This collaboration between JP Saxe and John Mayer on Late Night with Stephen Colbert, no less, is a performance I keep coming back to lately. I love the lyrics and Saxe’s voice. It' goes without saying that I love Mayer’s contribution on the guitar.
What I like most about the pairing is how much Saxe’s lyrics remind me of Mayer’s.
The second verse in Here’s Hopin’ captures what I’m talking about:
When somebody asks you/
Your favorite part of this city/
Do you think of me/
Like I think of you?
When somebody wants you/
Does everyone else still feel like cheating?
'Cause for me, they do/
Do you feel that too?
There’s just something about the way the words are more vivid than many songwriters would be. It’s a theme as old as time: a love song about heartbreak and asking the basic lingering question, “Are you missing me, too?” Instead of some boring way to ask a question that’s been asked a million times in songs, a question that’s being pondered on subways in NYC right this second just the same as it’s being pondered on the beaches of southern California and everywhere in between at the same time, he finds a way to make it come alive.
The degree to which we store up memories and hope (even expect) another person to hang on to those memories to the same degree we do powers that first question: When you think of this city, can you do it without thinking of me? That’s just beautiful writing.
Mayer’s been doing that for years and years by this point. But I’m reminded of a line that always stuck with me for its vividness and descriptive quality. One of his earliest hits, “My Stupid Mouth,” in the third verse, he said:
We bit our lips
She looked out the window
Rolling tiny balls of napkin paper
I played a quick game of chess with the salt and pepper shaker
And I could see clearly
An indelible line was drawn
Between what was good, what just slipped out and what went wrong
He was describing an awkward date, made awkward because he put his foot in his mouth. Rolling tiny balls of napkin paper is evocative, but not nearly as much as “played a quick game of chess with the salt and pepper shaker.”
It just puts the listener right in the situation, pointing out a totally random, tiny, mindless things we all do with our hands when we don’t know what to say, don’t want to be in a place anymore. It’s a story so few words, and I as a writer of much longer things am put to shame by the efficiency of it. Could listen to it on a loop.