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It seems like a long time since we've heard from John Mayer, doesn't it? Not just musically, but like, at all. Was a time not all that long ago when it seemed that Mayer couldn't go a week without saying something to somebody that ended up grabbing everyone's attention, not always for the best reasons, but lately (perhaps in part due to medical reasons) he's been oddly silent. So it's kind of funny that he's finally back with a new song—"Shadow Days," the lead single off upcoming album Born and Raised—and for the first time in ages, it doesn't feel like Mayer's directly responding to anyone or anything. It's just a song.
Of course, that's not to say that there isn't real-world stuff with Mayer that we can't read into "Shadow Days." Knowing what we do about his abortive relationship with Taylor Swift—and having listened to Taylor's account of it already—it's hard not to interpret a lyric like "Well I ain't no troublemaker, and I never meant her harm / But it doesn't mean I didn't make it hard to carry on" as being directed at least partly in response to Taylor. And the line that starts the chorus, "I'm a good man with a good heart / Had a tought time, got a rough start," does seem like Mayer pushing back a bit against all the chicks who've testified to his wrongdoing over the years, sticking up for himself over his perceived reputation as a narcissist and borderline-creep.
Really though, "Shadow Days" is just a nice, unassuming little song. It's got a mellow, Wilco-goes-West-Coast kind of vibe, and a chord progression that smacks of Bob Seger's '70s hit "Mainstreet," and would fit right at home on Adult Contemporary radio or VH1's morning vidoe programming, while having enough nice instrumental touches (the slide guitar is especially nice) to keep from being totally innocuous. It's hardly a challenging song—aside from an unexpectedly Beatlesque bridge, you pretty much know everything about the song from its first five seconds—but it's pleasant and catchy enough that if you don't find Mayer's personality hugely objectionable (big if, we know), you'll like the song pretty OK.
"My shadow days are over now," Mayer declares on the chorus, making us wonder if we'll ever hear from sexual-napalm, white-supremacist-genitals John Mayer again. If not, it might not be the worst thing for him as he starts settling into his musical middle age—enjoyably low-key songs like "Shadow Days" aren't going to catapult John Mayer back to the front pages anyway, and both he and we should probably be OK with that.