"Who You Love" is a song by John Mayer featuring Katy Perry for Mayer's sixth studio album, Paradise Valley. It appears as the sixth song on the album and is the third single from the record. The song was written by Mayer and Perry, and produced by Mayer and Don Was. It was released as the third single from Paradise Valley on September 3, 2013. Lyrically, "Who You Love" is about accepting falling in love with someone, based around the idea that "you love who you love". The song has been praised by critics and has received mostly positive reviews.
Background and recording
The song was written by Mayer, with Perry writing her verse. Mayer has stated that his relationship with Perry has always been a private one. He has described their relationship as a very "human" one. On writing the song, Mayer said: "Who You Love" is a sweet melody that tells the story of opening your heart up and allowing yourself to fully love the person in your life—or specifically to 'love who you love, who you love.' It was a really great experience and the song is one of these like old FM '70s and '80s sort of like duets, and I listened back to it; it's, like, really convincing. And I watched it get made and I'm still kind of taken aback." Mayer also stated in an interview with Billboard magazine that the general idea behind the song can be best described as, "I love you based on the fact that I've tried to run and I'm not running and I give up." In regards to Perry writing the lyrics to her part of the song herself he said that "it was a really fun opportunity for her to write like, her answer to that." During a speech at Oxford University, Mayer mentioned the song, saying "I wouldn’t have brought her a song if I didn’t think it was good and great and she wouldn’t have said she would do it if she didn’t think it was going to be great. So it was a completely artistic transaction.” Perry recently described their duet as "incredible", adding: "I'm so proud of it because people hear it, and they hear a different side of me."
Mayer first announced that "Who You Love" would be the third single from Paradise Valley on his Tumblr account during a Q&A session with fans. The single cover was revealed on December 2, 2013, and features a photograph of Mayer and Perry shot by photographer Mario Sorrenti. The cover was revealed amongst a photo shoot of the couple shot by Sorrenti for Vanity Fair magazine.
The song received mostly positive reviews from music critics. Andrew Hampp of Billboard considered the song to be "the centrepiece" of Paradise Valley. Anthony Decurtis from Rolling Stone called it a "lovely duet". Randall Roberts of the Los Angeles Times said it has the feel of an "old soul classic", while the lyrics discuss "the joy of falling in love with someone when you least expect it." Jim Farber of NY Daily News said "it proves a revelation for Perry. Shorn of the battery of multitracked gimmicks that make her sound bionic on her candy-pop hits, here she seems, for the first time, warm". In a less positive review, Caroline Sulivan of The Guardian called it "a country-pop amble that's entirely self-serving" and said Perry's presence on the song is "drowsy" and "rootsy".
On December 3, 2013, at the UNICEF Snowflake Ball in New York City, Perry confirmed that the video was recently filmed with director Sophie Muller. Perry described the video as "epic" and "beautiful". The video was released on December 17, 2013 on Good Morning America. The video features scenes of various real-life couples, including Mayer and Perry, riding a mechanical bull, as well as scenes of the couple singing together. Towards the end of the video, Mayer fires a confetti cannon whilst the couple ride the bull, and fireworks rain down behind them. During the video premiere on Good Morning America, Perry said the usage of the mechanical bull is a metaphor about love: "Relationships are kind of like riding a bull – you hold on for dear life. Sometimes you get a little buck here and there, but you get back on." On the video, Mayer said "We set the casting call up for real couples. It’s just so authentic – they were having a great time. There’s nothing scripted in that video except putting the bull in the middle of the desert."