Rhetorical Analysis of John Mayer`s Song "Belief"

Mike Farinas
ENGL 3080
Rhetorical Analysis Draft
Rhetorical Analysis of John Mayer’s Song “Belief”
I chose to analyze John Mayer’s song “Belief.” He is a singer/songwriter who in his last
album called Continuum took up a completely different role than in his previous albums.
Continuum contains a couple of songs that could be viewed as a bit controversial towards the
war in Iraq. John Mayer has always had an opinionated voice on the war in Iraq, and it was only
a matter of time before he voiced it in a song for his fans. John Mayer has never supported the
war or George Bush in any way. His song Belief makes claims about the war and how it is a
useless war based solely on belief/religion which no one can win. The purpose of his argument
is to reach out to his listeners and convince them that belief is something not worth fighting for.
Everyone has his/her own belief and forcing your beliefs on to someone else through violence is
not the way. That is what John hopes to achieve and get across to his listeners in this song. He
wants his listeners to forget about the political aspects involved and look at the bigger picture.
It does not matter if we do find Osama, or if we accomplish all our other goals in Iraq. We are
fighting against a belief and a war based solely on belief can never be won.
John’s argument is directed to his listeners that vary in age, but for the most part it
seems like it is directed towards his younger audience, because of another song on his album
that leads to Belief called “Waiting on the World to Change.” In that song John Mayer clearly
points out his audience is the youth of America. His intended listeners know a little about the
subject and if they buy the album are interested in what John Mayer has to say. John Mayer’s
audience is the people who want to listen and appreciate what he has to say. He has never
been the kind of artist to force his views on to his listeners. Either you agree with what he has
to say, or you can change the song. To John Mayer it is the generation that matters now and
that generation can make a difference. Since John Mayer is a popular well known musician, he
is able to use the music medium and can reach nearly anyone willing to listen. It may be
directed to the younger generation, but his wide open medium can appeal to anyone willing to
listen to his message.
John Mayer’s fame helps his authority and credibility tremendously. John Mayer’s ethos
is strengthened by his celebrity status. People are more interested in listening to his music
because of these appeals. His statement is clearly laid out and his statements are justified by
the hundred years of proof that involve a history of violence in the Middle East that is based
almost solely on religious beliefs. John Mayer may not have hard evidence, facts, or statistics
throughout his song, but issues facing America today are proof of these religious battles that
have been fought for centuries.
The logos aspect of John Mayer’s argument deals mainly with cultural assumptions and
values. In the opening stanza of the song Mayer says, “Is there anyone who/ ever remembers
changing their mind from/ the paint on the sign (Mayer 1). Basically he is asking if you ever
remember changing your mind on a set belief, because of something you saw or heard. Wars
based on religion only lead to innocent deaths and persecution. Violence does not change
religious views. People hardly ever change their minds when forced into a set of beliefs. John
Mayer’s argument is based on shared values derived from the prior history of cultures.
Cultures have their own values and beliefs. That is how it has always been and that is how it
will stay. That is what makes a culture unique. History shows that wars fought over belief are
never won by either side. Both cultures involved in the song have histories of fighting for their
own beliefs. John Mayer’ argument is based upon prior events/wars fought on the basis of
belief by various cultures, in this case two cultures specifically; American culture and Muslim
culture. The logos aspect of John Mayer’s argument may be viewed as the weakest part of his
argument due to the absence of hard evidence and facts, but there is substantial proof in these
cultures history to defend his claim.
John Mayer’s strongest appeal in his argument is his emotional appeal, or pathos.
Emotions are a very influential part of an argument and John Mayer aims at two very important
emotions; fear and sadness. In the final part of his song John appeals to these two emotions.
John says, “What puts a hundred thousand children in the sand/ Belief can/ Belief can/ what
puts the folded flag inside his mother’s hand/ Belief can/ Belief can (Mayer 7).” John Mayer is
playing on the appeal of fear by saying a war based on belief brings nothing but fear and
ultimately death. Fear at first for the possibility of losing your child in a meaningless war that
cannot be won. Then sadness when a mother of a soldier has to face the realization of her
son’s death. This part of John Mayer’s argument is his strongest. His appeal to pathos can be
felt by everyone, not just his listeners.
John Mayer makes a few debatable claims throughout his song such as his major claim;
a war based on belief alone can never be won. John Mayer may not completely prove his claim,
but a song is a strong medium to prove and gain listeners that will hear your message. It is a
controversial claim that basically everyone will have an opinion on, but his fame allows him a
voice that for most people would never be heard. To support his claim he uses his image as a
famous well known singer to build his credibility, or ethos. John Mayer also implicitly uses
some logos, which may vary on your opinion of the song and analysis. His appeal to pathos is
his strongest appeal, because it deals with emotions everyone can relate to. John Mayer’s
argument may be contained in a short song, but his use of words and images provoke strong
emotions in a listener.
Mayer, John. “Belief.” Continuum. Sony, 2006.
John Mayer’s song “Belief” was of interest to me, because I like his music and I am
always interested in what he has to say. A lot of his songs have strong messages behind them
and this song seemed appropriate for me to analyze in depth with the terms we have discussed
in class. I have always thought this song and the argument behind it was very interesting.
My writing process was fairly simply for this paper due to the argument’s length. I
wrote a 2-page rough draft consisting of introducing the argument and going into a little
terminology. The rough draft was focused mainly to get me started with ideas and to give my
peers something to review. The peer review was very helpful and a valuable source towards
my writing process. My peer reviewer helped me bring my final paper together with all the
terminology. I added a little more in depth analysis throughout my paper and added more
information in my introductory paragraph from the advice of my peer reviewer. It was also
helpful with minor grammatical mistakes. It served as a good source to bring my paper
together from the rough draft to its final format.
With my peer review I focused mainly on closing out my peer’s paper. Ian’s paper was
fairly well developed already with the terminology. He lacked a section in his paper about
audience and he also needed to close out his paper with a firm conclusion. I helped him close
out his paper and adjusted some of his minor grammatical errors.
The main part of my paper that I like about it is the topic. It was something I found
interesting and I believe I was able to use the terminology we have discussed in class fairly well
with it. It was a fairly easy topic to discuss using the terminology. My only dislike is that my
paper probably could have used more in depth analysis in certain areas, but I still like the way it
came together in the end.