"Where Does This Door Go" by Mayer Hawthorne

Mayer Hawthorne
Where Does This Door Go

Republic Records
2013

Review

It's pretty well known how much I love Mayer Hawthorne. I play "Maybe So Maybe No" on repeat still to this day. The thing about Mayer is that he has this Brenton Wood appeal in terms of his musicality. For someone like myself who grew up around Bud Light and Art Laboe, Mayer fit like a comfortable old shoe. However, it would eventually become inevitable that Mayer would have to escape the genre trappings of that early sound and come out with something a bit more modern. For folks wishing to hear more of that classic R&B feel, this album may seem like a departure. However, while it does not continue to attempt to emulate the Art Laboe sound from before, I think it continues along the lines of feel-good R&B that perhaps mainstream radio-play has forgotten.

My infant son's favorite song at the moment is "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke. Now, that song is damn catchy. It's also damn near ubiquitous in the way that Carley Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" was. Now, I've had her album on my radar of stuff to listen to for some time. Ostensibly, it was a throw back to feel good pop-music that was better made than the public would have expected. And yet I still have yet to listen to that album. I bought the Robin Thicke album the same day I bought the latest from Mayer Hawthorne mostly because "Blurred Lines" can placate my son better than any pacifier. As much as I like "Blurred Lines" for it's numbing effects on my son (questions of misogyny not withstanding...hey, it's nowhere near as bad as "Ain't No Fun" which - at least when I was in college - was just as popular) the rest of that album is not good. And you know what? It doesn't have to be. People are going to buy that album anyway. Or they won't, they'll just download the single and be happy because that is what buying music today has become. Meanwhile, Mayer Hawthorne has finally found a way to modernize himself without resorting to shameless and obvious marketing tactics like making a video with clothing-optional models or appearing in a faux-reality show.

Now, I can't knock the hustle. Again, "Blurred Lines" is fine as entertainment. But here we have an album by an artist hitting their stride that probably won't get the same amount of coverage as whatever EDM/R&B song is currently blowing up your radio. But as alternative Pop/R&B programming you can't really go wrong with Mr. Hawthorne.

"Her Favorite Song" and "Crime" are the standouts here for me. These tracks remind me of the feel-good Pop/R&B that I loved when I was a kid. For folks who have ever listened to a "Smooth Grooves - New Jack Swing" compilation who wanted that style to progress, well, here it is. R&B for me went in interesting directions. There was the harmonizing sounds of groups that everyone loved like Boyz To Men, Silk, and Shai, that gave way to Hip-Hop influenced acts like 112 and everything else that came from Bad Boy in the early 90's. Eventually, R&B lost favor until recently when it resurged thanks to EDM. But for me, I miss the feel-good R&B that was on the radio in the late 80's. This album to me picks up that spirit and subsequently has become one of my favorite R&B albums of this year.

For serious R&B aficionados looking for perhaps something more Jazzy, I'm not sure this will float your boat. But if the thought of Keith Sweat or Oran Juice Jones makes you smile, maybe consider checking this album out. Mayer Hawthorne may have started out by emulating your Art Laboe favorites, but on his latest his shows that he is a true fan of R&B from all modern eras - at least the good examples of it. For me, that's enough to strongly recommend giving this a listen. Especially as counter-programming to what is plastered on the radio ad-nausea...even if it can put an infant in a good mood (which this does too, by the way...)

4.154 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. Problematization (00:15)
2. Back Seat Lover (03:51) 4
3. The Innocent (03:22) 4
4. Allie Jones (04:04) 5
5. The Only One (03:20) 4
6. Wine Glass Woman (03:47) 4
7. Her Favorite Song (03:29) 5
8. Ay Bass Player (00:14)
9. Crime [feat. Kendrick Lamar] (04:40) 5
10. Reach Out Richard (04:08) 3
11. Corisican Rose' (04:08) 5
12. Where Does This Door Go (04:18) 4
13. Robot Love (03:27) 5
14. The Stars Are Ours (04:27) 3
15. All Better (04:20) 3