John Mayer’s Open Letter To D’Angelo (circa 2005)
Written by Urban Mogul Life on February 2, 2010
With the recent leak of 1000 Deaths by D’Angelo I have been in a Voodoo mood. I can’t seem to be able to play enough of his small but meaningful catalog. I am going through well known tunes all the way down to jam sessions that I happened to stumble upon. Well anyways as I searched the web for some recent info on D, I ran across an open letter from John Mayer to D’Angelo. Although I am about 5 years late in my discovery of the letter (the good thing about the internet is that if you post it, it stays unless you delete it), it still rings true today as it did in 2005! Even more so now then ever before.
My name is John Mayer. You might know me from that “Your Body Is a Wonderland” song, or perhaps our mutual friend, Roots drummer? uestlove, mentioned me to you. I’m writing to ask you to put out a follow-up to one of the few records to change my life forever, Voodoo.
When Voodoo came out in 2000, I stood in line at Tower Records in Atlanta at midnight to get it. Turns out, it set the gold standard for modern “neo” soul music. It’s 2004, and I’m no less excited by it today than I was when I played it full blast in my mother’s Plymouth Voyager on the way to my bullshit job. I drive a nicer car now, but I still listen to Voodoo and wonder what my albums would sound like if I took a bite off your style and what R&B would be like if you came back.
In contrast to the present age of gunmetal-gray hip-hop, with perfectly aligned beats and blips, Voodoo throbs. It’s skin in the place of plastic. Questlove’s drums serve as an atomic clock, while Pino Palladino’s bass playing taunts the drums by showing the bar line just how late it can wake up and still arrive to work on time. I’m not even going to detail your impeccable vocal layering. You know what you did.
Yes, Voodoo isn’t laced with perfect pop hooks, but then again it’s so devoid of them that I never assumed you were worried about appeasing radio anyway. Its beauty is simplicity, a Japanese rock garden of hip-hop and R&B, and it’s because of the negative space that I can still listen to it. There’s nothing frivolous to get stuck in your head, so there’s nothing to want out.
If you haven’t recently committed any of yourself to tape, I’m begging you to put your suit and cape back on. Your contemporaries aren’t going to ask you to come back; they’re scared of having to be perched next to you. Only a lanky white boy like me can call you out of hiding. And if you need any help with those tunes, you know who to call. Questlove’s got my number.
D’Angelo soul music needs you. These watered down fake Jodeci, MJ, Barry Manilow cats ain’t cutting it!