Review: Why has it taken over a decade for Maroon 5 to soar again?

For some really obscure and tbh, totally unknown reason, today I decided to listen to Maroon 5’s discography. I tend to get Payphone stuck in my head, and Moves Like Jagger is a catchy motherfucker too, but nothing has ever stuck with me like This Love or The Sun from the band’s debut offering. So I decided to listen to the progressive discography to see if any hidden gems lay dormant.

Sadly, I have to report that their second album and official Hot Mess, It Won’t Be Soon Before Long, is basically their Bionic (soz XTina). It’s just so flat after the stirring Songs About Jane, and in general, a total snoozefest. Their third, Hands All Over, houses some great pop tunes like Moves Like Jagger (a ridiculously catchy instant-classic thanks to that damn whistling melody), but the balance is still skewed towards YawnTown. Adam Levine’s vocals are still solid and hugely swoon-worthy, but there’s something missing in the songs – they don’t resonate.

Overexposed, Maroon 5’s fourth studio album picks it up a little. Spotify only offer it as a Track by Track commentary album, so unfortunately my listen-through was punctuated by various, albeit kind of cool, backstories for each track. Payphone still rates as my favourite from this LP, but Ladykiller is bangin’, and Doin’ Dirt also made me stop for a moment to jam. On the whole, having listened to the discography chronologically, I realised on finishing Overexposed that whatever came next was bound to be good. With the exception of Songs About Jane (which is still great 12 years later), Maroon 5’s progression has gotten stronger album by album.

What I didn’t expect was for V to be as brilliant as it is. Released just last year, it has all the hallmarks of a great pop release. Synths and bass that make your heart stop, vocals that light your veins on fire and lyrics that hit you right in the ribcage. A glorious collab with pop goddess Gwen Stefani rounds out V, and I’m genuinely sorry I haven’t heard M5’s latest offering before now. Contrary to how I feel about the three before it, I’m actually having more trouble picking the better tracks to list here. The first three tracks (Maps, Animals and It Was Always You) are superb, and Coming Back For You is very nearly my favourite tune from this record. Throw in some other incredibly dance-able songs and you almost have the answer to TaySway’s globe-dominating 1989.

My question, considering the song-writing prowess of Levine et al, is why it took over 10 years to get their groove back. Not even Stella took that long. I mean, look, is unquestionably different style-wise to Songs About Jane, and that stylistic maturation could only have come from years of growth, but what they share are powerhouse vocals, catchy hooks and a sense of self-awareness – this record knows exactly what it is. Check out my track by track breakdown of the non-deluxe version of V. (Deluxe version comes with a cover of Marcy Playground’s Sex and Candy and two pretty average tunes that aren’t worth the extra dollars.)

1. Maps
This is such a catchy tune to open an album with. Sharp lyrics fuelled by bitterness, and those harmonies?! omg I have died byyyyyeeeeee. Love this song.

2. Animals
Banger followed by bangerjam. I have a great feeling about this record, based solely on the two tracks M5 chose to open with. I’ve always found Adam Levine’s lyrics to be kind of oddly sexy, and this particular chorus (baby I’m preying on you tonight, hunt you down, eat you alive, just like animals) plus that falsetto gave me goosebumps. Damn. (Levine howling like a wolf post-bridge is pretty lolworthy too.)

3. It Was Always You
Song title made me cringe and I anticipated the first boring ballad of many, but I was pleasantly surprised. A bit croony about not noticing the love of your life right in front of your face, the beat underneath the soaring vocals builds with every passing minute. I’m getting a chilled-out Swedish House Mafia vibe on this one, and by the end, I am jamming in my seat and wondering when I’m going to find the song that ruins this album.

4. Unkiss Me
Okay so I don’t hate Unkiss Me, but it spells trouble when I get the fuck over hearing the chorus on the first go around. The lyrics on the whole are sort of basic, but there’s only so many ways you can be bitter about some bitch who gave you the runaround without sounding repetitive. This is the ballad I knew was coming and wish didn’t exist. Boring.

5. Sugar
This song is so much fun I don’t actually know how to handle it. I’m getting some awesome Prince/MJ vibes and considering I had an MJ day yesterday, this is gold stars-worthy. Nice.

6. Leaving California
Piano comes in here for the first time on V, and it’s the track that signals the usual mid-way lull on an LP, but, the chorus rouses, and I kind of really dig it. Definitely one for your Roadtrippin’ playlist on Spotify.

7. In Your Pocket
Hmmm. This is usually the point of an album where songs start to sound the same to me and I get a bit bored. But In Your Pocket is an upbeat challenge to a cheater that really caught my attention. It’s not life-changing by any means, but M5 have had some spectacularly shitty songs about cheating (I should know, I listened to them all today) and this one is better than those by a long shot.

8. New Love
Okay if I’m honest, I’ve listened to the album five times by this point, and when I looked to see which song was track 8, I was surprised to not have any idea which one this was. When it kicks off though, something I imagine will be hitting radio waves shortly blasts into my earholes. The catchcry would it kill you to forgive me? rings out and no doubt this is going to become one of those V-day tunes for new couples. It’s average, but catchy enough that 16-year-olds will be crowing it from the rooftops.

9. Coming Back For You
Despite a bit of a slow start, I straight-up adore this song. 80s synth bliss, a great hook, and some bangin’ beats towards the final chorus make me auto-fave this badboy. Also, this is the song that’s missing from 1989, and well done to M5 for tapping into that goldmine. (Think New Romantics and you’re a step away.)

10. Feelings
After the previous track, I need the bangerlove to keep coming, and Feelings totally nails it. The 80s vibe continues, as does the MJesque-ness (yep, accept that as a word and move on.) The chorus falsetto is a bit intense, and this won’t be a favourite with everyone, but the pre-choruses are A+.

11. My Heart is Open
Ending an album with a piano ballad collab is a bold move, but when you’re Adam Levine – celebrated hottie, muso of pretty great proportions, much-admired coach on the US offering of The Voice, and writer of the previous 10 songs – you can basically do whatever you want. I absolutely adore this song with pop/rock Queen, Gwen Stefani, mostly because their harmonies are perfect. And despite the boring as fuck chorus lyrics (let me hear you say yeahhhhh x 9836483598374650386128) I can imagine me belting this sucker out on a rainy day driving to my parents house.

If you’re a TaySway fan but want a male vocal that gets a bit sexier than Tay’s lyrics allow for, get your hands on V.

In all, top marks for this one guys. One of the better pop albums of 2014, it can have a nice round 8 keytars of excellence.

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2 thoughts on “Review: Why has it taken over a decade for Maroon 5 to soar again?

  1. Jamie says:

    As a huge Maroon 5 fan, I really enjoyed this article. nWhile the consesus on SAJ remains fairly consistent, many people believe that Maroon 5 has gotten progressively worse and this is a refreshing take. Good job.

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