MIMO was on hand Wednesday evening at renowned tattoo artist Mister Cartoon’s studio in downtown Los Angeles as Mayer Hawthorne previewed the new album Where Does This Door Go? (Republic Records). The album releases July 16, but the handful of media and industry people on hand had a chance to listen to the project while treated to free Umami burgers and a Patron-sponsored open bar. (Stream the album on NPR’s website).
The DJ set up inside Mister Cartoon’s garage with several immaculate low-riders on display. As Patron drinks that included a concoction named after Mayer’s album were served up by beautiful Patron brand ambassadors, the likes of Dr. Dre producer Fred Wreck, Stones Throw Records founder Peanut Butter Wolf and many others socialized outside the garage. When Mayer, wearing rolled-up jeans and Nikes, finally grabbed the mic to press play on his album, the crowd packed inside the garage to tune in.
Although the setting added to the experience, Where Does This Door Go? was an indelible listen. Mayer Hawthorne is often mentioned in the same breath as fellow purveyors of the “blued-eyed soul” brand of R&B – a group that includes Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke and Nick Waterhouse – but the former Stones Throw Records artist, now backed by a major label, appears on the verge of breaking out of the pack.
Variety and balance are the hallmarks of this well-executed album. For an uptempo, cheeky “Back Seat Lover” there is a slower, intricately arranged “Allie Jones,” which bears influence of soft rock and incredible arrangements. “The Only One” initially sounds like a Dr. Dre instrumental. There is also a Pharrell Williams-produced song that sounds a lot like a track the Virginia producer did for Snoop Dogg on the very underrated Rhythm & Gangsta: The Masterpiece.
The most vocally stylish song is the mid-tempo “Her Favorite Song,” on which Mayer proves he can hang with any R&B heartthrob. A nostalgic track called “Crme” features a verse from the hottest rapper on the planet right now, Kendrick Lamar, and will likely resonate with new and old fans alike. On other tracks, Mayer pays homage to Michael Jackson and evokes a funky, hard-grooving sound that recalls the Gap Band and Justin Timberlake.
Industry hype aside, Where Does This Door Go? is an impressive album that could catapult Mayer Hawthorne from a hipster-endeared artist to a true superstar.