For SF WEEKLY: When Mayer Hawthorne takes the stage in Oakland this Saturday, he and his four-piece touring band will no doubt deliver polished versions of songs off of his latest album, Where Does This Door Go, which has been likened — both as praise and critique — to the palatable ’70s smooth rock of Steely Dan.
The fact that Hawthorne is playing a large venue like the Fox is further evidence of the resurgence of blue-eyed soul in recent years. The Grammy-nominated “Blurred Lines” earned Robin Thicke the title of “White Soul’s Leader” this summer, but Hawthorne continues to be a torchbearer for the work of artists like Hall & Oates and Michael McDonald, who owned the genre several decades ago.
His label describes his music as “Steely Dan meets the Beastie Boys,” which is a stretch, but there is a hipness to Hawthorne that Thicke doesn’t quite have: Hip-hop casually influences his work, and his earlier material, about breakups, had a looser, gritty edge to it. But once an artist starts working with Grammy Award-winning producer Pharrell Williams, as Hawthorne has, there’s less room for grit and no looseness in songwriting. Expect a lively, but finely crafted experience.
Image: Stones Throw Records