On his previous two albums, Michigan-born soul singer Mayer Hawthorne was clearly just that -- a soul singer. On his third album, Where Does This Door Go, he delivers a collection that is multifaceted, genre-defying and helps Hawthorne break out of the box that he previously placed himself in. Where Does This Door Go certainly takes its cues from the music of yesteryear as with Hawthorne's past efforts, but he moves off the soul revival path that he's walked. This new album sees Hawthorne stroll down a new lane, one that sees him taking inspiration from a broader range of influences -- from Steely Dan to Hall & Oates to '90's hip hop and Pink Floyd.
On first spin, Where Does This Door Go seems to show Hawthorne having some complex feelings towards women and deciphering the meaning behind their behavior. He sings about those who are all about having a bit of fun ("Back Seat Lover"), to the ones that he let get away ("Corsican Rose"), to those who have been burnt ("Her Favorite Song") and those ladies who he probably needs to stay well clear of ("Wine Glass Women"). One thing is for sure, though, whichever type of women Hawthorne is singing about he does so in an endearing way that doesn't make it all too serious. Rather than be deep and meaningful affairs, those tracks are all upbeat or catchy numbers that easily embed themselves in your brain. But that's little wonder with a range of producers on those tracks including Pharrell Williams and Warren "Oak" Felder of production team Pop and Oak.
On second spin, the stand-out tracks start to work their magic. There's the heartfelt "Reach Out Richard", the intricately-layered title track and the Sir Paul McCartney-esque closer "All Better." Each song shows a different, more complex side to Hawthorne. He's a son who wants his dad to know he's sorry, an inquisitive wanderer of this world who'll take the road he hasn't travelled and someone who -- despite his lack of reservations about being a back seat lover -- simply believes in love. The last two of those stand-outs are produced by contemporary pop music's go-to producer Greg Wells. Speaking of go-to guys, Hawthorne also calls on rapper of the moment Kendrick Lamar on "Crime," which only enriches this bass driven f-the-police party anthem.
While Hawthorne closes the door on his previous Motown-meets-Stax soul heavy offerings with Where Does This Door Go, he opens a new door. One that might just be his ticket out of soul revival jail and out to pop music's promised land. Let's face it, if you can play with a plethora of styles and pull it off effortlessly as Hawthorne does here, isn't that more fun than being a one-trick pony? Where Does This Door Go is a strong album full of pop and soul treats that show that Mayer Hawthorne should keep being curious about what musical wonderlands lay behind that unopened door.