On his latest studio album, velvety-smooth singer-musician Mayer Hawthorne
continues his reign as the most unlikely R&B heartthrob ever. Mayer, who looks like Buddy Holly but sounds like a cross between Curtis Mayfield and Smokey Robinson
, raises his game a notch on his second full release, How Do You Do
, released digitally in the U.S. on Oct. 3, 2011 and on CD Oct. 11. Although his brand of retro-R&B will mostly appeal to lovers of '70s Soul, he adds enough different elements to the mix (including a singing Snoop Dogg) to keep things interesting.
has incorporated so much 1970s Soul music into his singing style that his songs have sometimes been mistaken for classics from that era. But one song that makes it clear from its lyrics that it's from the modern era is his single "The Walk," a dismissal of a cold-hearted woman. Although the vocals and instrumentation both seem like they're from a bygone era, the lyrics make it clear that this is the modern age, particularly ones like "From the moment that I met ya, I thought you were fine, so fine/But your sh*tty f*ckin' attitude has got me changing my mind." Impressively, despite the bitter lyrics, Mayer sounds upbeat and almost positive, even when comparing the heart of the woman who did him wrong to blackened coal. Along with "The Walk," the album's other noteworthy retro-jams include "Get To Know You," a tale of seduction that even has the same type of spoken-word introduction that was popular with Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes and similar acts about four decades ago; and "A Long Time," a Steely Dan-meets-Motown ode to perseverance.
Affection & Devotion
There are a few interesting moments where Mayer steps out of his self-appointed musical box, such as the song "Dreaming," which sounds like a lost song by British rock band Electric Light Orchestra; and "Can't Stop," which is a song about not being able to get over a woman, and features Snoop Dogg bravely singing his lyrics (without the help of Auto-Tune, even) instead of rapping them.
The best thing about How Do You Do, and Mayer Hawthorne himself, is that never does the musical style come off as a gimmick, or an experiment, or a simple case of nostalgia. Mayer's affection for and devotion to his choice of music is evident in most songs here. And by making music that connects to a bygone era despite knowing that it's not really commercially viable, he has proven himself to be one of those true artists who are still in the business for the love of music, rather than for the love of money.