Mayer Hawthorne - Where Does This Door Go?
Release Date: July 16th, 2013
Record Label: Republic Records
Mayer Hawthorne has become one of the most interesting figures in music since taking the stage name live in 2008. Growing up near Detroit, Mayer was born in a town that was once a musical landmark for soul, which led to his career beginnings as an emcee and DJ and slowly turned into something special. Diving head first into the heart of Detroit, Mayer began making soul and R&B music, doing a damn good job paying homage to his founding fathers.
Throughout his last two albums, there’s been an obvious musical evolving, creating more deliberate and occupied songs, but never fully delivering a complete album. Singles like “The Ills,” “No Strings,” and “The Walk” showcase Mayer at an all-time high with his retro-inspired soul pop. But with his new album, Where Does This Door Go?, Mayer recruited a handful of producers such as Pharrell, John Hill, and Jack Splash to take his album to the next level. The result? A genre-bending ode to the past but also a beacon to the future.
Where Does This Door Go? is 13 tracks (excluding an intro and interlude) demonstrating Mayer’s impeccable ear for melody and groove. “Backseat Lover” sets the tone of the album with a hollowed synth and signature Motown bass lines that are layered throughout all 52 minutes. Diversity has held Mayer back in the past, but not this time around. “Allie Jones” features the signature retro Hawthorne sound of the past, but modernized, again driven by thick bass lines and his immensely improved crooning. The next three songs “The Only One,” “Wine Glass Woman,” and lead single “Her Favorite Song” show the impact and growth from working with multiple producers. Each touches on various vibes and draws from a variety of genres and styles that derive from Michigan.
While A Strange Arrangement and How Do You Do have featured notable artists such as Snoop Dogg, no song stood out as taking a risk. However, this time around, that is not the case, as the recruitment of the story-telling wordsmith Kendrick Lamar in “Crime” results in easily the biggest risk Mayer’s taken in his career. Although both artists are fantastic in their own right, on paper this sounds like a musical massacre. But to the internet's dismay, it worked out to a T, showcasing both artists’ strong points. A sampled sitar provides the mystique, while Mayer provides the smooth narration of a late night party getting busted by the Five-Oh. As noted, Mayer’s signature croons have improved immensely, which is exemplified on the chorus as he sings. Kendrick follows, delivering his bars the only way Kendrick can – with velocity, ferocity and a soothing nature.
After the emotional story of “Reach Out Richard” and the sex groove of “Corsican Rose” comes the greatest highlight of the album with title track “Where Does This Door Go?” Equipped with whimsical string arrangements and a bouncing bass line and anchored by Mayer’s delicately placed and hauntingly beautiful howls, the track feels like it was pulled from a 60’s Beatles’ session. Sadly, it’s followed by the weakest song on the album, with “Robot Love” coming across as what should have been a b-side for “Designer Drug.” But as expected, the album comes right back with the one-two punch of “The Stars Are Ours” and the Hall and Oates inspired ballad, “All Better” ending on a soft but timely high note.
Ultimately, Mayer Hawthorne has created his most complete and compelling piece of art yet, taking risks, experimenting, and looking to expand his already defined palate. He stated that his goal was to make an album that you could play straight through at a party and he’s done more than just that. It’s an album you can play at any party, play in your car on the way home and take with you on the go. Pulling from legends of the past, Mayer has crafted an album that’s worthy of its predecessors and will be relished of those in the future.
I agree with everyone else, great review! The only thing is you forgot to mention my two favorite songs; "The Innocent" and "Kaila!" I love this album, in my opinion its one of the best of 2013. I hope he gets nominated for a Grammy.