Press play on Mayer Hawthorne’s latest, How Do You Do, and step into any Smokey Robinson record. Don’t be fooled by the album cover – in this case, looks are incredibly deceiving. Hawthorne may be hipster in dress, but his voice is completely Motown.
The throwback artist lane is strictly survival of the fittest, the distinction between Grammy Award winning Adele and one-hit wonder Duffy. Hawthorne finds the delicate balance of spot-on nostalgia and establishing his own style. Similar to old Soul bands like the Chi-Lites, he recreates the days in music when every piano note was tied to every vocal inflection. How Do You Do is a collection of songs for slow dances and two-steps, sensual in the subtlest way.
In the very first notes of “Get To Know You,” Hawthorne’s breathy voice enhances a smooth bassline. He takes listeners back to the Motor City with “A Long Time,” during the Motown glory days of Marvin Gaye’s smooth crooning, and the synchronized moves of The Temptations. The smoothest player of them all, Snoop Dogg, guests on “Can’t Stop,” and gets in on the fun with his own spin: “When you and I get intertwined… And you can let me hit it from behind.” Hawthorne continues his stroll through the ’60s with the bright sunshiny “Dreaming.” The track is so reminiscent of The Turtles “So Happy Together,” that the two should play in tandem on a feel-good playlist.
No soul album would be complete without a song about heartbreak, but there’s never been one quite like “The Walk.” The track is the ultimate kiss off: “Baby, what you’re doing now, you’re pissing me off… But your hair is so luxurious and your lips are so soft.” Love does come with its share of bull, but Hawthorne finds himself bitten by the bug throughout most of the album. He urges the object of his affection to lose the guy who neglects her and give him a chance on “Stick Around.” Will she leave her man, since he was out with Desiree? On How Do You Do Hawthorne returns to a time when instruments were just as important to the story as the lyrics.
Midway through the album, it’s easy for listeners to wonder how modern R&B would fit on him. Then “No Strings” plays, and the thought is just a fleeting one. He laces the “first glance across a crowded room” story with funk stylings. With heads nodding and ears hooked on every word, he leaves listeners wondering if he’ll get the girl at the end of the night.
How Do You Do is full of Soul. Hawthorne sways from being an unapologetic bachelor to one ready to set aside his little black book and finally settle down. He succeeds in creating a soul revival with a refreshing modern day twist done so right.