This gentle acoustic ballad is the first single from American singer songwriter John Mayer's fourth studio album, Battle Studies. He says the song is about standing up to your inner bully - that voice that tells you that you can't do something.
Mayer, who isn't shy about sharing intimate details, explained the origin of the song on his Storytellers appearance: "Around the time I was making Continuum, I was having a little sex, and I was listening to Miles Davis' In A Silent Way. I was naked and playing the guitar post-coitus. I was fiddling around with the guitar, and I went (singing) 'Who says I can't get stoned...' And it was lovely."
Mayer had the song idea for three years before he finally recorded it. The breakthrough came when he combined it with with another song idea he was working on, which was the part where he sings, "It's been a long night in New York City..." Said Mayer, "I had these two pieces that were very strange and very unlike one another, but when they went to together they made this really mystifying concoction."
John worked out the arrangement when he played it for the first time for his drummer, Steve Jordan. He says the song made sense when he came up with the lyric, "It's been a long time since 22," which refers to his efforts to stay grounded after becoming famous.
The song challenges conventional standards of what one can accomplish or undertake - despite society's constraints. Its opening line asks the question, "Who says I can't get stoned?" In a conversation with Rolling Stone, Mayer claimed the lyric wasn't referring to weed. He said: "When I sing it, I do not think about marijuana - I think about walking around your house naked with a guitar. It's about being in control of the pleasure in your life."
Mayer tweeted that this song sounds best between "8pm-3am on Friday and Saturday nights."
Mayer expanded on the song's lyrical content to MTV News and particularly its controversial opening line. He said: "I can't lie about that. It sort of plays with your perception a little bit, and it starts out and you go, 'Oh, is he being campy?' But if you stay with the song long enough, then you start to realize it's not about marijuana. It's actually about freedom and living your life."
Mayer added he didn't want the song to be controversial for the sake of controversy. "It's like, people don't like things that are purposeful shocking; they feel abused by it. So, at first I can understand people would think it's purposefully trying to be boisterous... but by the time the solo kicks in, you're like, 'This guy might be from the heart right now,' " he said. "And by the last chorus I feel like you go, 'OK, I get it.'"
The song's music video gives Mayer's fans a visual diary of a night in the singer-songwriter's life. It's a mixture of Mayer clubbing and dining out paired with scenes of him alone in his apartment, cleaning up and noodling on his guitar. He told MTV News that those two images of his life are at the heart of the song: "It starts out where you go, 'Oh, I get it. You're going to be like the male Amy Winehouse here,' but then it gets sweet," he explained. "And I think the sweetness takes over and you begin to trust the message."