This morning, John Mayer posted a teaser video for his new single “New Light”, asking his followers to check out the full-length video. The single is Mayer’s first release since his 2017 album, The Search for Everything (which I had the immense pleasure of seeing live). The caption for the post reads as follows:
I needed to make a video for New Light but nobody could agree on a budget, so I went to a place downtown and made this with a company that usually does birthday and Bar Mitzvah videos. Link. In. Bio.
The video, with its low-production value, nonsensical transitions, and dramatic Cerberus-style singing heads compilation seems to be a tribute – simultaneously to John Mayer’s adoration for the derivative as well as popular culture and the youths’ never-ending quest to capture #content.
…But are we really going to believe that the video was not deliberate? That every zebra, every pyramid depicted does not lend itself to a greater story-telling arc working in tandem with the lyrics of “New Light” to convey a message of proving one’s self as a viable love interest to a person who does not believe that to be the case?
Let’s get into it.
As the video opens up, John is shown on a dirt road in front of a barn. There is an obvious juxtaposition between the muted earth tones in the more natural setting surrounding John Mayer and the bright, attention-grabbing clothes that adorn his body. Does he feel as though he sticks out amongst his surroundings? As he tries to move, the audience soon realizes he simply cannot. Though you see his knees move up and down, his feet alternatively making contact with the earth, John simply does not seem to be moving. Is this a metaphor for the way our protagonist feels in real life? Is he, despite his best efforts to propel himself forward (literally or metaphorically), stagnant?
Next, a visual that returns to us consistently throughout “New Light:” three John Mayers sing soulfully. One, looking straight on, breaking the fourth wall and looking into the eyes of the viewer, the other two staring off to either side. This is a clear personification of the three methods of persuasion. The Middle Mayer most obviously representing ethos – or an ethical appeal, used in order to establish credibility or character. Middle Mayer wants us to understand that if he given just one night, he will indeed be seen in a new light. With a strong gaze and unwavering eye contact, who are we to not believe him? Left Mayer is pathos. Why, you ask? Pathos is the appeal to one’s emotion, characteristically guided by the heart. And when people are exhibiting symptoms of a heart attack, what side of the body are they usually felt on? That’s right — the left. Nice try, John Mayer…. Finally, Right Mayer is none other than logos, or the the appeal to logic, that is to convince an audience via reasoning. Mayer croons to his paramour I wanna know the real thing about you /
So I can see you in a new light. Positioned on the right side of our screen, how could we think that anything he sings of is falsified… incorrect… not right?
In what has become the most critically-acclaimed scene since the video’s release (mostly by myself and my friend Erin), John Mayer is seen cruising down a beautiful city side with an unidentified blonde. John Mayer looks at this woman as she stares at the camera and begins to put his arm around her. As she looks to him, he recoils his arm and apologizes. “Sorry”, he mouths simply. She laughs as the wind continues to weave itself in and out of her perfect, blonde hair. The scene is fleeting. Mere seconds long. Is the act of reaching out to someone you love over just as quickly? Because of this scene, we ponder.
Here, we watch John Mayer soar peacefully over a quiet suburban town, sans airplane. He is amplifying the age-old adage “actions speak louder than words.” While Mayer’s words within the song are telling us that his love interest should be giving him an opportunity to prove and express himself in the most illuminating and positive way possible, his actions are saying that he is secretly an airplane and not many people are, so he should probably be given a second chance. (Bonus: Read his sweatshirt. Is he secretly an astronaut?)
While a lot of the visuals throughout this music video convey questioning and uncertainty, Mayer delivers us a scene close to the end with literal bursts of enthusiasm. In this instance, John Mayer’s body language mirrors the path of the fireworks. He is a bright and captivating explosion in the sky. How are we supposed to believe that this was simply an arbitrarily-placed effect courtesy of green screen, when it so clearly a metaphor for enveloping ourselves in the things that make us the happiest?
Though the video is said to have been created in only 90 minutes, the display throughout is surely ripe with commentary on classical technique of argumentation, questionings of the self, and the desire to find a place where one feels most at home. Nicely done, John Mayer, you almost had us believing that this was simply just for fun.