My wife and I recently got into a debate about the talents of John Mayer. I’ll confess that I think Mayer, along with Keith Urban and a few others, is one of the few really talented singer-songwriter-instrumentalists to emerge in this new millennium. He’s a perceptive songwriter and an incredible guitarist with amazing insight into the worlds of both acoustic and electric guitars.
I’ve been a fan ever since his first national release, Room For Squares, caught the ear of radio listeners. My most recent exposure to Mayer is the comprehensive Where The Light Is DVD, a concert film that captured Mayer in all three of his “incarnations”: solo acoustic, the John Mayer Trio (blues and R&B), and his full band.
I’m a fan of Mayer’s music—but I’d be guilty of living on another planet if I said I had no knowledge of Mayer’s seeming love of his own celebrity. Combine high profile relationships with people like Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Aniston along with a willingness to play the fool for the paparazzi, and you have a recipe sure not to please everyone.
I believe that the main difference between my perspective on John Mayer and my wife’s is that mine comes mainly from his music, while hers comes mostly from those all-pervasive celebrity gossip outlets. You know the ones—from those horrible rags that stare back at you at the grocery checkout lanes, to the odious celebrity shows that threaten to take over television. (For the record, I’m not at all suggesting that my wife is one of those celebrity media addicts. It’s just that their influence is so insidious, one would have to live in the caves of Afghanistan to escape their reach.)
It’s because of these shows and publications that we know that one of the Jonas Brothers is a diabetic, which hot celebrity babe John Mayer is banging, and that John and Kate have split up and while she has the eight, John is dating a slut. And though he may be gone, the celebrity media will ensure that Michael Jackson never really dies.
The sad reality is that more people care about this “crap” than they do about, say, our national health care debate, cap and trade, or Sonia Sotomayor. The only time these two worlds collide is when some politician makes a complete “ass” out of himself, as South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford did during his recent Argentinean mistress scandal. Then, it becomes difficult to distinguish the legitimate media from the celebrity gossipmongers.
I’ve written about this subject before, about how our society has become like the Roman Empire in their Bread and Circuses phase. That phrase was coined by the Roman poet Juvenal, who wrote that those two things were the only remaining cares of a Roman populace that has given up its birthright of political involvement. Imagine if the leading publications of the late 18th Century devoted so much space to the celebrity gossip of the day. What would have happened to our American Revolution if all we cared about were things like: “OMG!! G-Wash has FALSE TEETH!!” “Ben Franklin—Drunk Again!”
“Jefferson Sleeps With Slave!!”
Well, look at the picture here in the early 21st Century, and we see that more Americans care about celebrity gossip than they do about their political birthright. Jerry Springer gets better ratings than Meet The Press. Oprah outshines any of the news networks. And CNN Headline News has become nothing more than Showbiz Spotlight and a place for Nancy Grace to rant and rave. (Well, they really are all guilty, aren’t they?)
In this Information Age, there may be such a thing as too much information. If, however, you take issue with anything you’ve read in this week’s column, put the paper down and turn the TV back on. It will all be better then. Who knows—maybe John Mayer will write a song about it (if I don’t beat him to it first).