Where Does This Door Go is the album Mayer Hawthorne claims he always wanted to make—a complete testament to his new desire to free himself from his inhibitions and go for not giving a damn. Even if the album is a complete curveball. And if the music on this album is what he’s always had on his mind, it makes us wonder how he even came up with songs like “I Wish It Would Rain.” This album is a musical medley at it’s finest—one with hip-hop rhythms, subtle reggae basslines, and funk music’s groovy guitar riffs, but what are most impressive are the instrumental inflections of the folk music that plagued the 60s and 70s. It’s America meets Carole King who are then happy to introduce us to Average White Band and Kool and the Gang. And what awaits us is a lovely listen.
The density of the content on this album is about as shallow as a blow up kiddie pool, but that’s what makes it so approachable. Mayer Hawthorne isn’t crying for love this time, but takes on emotions’ inevitable simplicities. You don’t have to be heavily enamored to have legitimate thoughts, but one-night stands can make for good music too. And in the few second gaps that separate each new track you can’t help but feel the apprehension of uncertainty, but with each new track comes an easy listen.
The instrumentation and lyrics make it sexy. In an overcrowded Venice Beach party kind of way. We can thank Mayer Hawthorne’s decision to ditch the Motown thing and try for a West Coast vibe for this. Kendrick Lamar even makes an appearance on “Crime.” What’s different is that Hawthorne has freed himself of some responsibility and employs a plethora of producers (including heavy hitters like Pharrell) instead of doing everything himself, which gave him room to play around, and the carefree element bleeds through all the album’s cracks in the best way. He even abandons his soft, breathy, falsetto croon and takes on a heavier chest voice—and though this makes his vocals sound a bit indistinct, it demonstrates his newfound confidence as a vocalist, considering that only an album ago, he would have never dared come out of falsetto.
Where Does This Door Go is upbeat and inviting from the jump. “Back Seat Lover” is a song with passionate instrumentation but is likely about a messy friend with benefits situation. In the reggae laden “Allie Jones” Hawthorne sings about a chick (who likely wears oversized hoodies and cutoff denim shorts) who could’ve had everything but appreciates nothing. But perhaps most memorable is “Her Favorite Song” as through a heavy bass and muted chords, it exemplifies the devotedness anyone can have for their music.
The differences between Where Does This Door Go and Mayer Hawthorne’s past albums are like the difference between love and lust. It’s nice to feel that he isn’t taking himself too seriously this time around, and it’s exciting letting his lighthearted thoughts lead you.