Music is an ever-changing entity. Over a century ago, Tin Pan Alley was the center of the musical universe where jazz and blues defined a generation. In the 60s it was the British invasion that consumed the ears of the baby boomers. In the 80s it was Michael Jackson and hair metal. 90s were the boy band and teenybopper girl fan craze. Today, with music being able to reach an extended network, it’s almost impossible to define this time in music popular. Sure, EDM (electronic dance music) is garnering heavy followers, boy bands have started an upward trend again, real artists such as Adele show that good music far outweighs what we have been force fed as what a musician should look like, but is there an answer? A lot of walls have been torn down and yet a lot of new walls have been plastered up in their place. We revel in the past, however, as a simpler, better time, even in music.
Like Woody Allen eloquently hinted at in A Midnight in Paris, we find ourselves thinking that the past offers a brighter outlook, when the things laid out in front of us are there to enjoy. Looking back on things, we wish that we grew up being able to listen to Hendrix live and seeing John Lennon perform “Imagine.” Right now, however, we have acts that draw from this inspiration and have come up with a sound that pays homage and resemblance. Mayer Hawthorne, being one of them, exemplifies a modern day, falsetto chiming, Marvin Gaye. He has a number of studio length albums under his belt already, but he’s just come out with a new featurette album, Mayer Hawthorne: iTunes Session.
For those not attune to his music, “The Walk” is the epitome of what Mayer Hawthorne is all about—a sweet sounding voice that can hit high notes without breaking a sweat and brass accompaniment, which is always pleasing to the ears. Not enough can be said for having trumpets and saxophone. In this track, especially, they help add to the authenticity by putting his own stamp on something our parents would have listened to. It’s a definite toe tapper that will have you feeling giggity giggity goo.
His lyrics are not even indicative of this time. There is a clever bluntness about him that is refreshing. Hawthorne opens the song up, writing, “Baby what you doin’ now, you’re pissin me off.” No dancing around the subject here. What makes him even more different though, in this track, is that he doesn’t have a chorus that simply repeats itself. Every hook has a new line. For example, in the first chorus he writes, “And you can walk your long legs, baby, right out of my life, but then changes things up on the second chorus—“And you can walk your high heels baby, right out of my life”—continuing to add changes throughout the entirety of the record.
Check out this crazy video for "The Walk" below:
Playing off of this old school sound, Hawthorne delivers us with a gift in this album, in the form of a cover of “You Make My Dreams,” originally coined by Hall & Oates. He may not have that ever sexy mustache like John Oates or that lofty, ever-flowing-in-the-wind hair like Daryl Hall, but they both have at least one thing in common—talent. Playing this song live, Hawthorne usually does a mashup of his song, “Dream,” with this iconic pop song, but here, he stays to just the later. The production level isn’t as peppy as the original, but it embodies that feel good swing that Joseph Gordon Levitt can still dance to. Hawthorne’s vocals, just as when he sings it live, are spot on. His tone is so unlike anything out there right now that even if he ever did get off key for a second, we probably wouldn’t notice it because his voice is so nostalgic, like ice cream on a hot summer’s day growing up. It may not be as great as the original, but you can’t harp on him too much for trying.
The seven tracks on Mayer Hawthorne: itunes Session all share that hip, jazzy vibe, bordering along the lines of Marvin Gaye. “Love in Motion” is a great SebastiAn cover that draws a definite inkling to Sly and the Family Stone. Along with this, “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out” embodies that bluesy pop heart-wrenching sound that Earth, Wind, and Fire could have been seen singing in their heyday—entrancing harmonies and a groovy bass line to match—thankfully, Hawthorne’s old soul sound flourishes. If you know of his music, definitely download these great tracks. For first time listeners, I recommend checking out his most recent album, How Do You Do, and see what musical journey it takes you on. Until then, Druggernauts!