Mayer Hawthorne "Where Does This Door Go?"

Neo-soul singer, Mayer Hawthorne, has a great sense of humor about himself and he delivers the goods smoothly on his latest album, Where Does This Door Go? The record opens with a titillating make-out session in which Hawthorne’s object of affection pronounces “Wait, you’re not gonna tell anybody about this, right?” to which he quizzically replies “Huh?!” The album then slides into his Steely Dan meets Marvin Gaye “Back Seat Lover”, which could be pronounced a modern day version of the Bill Withers’ classic “Use Me”.

This is not to say that Hawthorne is creating carbon copies of soft rock past giants, he most certainly puts his own spin on the songs. On his last album, “How Do You Do”, he made reference and paid tribute to the Motown sound of his home city, Detroit. This time around, he’s expanded himself with music that sounds like it’s straight out of 1970’s Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles mixed in with a little Marvin, of course. Another element used again is hop-hop. In fact, Hawthorne set out originally to be a rapper, but chose to pursue soul music when one of his samples turned out better than his raps. This album pays tribute to his hip-hop roots including a guest appearance from one of rap’s hottest new exports, Kendrick Lamar.

Listening to Where Does This Door Go brings to mind the best names in danceable pop: Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake. However, where the King of Pop and JT come off with squeaky clean production, Hawthorne’s style is a little less polished. We can attribute the easy pop feel to producer Pharrell Williams. Williams has a production credit, but he can take the credit for pulling Hawthorne into the more lush pop sounds that the record offers. All this being said, it makes you wonder if Mayer Hawthorne is destined for bigger things (Top 40) with his third release. If he sticks to his roots and continues to write smart pop songs, there will be a new King of Pop in town. 

Cindy Howes (Morning Mix)