An unlikely alliance between Grammy-nominated neo-soul crooner Mayer Hawthorne and Seattle boom-bap producer Jake One (50 Cent, G-Unit), the aptly-named Tuxedo couldn’t have timed the retro disco-funk of their self-titled debut album any better.
Arriving just weeks after Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars propelled the sounds of The Gap Band, Steve Arrington and The Whispers back into the charts, these twelve unashamedly old-school tunes find the duo mining a virtually identical party vibe.
Not that Tuxedo can be accused of jumping on a bandwagon. “So Good,” “Get U Home” and “Do It” first appeared on a mysteriously-uploaded E.P. nearly two years ago, and the latter has already received the sampling treatment, courtesy of everyone’s favorite rent-a-rapper Pitbull.
Sadly, there’s nothing on here quite as majestic as “Uptown Funk;” but “Number One,” a feel-good reworking of Snoop & Nate Dogg’s G-funk classic “Ain’t No Fun,” and the slinky falsetto-led “Watch the Dance” both come close, while the constant array of bass slaps, gleaming synths and slinky beats ensure that the record remains feel-good throughout, if also a little repetitive.
Tuxedo isn’t quite as effortless when it offers a change of pace. “Two Wings” is an R&B slow jam so corny that you half expect it to come equipped with a free shag rug and silk robe matching combo, while “Tuxedo Groove” is an aimless instrumental which throws everything from porno guitar solos to fairground organs into one forgettable Muzak mix.
Free from the irony of Chromeo’s output and the indulgence of Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experiences, Tuxedo is undoubtedly one of the more authentic and affectionate tributes to the dancefloor sounds of yesteryear we’ve had lately. But considering Hawthorne and One’s pedigree, it’s a little disappointing that they opted to play it so safe.