Nobody could accuse Mayer Hawthorne of being lazy, that’s for certain. He seems to have taken a leaf from the Prince book of diligence, delivering at least one new record a year.
Following a solo album and EP and embarking on a world tour in 2016, Hawthorne is back just in time for summer with the latest Tuxedo release – his collaborative project with producer Jake One. The inventively titled Tuxedo II comes two years after the duo’s sparkling eponymous debut.
The title of their follow-up might not betray a lack of imagination as much as it’s an accurate description of what to expect. The fellows keep the good vibes coming. Tuxedo II offers more of the same infectious, authentically reproduced 80s electro-funk nostalgia. However, although there is no drop in production quality, and you certainly won’t be itching to hit the skip button, this sophomore doesn’t have as much personality as its predecessor.
There are a few noteworthy dancefloor fillers, such as the catchy, albeit profane, ‘F*x with the Tux’, think a potty-mouthed version of Michael Jackson’s ‘Baby Be Mine’; ‘Rotational’, which owes much of its appeal to the bassline’s similarity to ‘Number One’, and ‘U Like It’. Yet the album doesn’t latch itself to your cranium as hard and fast as the first Tuxedo record and it wears out its welcome much quicker. Jake and Mayer are still working with a good formula, but it appears they exhausted most of their inspiration the first round.
It marks something of a trend. Hawthorne’s output has plateaued of late. His lyrics are increasingly derivative and have all the depth of a saucer. “…Girl you’re hotter than Juuullly!” Really? You’re going to take Stevie’s lyric and iconic album title in vain?
True, 80s electro-soul isn’t renowned for its profundity. Nevertheless, its grating to hear Hawthorne reduce his female muses to objectified clichés onto which he projects unrealistic fantasies. Where are the complex women of ‘Her Favourite Song’ and ‘Wine Glass Woman’? Where’s the poignancy of a ‘I Wish It Would Rain’ or ‘Reach Out Richard’?
Hawthorne might be a victim of his own artistic zeal. Perhaps it’s time he took a sabbatical, far away from the studio, to experience life anew and bring some freshness to his creativity. A rest is as good as a change.
Tuxedo II is out now on Stones Throw Records.
If you like this artist, check out: Dornik; Boulevards
Image: Jiro Schneider