his attitude, behavior, and the open confidence that he emits every time he steps onto the stage to perform songs such as “Bigger Than My Body”.
Furthermore, one can conclude the John Mayer is trapped within the “Intimacy versus Isolation” crisis that was first identified by Erik Erikson. Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development put forth the notion that people develop their identities through various stages over the course of their lifetime, and if one does not successfully emerge from the crisis associated with each stage, then the person would continue to struggle with it. The public has followed John’s list of superficial relationships, which have included run-ins with Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz, Minka Kelly, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and several others. None of these relationships have seemed to permanently capture the strings of John’s heart, and his recent album, Battle Studies, supports this idea. In the song, “Perfectly Lonely”, John begins the first verse by saying, “Had a little love, but I spread it thin/ Falling in her arms and out again/ Made a bad name for my game ‘round town/ Tore out my heart, and shut it down.” In this song, Mayer downplays the idea of being in a romantic and committed relationship because of his doubtful reputation with women. He admits that he is emotionally detached from love because he has isolated his heart from any kind of romantic figure. John even sarcastically pokes fun at his friends for being in full-fledged relationships when he sings in the second verse, “I see my friends around from time to time/ When their ladies let ‘em slip away.” These lyrics may implicitly reflect John’s bitterness toward his own unsuccessful relationships as opposed to vehement frustration with his friends for being in successful relationships. Perhaps John is most open about his inability to find permanent romance in the song “Half of My Heart.” He admits, “Half of my heart’s got a grip on the situation/ Half of my heart takes time/ Half of my heart’s got a right mind/ To tell you that I can’t keep lovin’ you.” In other words, Mayer denotes the perfect storm with respect to his inability to commit to others because he realizes that one part of him wants to move forward and attempt a relationship while the other half of him understands that he would only end up hurting this woman in the long run. As a result, John is trapped within a vicious cycle that keeps him isolated from experiencing true love.

Together, the trait perspective and the neo-analytic approach to personality provide a comprehensive and widespread evaluation of John Mayer through his lyrics and the isolated events that have occurred thus far in his life. Mayer’s personality with respect to the trait perspective reveals that he is most likely high on neuroticism, which yields characteristics such as apprehensiveness as well as instability. According to Henry Murray, Mayer would most likely fit in categories that include the need for affiliation and the need for exhibition. As a result, he has a tendency to try to win the affection of others and attempt to entertain and amuse them too. Furthermore, John can be depicted from the neo-analytic point of view, which illustrates that he may have a superiority complex according to Alfred Adler, and he may still need to resolve his identity crisis related to “Intimacy versus Isolation.” Therefore, one can easily conclude that John Mayer’s personality is innately sophisticated and widely differentiated.

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