Album Review: Mayer Hawthorne – Where Does This Door Go


“I truly did not give a fuck on this album,” Mayer Hawthorne publicly claimed about Where Does This Door Go. “It was very freeing for me.” For the first time in his career, Hawthorne has relinquished the producer’s chair — albeit to a group of coveted names including Pharrell, John Hill (Pink, Santigold), Jack Splash (Kendrick Lamar, John Legend), and Greg Wells (Adele, Ozzy Osbourne).

The collective have supported Hawthorne in his expansion outside of his retro-soul aesthetic. The sound of 1960’s era Detroit still pulses, but Hawthorne’s revitalized sense of artistic freedom has led to forays into the likes of nostalgic hip-hop and yacht rock.

Executive producing the album, Hawthorne establishes connections between the genres. “The Only One” is a twist on 1990’s rap-soul; his R&B vocals sway over ivory strokes and brass fills, and are then chopped with hyphy turntable hysteria. Hawthorne, with Kendrick Lamar in tow, then continues down the PCH toward the hazy SoCal hip-hop featured on “Crime”.

Hawthorne’s appreciation for the soft rock interludes of Steely Dan and Michael McDonald is most apparent on album closer “All Better”, but the shift is foreshadowed in the sentimental funk of “Reach Out Richard” (produced by Pharrell Williams) and the reeling lullaby of the title track: “And to think/ all this time/ I played it straight/ on the line/  took a step/ to the side/ now I’m looking for a place to hide.”

For those awaiting more of Hawthorne’s soul revivalism, his new carefree mentality has also had a positive effect on the songwriter’s more straightforward soul affairs — “Backseat Lover” and “Her Favorite Song” are each rife with the innocent sensuality that Hawthorne first exuded on 2009’s A Strange Arrangement. So, please grab some protection before diving into WDTDG, because these are intentional baby-making tunes.

Featured Tracks: ”Backseat Lover”, “The Only One”, and “Crime”