It’s been a while since we’ve heard John Mayer’s voice, thanks to the barrage of health problems that drove him to announce an “indefinite” break from life performing in March 2012.
But you can’t keep a good guitar O face down! Mayer has since gotten well enough to embark on his first tour in three years – and to record a new single, a mellow, Jack Johnson-y summer jam called “Paper Doll.” (The song’s newly-released lyric video features Joanna Rohrback, a.k.a. the Prancercise Lady, because Mayer must resent how Josh Groban always gets to be the funny one.)
At first listen, the song sounds like it was assembled from fragments of a J. Crew catalog: “Paper doll, come try it on/Step out of that black chiffon […] Fold a scarf, Moroccan red/Tie your hair behind your head,” Mayer croons.
But pay closer attention to the chorus (“You’re like 22 girls in one/And none of them know what they’re running from”) and a few of its more pointed couplets (“Strap into some heels that hurt/You shoulda kept my undershirt”), and “Paper Doll” turns into a gentle breakup ballad – one that could very well be directed at Mayer ex Taylor Swift, who famously blasted her relationship with Mayer in Speak Now’s track “Dear John.”
Consider also how Swift’s song includes lyrics about being “the girl in the dress” and Mayer “paint[ing her] a blue sky,” while “Paper Doll” includes a catalog of dresses and this line: “And if those angel wings don’t fly/Someone’s gonna paint you another sky.” (Also, Swift’s last single was called “22”.)
Then again, airing dirty laundry in this manner would be “cheap songwriting” – isn’t that right, John?