The album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, selling over 317,000 copies in its first week of sales. Despite some criticism towards Mayer's songwriting, Heavier Things received generally positive reviews from critics.
There's a certain swing-for-the-fences feel and a hurried nature that I think you have when you're making your first record and have much to prove. Now that I'm in a higher gear, I don't have to press so hard on the gas, and I'm loving it.
Mayer felt he could be more relaxed and focus more on his art while making Heavier Things. With Jack Joseph Puig as producer, loops and horns were more prominently featured. Mayer took greater control of the creative side with this album; much of the album was recorded in his New York City apartment. He also got final approval on all radio-edits. Mayer explained that he did not want a "big and bold" title for the record and expressed that the name Heavier Things is "what it is" due to its "insignificance". He further said that he likes the word "things" due to finding it "nondescript and dumb, [...] kind of blunt".
Columbia Records used a conservative marketing campaign to promote the album. Columbia Records Group president Will Botwin says. "We think we're being smart. It's a long-term project. We understand what we're creating is a career. Effectively, that's the message: Keep the hype at bay." In keeping with that gameplan, the album's first single, "Bigger Than My Body", only went to radio a few weeks before the album's release; promotional broadcasts of the album were limited to MTV.com and Mayer's official site, both of whom began streaming the complete album the September 2 before its release. Scheduled television appearances included Saturday Night Live on Oct. 4 and several late shows. Columbia Records thought it was important to put Mayer in talk show-type scenarios before the album release to help bring focus to his art and to his singer/songwriter career; to steer away from the fame and celebrity hype.
Despite being "delayed" on the radio, the lead single "Bigger Than My Body" gained commercial and critical success. "Clarity" was the second single released from Heavier Things. Although the song usually receives rare radioplay, it is one of Mayer's fan favorites, and is normally performed at Mayer's concerts. The song received very positive reviews from critics, mostly being praised for its relaxing style and beat.
"Daughters" was the last single released from Heavier Things. The song has become a huge commercial success, and has received largely positive reviews: many critics have hailed the song as Mayer's best yet.
Upon its release, the album received generally positive reviews from music critics; it holds an aggregate score of 67/100 at Metacritic.Billboard magazine stated that it "firmly establishes him as a legitimate--albeit still puppy-eyed--singer/songwriter."Chicago Tribune writer Allison Stewart gave the album a favorable review and wrote that Mayer "[has] crafted a sturdy, soulful pop album that credibly expands upon — but never abandons — his core sound". Despite writing that "his self-conscious lyrics can get in the way", Russell Baillie of The New Zealand Herald praised Mayer's musicianship and gave the album 4 out of 5 stars.Rolling Stone magazine's James Hunter called Heavier Things an "equally available yet more sophisticated album" than Room for Squares. In his own review for Esquire, Mayer gave the album a "B minus", adding, "Am I the only one who finds this record creepy to make out to?"Spin said, "Sadly, Mayer's idea of a good time involves hiring jazz musicians to make himself sound like '80s James Taylor."