Thursday, August 22, 2013

You’re So Classic: New Music from MKTO, Jesse McCartney and Mayer Hawthorne

By John Hill 

You know what they say…what’s old is new again. There is a glut of retro sounding records out right now, with “Suit and Tie,” “Get Lucky” and “Treasure” going top five on Billboard’s Hot 100 and “Blurred Lines” dominating EVERYTHING, so you will probably see a lot more before the trend is over. To help sort it all out, here are three tracks from the pack to throw your support behind. 

MKTO “Classic”

If MKTO doesn’t sound familiar to you, don’t feel out of the loop. The duo released their first single “Thank You,” back in January, and their album is not currently scheduled for release. For those of you with kids that watch Nickelodeon (or those that watch the channel themselves), Malcolm and Tony played best friends on the show Gigantic back in 2010, but went on to become both bandmates and friends in real life. They have become big in Australia but US success has not found them just yet. That could change with their new single “Classic,” which is getting major play on Sirius/XM’s pop channels at the moment. This record breaks one big rule for me: I normally HATE songs that name-check celebrities, but the way “Classic” references not only Michael Jackson and Prince but also classic R&B artists Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway works well in this context. Add to that a backing track that references the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” and a rap from Tony that isn’t annoying, and you may have just found your late-summer guilty pleasure.

Jesse McCartney “Back Together”

Jesse and I have a history. Okay, not PERSONALLY, but I’ve been a big fan of his work over the past few years and his Departure album and reboot in 2008/2009 specifically. I don’t know specifically what went down with him and his former label Hollywood Records, but Jesse is back with a new track on independent label Eight0Eight Records called “Back Together.” It’s clear that Jesse is capitalizing on the retro vibe that Justin Timberlake has blazed over the past few months, but it doesn’t feel faked in any way with McCartney. In fact, it feels like a natural progression from previous hits like “How Do You Sleep” and “Body Language.” Here’s hoping this new label and vibe gets him the attention he deserves musically.

Mayer Hawthorne “Her Favorite Song”

Near the center of this retro revival on the charts is Pharrell Williams, who not only provides vocals on Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and writer/producer duties on “Blurred Lines” but also has produced similar sounding records for artists like Usher (“Twisted”). That’s why it is no surprise that Mayer Hawthorne’s Where Does This Door Go ends up being a stone-cold funk jam with Pharrell producing four tracks including the stellar “Wine Glass Woman.” First single “Her Favorite Song” has a grimy bassline and a slinky guitar riff that wouldn’t be out of place on a Chic record that fits Hawthorne’s loungey vocals well. In most scenarios I would say this is a great album cut on a solid record, but in this current retro environment, it actually has a shot at pop radio airplay. Here’s hoping… 

While his full-time job is in education, John Hill also writes a successful music blog titled Pop Music Notes. He is also active on Twitter @popmusicnotes and lives in Denver with his partners in crime James and Bruiser.