Album art for John Mayer’s “I Guess I Just Feel Like.” Photo courtesy of Google Images.
By Reece Jamison
This issue I will discuss Kehlani’s “Nunya (feat. DOM KENNEDY)” and John Mayer’s “I Guess I Just Feel Like.”
Kehlani Ashley Parrish is an R&B artist from Oakland, California. She began her singing career in 2014 with the release of her mixtape Cloud 19 which was ranked on Complex’s “50 Best Albums of 2014.” In subsequent years, she would release two albums, 2015’s You Should Be Here and 2017’s SweetSexySavage. Unfortunately, the artist has yet to receive any awards for her work, despite her numerous nominations from associations such as the Grammys, BET, and AMA. In anticipation of her rumored new album, Kehlani released a short, nine track album titled, While We Wait.
“Nunya” is the third track in the song list and is an interesting little earworm of a song. It has a sample looped throughout (you’ll have to forgive me, I have no idea what song it is from), but its sound has a muted vibrancy to it that is very reminiscent of a 40 Shebib track. The track features stock synths and bass beats, nothing out of the ordinary. I hope in saying that, I don’t sound bitter, but there isn’t anything here that one couldn’t find in a Weeknd, Drake, H.E.R., or SZA song. What draws people in, I assume, is Kehlani’s voice. It is just distinct enough that I’m not confused as to which singer I’m listening to, but to be honest, it’s just Ariana Grande in a lower register.
She also chose to bring along rapper Dom Kennedy. The 34 year old hasn’t broken out of the California circuit much and, at least to my knowledge, hasn’t garnered any sort of substantial praise for his solo work. He does have a pretty extensive list of guest work with artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Freddie Gibbs, and Wale. I guess that in itself is worthy of some sort of praise, but isn’t really the type of distinction that a tenured entertainer should be happy with. Anyway, if you’re looking for more of the same sort of generic pop music with a bit of flavor and personality to it, “Nunya” can satiate your craving.
Speaking of tenured entertainers, John Mayer released a new track titled “I Guess I Just Feel Like.” The singer-songwriter needs no introduction as his various Grammy’s and hits from over the years speak for themselves. For some reason, the prolific guitarist and entertainer is still deciding to write pop ballads. At least in this new track, listeners are treated to a mellow guitar solo. Mayer is singing here about truth. He feels as though, at least for the day, that the world has let him down. For the time being, he feels it’s time to sit and think about it.
Instrumentally, this sounds like a b-side of 2013’s Paradise Valley. The drums are simple (brushes galore), there’s an acoustic guitar playing the melody, airy electric guitar accompaniment, and of course, there is the lone Mayer singing in his casual style. The song’s identity is perplexing since it features a weird sort of progression from general apathy, toward a short little jam at the end. It’s both a sad sort of feeling song, and a jam sesh. Mayer has obviously taken some writing ideas from his time with Dead & Co.
Much like Mayer’s lyrics, he’s in a rut musically. He obviously loves to write catchy pop tunes, but also has a deeper appreciation of the jam band and blues greats of the past. So where will he go from here? He’s innovated tremendously in his own career over the years with albums like Continuum and Born and Raised, but in terms of his musical repertoire, he’s explored the depths. For him to have been a professional musician for almost twenty years, I think it’s kind of odd that I can still hear the writing beats of Room For Squares in his songs. I love Mayer’s music. It’s catchy, it’s emotional, it’s diverse. It holds a special place in terms of my musical development and his guitar playing has inspired me for years. But, Mayer finds himself in another time where he can decide to innovate again, or stay in the same place and continue to crank out pop-infused guitar ballads that will continue to appease his core fans. I guess I just feel like (see what I did there?) he has plenty of roads that he has not yet travelled down. His career is far from over.
To wrap up, keep your heads up high, and your ears open. Often times the world around you looks to be a certain way only. It is only because you choose to look at it in that way, it feels like it will never change. Music is fascinating because there are so many ways in which sound can be created and manipulated. If a genre feels stunted, it’s not for lack of change, it’s in lack of talent. Those who are the most talented tend to stick around. You know, I really should have created a tagline months ago to end off my articles. Perhaps I’ll try this one.
As always, find your voice.