Waiting on the World to Change

John Mayer, 2006

According to John Mayer, "Waiting On the World to Change" was an attempt to voice what he felt was his generation's feeling of helplessness. What was going on in the world when the song was written in 2006 that might have made Mayer and his peers feel helpless?

Based on the lyrics, what do you think Mayer wants to see changed in the world?

The song has been criticized as promoting political apathy. Do you think the song does this?

Compare this song to Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" and Macklemore's "Same Love." Why do you think John Mayer and Macklemore based "Waiting On the World to Change" and "Same Love" on Mayfield's song about the Civil Rights Movement?

"Waiting on the World to Change" performed by John Mayer on Continuum, © 2006. Available on YouTube (official video), iTunes, and Spotify.

For more information about John Mayer, visit his official website.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. Please consult the following online resource for lyrics:


Born in 1977 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, singer-songwriter John Mayer was inspired as a teenager to learn to play the guitar after a neighbor gave him a cassette of Stevie Ray Vaughan's music. He went on to study for two semesters at the Berklee College of Music before moving to Atlanta to start his career. In 2000 he gained recognition after performing at South by Southwest, an annual music festival in Austin, Texas, and he released his first album, Room for Squares, the following year.

Waiting on the World to change single
Cover for "Waiting on the World to Change."

The song "Waiting On the World to Change" was featured on Mayer's second studio album, Continuum (2006). The song is about Mayer's generation—"me and all my friends," as he puts it in the first line of the song—and their feeling of hopelessness. The song is critical of those in power. Mayer voices his opposition to war and his dissatisfaction with a media that twists information to satisfy its own agendas. But the song also seems to suggest that Mayer's generation feels incapable of effectuating change. "We just feel like we don't have the means / To rise above and beat it," he sings. Critical reception of the song has been mixed, with some saying it offers an accurate portrayal of his generation's attitude and others arguing that it dangerously encourages political apathy.

Although the lyrics can be seen to encourage apathy, the music itself may be subtly issuing a call for people to take action. Mayer's bassline and chord progression strongly echo Curtis Mayfield's Civil Rights-era anthem "People Get Ready," which Mayfield recorded with the Impressions and released at the height of the Civil Rights Movement in 1965.



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