Album review: Mayer Hawthorne's 'How Do You Do'
Let’s pretend that Cee-Lo Green and the poor lady on the receiving end of the more profane version of “… You” decided to patch things up and go back to bed. What record do they put on? Mayer Hawthorne’s “How Do You Do” might do the trick.
Hawthorne made his reputation as an ever-falsettoed crooner on L.A.’s weirdo rap imprint Stones Throw. “How Do You Do” is his major-label debut, and it splits the difference between the well-ironed soul revivalism of Adele and R. Kelly’s baroquely dirty mind.
Hawthorne’s voice has always been the centerpiece of his catalog — imagine Al Green with the tiniest onset of a head cold. On “How Do You Do” he finally comes into his own as a vocal powerhouse: He nails a totally winning baritone affect on the brooding goth-Stax single “Can’t Stop” (and upstages his guest Snoop Dogg in the player-prowling game). His wink-nudge seducer’s anthem “No Strings” can get you pregnant from a hundred yards out.
The production makes stellar use of his major-label money; the sound is refined and dynamic in a way that’s wholly missing from pop radio. That might be his biggest obstacle: ”How Do You Do” is grown-man music that fully inhabits its tradition instead of just nodding to it in making hits. But it’s all in service of some fantastic pillow talk that might lead to actual rolling in the deep.
“How Do You Do”
Three and a half stars (Out of four)
— August Brown