Mayer Hawthorne: Working Out A Break-Up

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Monday's Pick

  • Song: "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out"
  • Artist: Mayer Hawthorne & The County
  • CD: "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out" (7" single)
  • Genre: Soul
Mayer Hawthorne 300

Mayer Hawthorne applies his honeyed falsetto to "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out," with a cozy charm that's as warm as the song's electric piano. courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption courtesy of the artist

Mayer Hawthorne is a twentysomething white singer who grew up on Detroit R&B. In his first single, "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out," he draws on traditional soul, though he favors the deep, emotive arrangements and piercing lyrics of love and loss that provided a bluesy alternative to the sparkling gloss of Motown's incandescent hits. Like singer Robin Thicke, Hawthorne alternates between a rich, throaty tenor and a fragile falsetto, but Hawthorne's voice has more frayed edges than that of his counterpart. It's no wonder that as Hawthorne delivers his monologue, copping pleas like "Please, baby... I don't want to make this harder than it is," it sounds as if the song were salvaged out of a jukebox rather than recorded earlier this year. (As an added bonus, Hawthorne's label is releasing the song on red heart-shaped vinyl.)

The opening drums help shake listeners out of their temporal displacement. The hard kick and snare is patterned after Allen Toussaint's classic "Get Out Of My Life, Woman" breakbeat, sampled on dozens of hip-hop songs. But once Hawthorne drizzles on his honeyed falsetto, "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out" slides back to yesteryear with a cozy charm that's as warm as the song's electric piano. In a smart touch, Hawthorne uses studio magic to create his own multi-harmony accompaniment, in essence serving as his own back-up singers. With their well-timed cries and croons, Hawthorne's vocal doppelgangers provide the key ingredient that holds his concoction together. If only all heartbreak were this sweet.

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