Best Unknown Songs of John Mayer

With John Mayer’s sixth studio album Paradise Valley coming out on August 20, it’s time to spotlight some of his best unknown songs. Contrary to the media’s portrayal of the singer-songwriter, Mayer’s best songs are generally not the ones getting constant radio play. Instead most Mayer fans, guitar aficionados, and concert-goers know that the musician’s gems are from his live performances and rarely played tracks. The following lists seven of Mayer’s best overlooked work.

7. Cover of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature”

During the 2009 memorial honoring Michael Jackson’s passing, John Mayer’s cover of Jackson’s “Human Nature” was arguably one of the best moments of the special event. With his performance, Mayer was able to do two things simultaneously: continuously acknowledge the loss of Jackson while showcasing his own guitar playing prowess. Mayer subtly honored the singer’s memory and absence by not singing the song’s lyrics–letting the listener hear the classic track without Jackson’s signature vocals–and played to his greatest (and often overlooked) strength of being an expert guitarist. The way Mayer is able to make his electric guitar sing so smoothly, all on its own in place of Jackson’s voice is unbelievable, and is only topped off by his own unmatchable, climaxing guitar solo. The only downsides are the audience’s out-of-beat clapping that occurs at the beginning of the clip and the background singers that try to replace Jackson’s vocals mid-way through.

6. “Can’t Take that Plane”

An extra song meant to be released on Mayer’s Continuum album (and was available with its pre-order on iTunes) but was ultimately left out, “Can’t Take that Plane” is a rollicking, upbeat blues track. Although the song is in keeping with Mayer’s blues phase that would culminate in Continuum, it’s not surprising that it was withheld from the full release, since its overly upbeat and strong rhythm clashes against the more pensive tones contained in the album’s other songs.

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Tips for Incoming College Freshman & Transfer Students

Since it’s the middle of summer and it’s the time when many new college students are visiting campuses and taking tours, here are three practical tips, that will help in making daily life at a new college easier.


A rolling cart that’s been semi-folded.

Grocery Shopping: To make grocery shopping easier and faster, consider buying your own folding rolling cart.  If–like most students–you don’t plan on buying and bringing your own car while attending college (especially if it’s in an urban area with an okay public transit system), getting your own rolling cart saves so much time because you won’t:

  • Be constantly juggling bags while walking back home. So many of my friends (and myself during the first week) would have a difficult trek back home, dropping our bags, fruits, and other things we bought. It’s an unpleasant experience that a rolling cart can alleviate.
  • Have to make repeated return trips to buy more stuff. In order to avoid the difficulty of juggling heavy grocery bags while walking, most people will just buy smaller amounts but make more trips to the store. But people will have to repeatedly walk back-and-forth to the store and stand in the check-out line, wasting a ton of time that can be used  for studying or having fun. But a regular-sized rolling cart takes care of this. And

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Tools for Screenwriting

Beginning screenwriters often want to begin writing screenplays but don’t know where to start. They want to create professional looking scripts but don’t want to shell out large amounts of cash for Final Draft (the industry’s standard scriptwriting software) — nor should they. There are a few free screenwriting programs available for the budding screenwriter, but the major two are Celtx and Adobe Story Free.

Two Free Screenwriting Software

Capture_Celtx1.)  Celtx has risen to be the most popular free scriptwriting software out there. It has evolved from its simple beginnings as a stand alone desktop software for writing plays and screenplays to its current flashy form, which includes cloud storage and online collaborative tools. It has templates for stageplays, screenplays, audio plays, and comic books. For extra features, users will need to purchase the full version — but the free version works fine for most people.
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Reflection: Nonfiction Writing

My ability to write in the nonfiction genre–whether it’s a creative flash piece, a commentary, or a fieldwork project–has improved greatly in the past few months. Studying how both famous authors (such as George Orwell and Tom Wolfe) and lesser known authors (such as Lillian Ross and Michael Winerip), use literary techniques to heighten their observations and research has allowed me to experiment and develop my own creative voice.

Using these literary techniques and writing nonfiction outside of an academic tone and purpose–especially during my senior year–has been both refreshing and useful. I’ve enjoyed writing for purposes that weren’t tied to proving a clever–but ultimately useless and distorted–thesis or being tethered to the tangential ideas or biases of a GSI in order to obtain a good grade. Instead, focusing on writing in a meaningful and effective manner–along with the readings, exercises, and assignments demonstrating this–has allowed me to further practice writing that has greater longevity and usefulness (for both creative and non-creative purposes): communicating in an accessible manner, eschewing jargon and obscurity, and using literary techniques to emphasize the truth of experiences or details.

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Reflection: Fieldwork and Investigative Writing

Fieldworking and investigative writing was a new experience for me. Although I had never written anything like this, I thought my previous experience in writing news articles for a student newspaper (mainly covering school or community events) would help with this form of writing. Specifically, I thought my previous experience in interviewing strangers for articles might make it slightly easier for me to walk up and question random people — but this wasn’t the case.

The end of a career panel on jobs in the field of Human Resources in the Blue & Gold Room of the CareerCenter.

The end of a career panel where attendees get to talk with the guest speakers, as well as each other.

It wasn’t just the common experience of finding people unwilling to talk on record (a regular bump in these forums that will hold public quotes and sources accountable for any statement). But what I hadn’t realized was that I was simply rusty. It had been more than two years since I had officially interviewed someone to be used as a source and most of my recent writing has been limited to academic essays, with audiences enclosed to the limited circle of professors, graduate student instructors (GSIs), and classmates. In addition the time-heavy requirements of my classes and assignments had made me overly used to solitude. So, when I wanted or tried to talk to new people for the purpose of having them as a source, I would become hesitant and fearful of the interaction — a reaction I thought I had conquered years ago. But it came back. As I approached potential sources, I stuttered and and my mind blanked. It was as if I had lost the interviewing skills I previously had.

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Light Show

“You should get a light show!” she says as the blaring music fills the bar room and bright strobe lights reflect off of the floor.

“Huh?” I replied completely perplexed, with one drink in my system. “What’s a light show?” She laughs and points me toward this girl wearing white gloves with bright, multi-colored neon lights flashing continuously in an unpredictable pattern.

I’m entranced. “It’s even better when you’ve taken something to enhance it,” my friend tells me.

The white-gloved girl waves her Christmas-lighted hands in quick circles and lines and unnameable polygons in front of my soon-to-be deejaying friend’s face. Her jubilee hands move in and out all around his face, coming within millimeters of his eyes and skin.

An example of a glove light show.

Logic tells me it’s only hands, lights, and random gestures. But I’m hypnotized. This light show . . . I want to experience.
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Playwriting: Minimalist Strategy

The semester is winding down and with it comes the end of my first playwriting class, which also means public readings of some scenes that students have written.

As the deadline for a finished play and the staging of scenes  approaches, and I look back on the experience, I’m thrilled that my writing strategy paid off. The informal public reading is the class’s final project in which we pick out a bit from our play to be read by actors. This requirement for finding our own actors was stated earlier in the semester by our professor, who also told us that we would be in charge of directing them–providing the necessary input to let actors know how to read and perform the scene. With this information, I hatched the idea to write in a minimalistic style and develop a play that would appeal to an actor’s creative and collaborative instincts. Continue reading

Fieldwork: Exploratory Writing

The end of the first chapter of Fieldworking, a research and writing guide by Bonnie Sunstein and Elizabeth Chiseri-Strater, provides a few steps to think, choose, and write about a potential field topic or site. In particular, steps three and four on page 54 (which focus on thinking about problems and drawbacks of picking a topic), was something I found useful in thinking about my field site.

After listing the subcultures and groups that I belonged too, I wasn’t sure about what I really wanted to explore or spend the last few weeks of the semester researching. But after getting to the third and fourth steps–questions focusing on practical issues of doing research (drawbacks, objections by people within the group, benefits to its members and yourself, and the possibility of giving back to a group)–I realized that the topic I wanted to write about and would be the most useful for these last few weeks of the semester was something I didn’t think of listing at all: job-seeking seniors (who are about to graduate). Continue reading

Flash Nonfiction Submission for Brevity

Regarding my first post–reflecting on writing in the flash genre and my first submission to a writing contest–Brevity just announced the winners of its flash nonfiction essay contest inspired by Philip Graham. Although, I didn’t win anything, I can now post my short submission in full:

Headphones, Sound Effects

“No,” I said, secretly shocked by my own answer. I should be ecstatically answering the opposite, which is exactly what any of my buddies would do, and moments before I thought I would too.

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Mission Statement for Cultural Commentary

When I started writing my critical essay analyzing Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s forty-third poem in Sonnets from the Portuguese, it was largely an effort to try to use one work to fulfill two different assignments for two different classes. But in the end I still ended up writing two slightly different essays that explored the same poem. Although they ended up being slightly different, both essays seemed to have a common desire: to write academic papers that didn’t sound academic (at least not in the usual sense of being overly distant in tone or staking its analysis on obscure or tangential facts). Continue reading

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