Mayer Hawthorne | How Do You Do

Mayer Hawthorne - How do you do

Mayer Hawthorne | How Do You Do
by Brent Faulkner

Mayer Hawthorne is one artist in a slim field or R&B artists embracing the vibe and sensibilities of soul music’s glory days. The artist, who has dabbled in hip-hop as well, definitely does not look the part of the soul-revivalist that he is. Thankfully, looks are highly deceiving as hipster Hawthorne possesses one of the most soulful voices of a new generation of singers. An underrated talent deserving wider recognition, Hawthorne’s second LP How Do You Do (and debut on major label Universal Republic) is a superb effort with no outright misses.

Hawthorne oscillates between chilling falsetto and gritty, unrequited soulful vigor. A well-rounded musician, Hawthorne truly sells How Do You Do nearly flawlessly.

“Get To Know You” is a perfect opener, showcasing a vintage, classic soul sound characterized by electric piano, fat bass line, and a simple ‘in-the-pocket’ drum groove. Relaxed and organic in sound, “Get To Know You” possesses superb, honed falsetto by Hawthorne, not to mention his capable songwriting. “A Long Time” does not disappoint nor miss a beat. Here, Hawthorne contrasts the tempo aiming for a more mid-tempo/mid-fast cut. The electric piano remains in full effect and the background vocal harmonizations – handled by Hawthorne – are the exemplification of excellent. Snoop Dogg doesn’t dare stand in Hawthorne’s way on another winner “Can’t Stop,” which is contemporary enough for a ‘young crowd’ yet never loses the soul aesthetic that Hawthorne has established from the onset. The refrain is the highlight: “I can’t stop thinking about you, the way you turn me on/I can’t stop thinking about you.” Three-for-three Mayer, three-for-three.

Fourth cut “Dreaming” has a 60’s soul-pop vibe mixing the sensibilities of say The Beatles and Dionne Warwick – light yet undeniably soulful. The highlight might be the light-hearted use of neutral syllables: “ba-ba-ba ba ba…” which truly epitomizes the late 60’s and early 70’s ideal. “The Walk” appeals to the ‘hip-hop generation’ in all its risqué glory aka Hawthorne manages to slip some strong profanity. Aside from his ‘gangsta,’ street-cred moment, “The Walk” is as refined and nuanced as anything else. The songwriting is perfect with Hawthorne sounding cool and hip as ever. How Do You Do just keeps getting better and better and better. “Finally Falling” wouldn’t dare compromise this excellence as it keeps the momentum going strong. 6-0 baby, 6-0. Undefeated.

“Hooked” and “Stick Around” may be a shade less enthralling than the best cuts, but are nothing short of ‘A-’ cuts. “Hooked” epitomizes 60s R&B with its brevity and use of horns. “Stick Around” features Hawthorne’s killer falsetto at its finest. The briefest cut, “The News” proves to be one of the album’s most creative cuts. The arrangement (a Hawthorne original as always) engages the listener because the listener wants to hear Hawthorne’s next move. A brilliant 1:37 to say the least! The rest of the album yields more solid and consistent cuts. “You Called Me” finds the singer achieving his most authentic grit, “You’re Not Ready” features a ‘to-die-for’ six-feel, while single “No Strings” finds Hawthorne legitimately ‘belting.’ Bonus cut “Henny & Gingerale” is the slightest bit repetitive, but as enjoyable as all of the other cuts.

Overall, Mayer Hawthorne does not miss in the slightest. Consistent, traditional, and soulful, How Do You Do is easily one of 2011’s Best R&B albums. Like Raphael Saadiq, Hawthorne is able to keep the vintage R&B sound alive. Highly recommended.

Brent Faulkner
The Urban Music Scene