Mayer Hawthorne moves away from retro-Motown stylings without completely reinventing himself on his third record filled with breezy pop. The singer-DJ and his all-star producers, including Pharrell, know how to craft sharply arranged, addictive songs; unfortunately the music still sounds too beholden to the past. Many of the tracks come across as homages to blue-eyed soul sources ranging from Daryl Hall to Boz Scaggs. Despite dipping into hip-hop and reggae, there are footnotes to ’70s pop throughout. That doesn’t diminish the sheer pleasure of the tunes’ playful intentions, but Hawthorne’s DJ crate-digging tendencies seem to be bleeding into his songwriting. Reggae-fied “Allie Jones” evokes watered-down Police while an irresistible “Her Favorite Song,” boosted by Jessie Ware, is right out of the Hall and Oates hook-book. “Reach Out Richard” nods to Steely Dan’s “Peg,” yet borders on downright theft. The deliriously good moments — especially “Crime,” with Kendrick Lamar, and “The Only One” — prove Hawthorne should experiment more with his eyes fixed on the future. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL "The Only One"