In a summer where Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke made the randy white guy a staple of R&B radio, Mayer Hawthorne should be a star. He honed his talents on the great L.A. label Stones Throw; his charismatic falsetto is a formidable seducer's tool, and he's a dapper live performer.
So it's a shame that his latest major-label LP comes off like an unwanted hand on your thigh. "Where Does This Door Go" is smooth to the point of cloying, yet completely all over the place in its productions. Daft Punk may have made yacht-rock and smooth jazz cool again, but here tracks such as "Backseat Lover" and "Her Favorite Song" miss the affection and precision and just spill the mimosa pitcher everywhere. He doesn't have the gravitas to pull off a straight dub tune such as "Allie Jones," and Kendrick Lamar is wasted on the inexplicable raga-riffing of "Crime."
When he finds his sweet spot, delightfully silly cuts such as "Corsican Rose" and "Wine Glass Woman" could totally work as hipster boat-party music. But the reason bouncy singles such as Thicke's "Blurred Lines" have owned the summer is that they make the pickup scene feel so fun. "Where Does This Door Go" feels like a once-promising OK Cupid date that's gone off the rails.
"Where Does This Door Go"
Two stars (out of four)Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times