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Op-Ed: Mayer Parts Ways With McDonald – By Bob Lefsetz

He alienated his core audience.

Which was sensitive females.

An hunk who could both croon and wail, it was John Mayer’s crooning that delivered star status. Back when VH1 still played music and Top Forty radio wasn’t the haven of producer-driven, made by committee pop.

Under the best of circumstances Mayer would have a hard time triumphing today. But having screwed everything that moves, and seemingly having no regrets about it, females don’t need him anymore.

And neither do males… We like our guitar slingers unattractive with little to say. Break the mold and you’ve got to be legendary, and Mayer is good, but not that good.

So he fires his manager.

Someone’s got to take the fall. And it’s certainly not going to be the artist.

Now I’m not saying a new person doesn’t bring new stuff to the table, a fresh perspective if nothing else. But will that person live and die for you? Take your midnight phone call? Bring you drugs and arrange abortions?

Probably not. You need a lifer for that. Someone who’s not about the deal, but the relationship. Especially on your way down.

And that’s where Mayer’s headed, if he hasn’t fallen all the way already.

Let’s be clear, he had a good run. A decade. But the generations have changed. His audience is getting married and having babies. No one has hits forever.

So who does he want to be?

He’s reinvented himself as a seventies, back to the land, no flash musician. The only problem is the two albums he released in this role had no hits. Nothing that stuck in your brain that you couldn’t get out. It all comes down to the music. You want hits, you’ve got to write hits.

And that’s okay. If you want to do it your way to ever fewer people.

But if you want to get on radio and sell out arenas, you’ve got to play beyond your core, reach those who are not paying attention, with your music and shenanigans.

Kind of like his girlfriend Katy Perry.

But she’s a completely different animal. A studio construct. Without her helpers she’s nothing. Whereas Mayer started off with just himself and a guitar.

It’s always the girlfriend. Or the boyfriend. Whispering in the ear. Artists, who are inherently insecure, trust the person they sleep with most. And here’s Katy having hits, with different people, and Mayer wants some of that.

But it would be laughable for a guy who made it on his chops to sing about man-power to a beat. Then again, maybe he and Max Martin could come up with a catchy ditty. But one thing Mayer had was…his audience believed it was him. He wasn’t a front for other people, he was not just a face, but a soul.

It’s got little to do with the “Playboy” interview. Hell, what did he say that was so wrong?

But the perception is he took advantage of Jennifer Aniston and Jessica Simpson and Taylor Swift. Going from America’s sweetheart to an airhead to someone just out of adolescence. What was his type? Other than attractive and desirable?

And you could say his personal life is irrelevant, but that’s only for movie stars. Who are part of ensemble casts, playing roles. Music, when done right, is about the person himself. And once upon a time, Mayer did it right.

With Michael McDonald’s help.

So now he fires the one person he can count on.

Didn’t work so good when Lady Gaga fired Troy Carter.

What’s up with these artists?

And, once again, what does John Mayer want?


Then get on TV. Be a “Voice” substitute host, replacing Cee-Lo or Adam Levine. But they’re not going anywhere, because that’s all they’ve got, it’s the essence of their stardom. Furthermore, those singing shows are past their peak.

Where is this pot of gold that Michael McDonald couldn’t deliver?

No, the fault is with John Mayer himself.

And even if he delivered a fantastic album, there’s no guarantee radio would play it, that’s not the sound they’re featuring these days.

Then again, Mayer always had a schizophrenic career. Sensitive artist and gunslinger. You can’t do both, he’s found out.

And now he doesn’t know what to do so he shoots the messenger. The only guy speaking the truth. Do you think any of the people bidding to manage him are gonna say any of the above? Of course not. Because they want the billing.

You want a manager who’s about more than the billing.