Maroon 5 has always been a paradox in my mind. On one hand, they’re impossibly catchy, very talented musicians for the genre they play in, and the lyrics are fairly good, while admittedly never profound. However, I mean Christ, they made that song “This Love", they are always on MTV, and that front man is just too goddamn pretty for his own good. I honestly doubt there has been any album that I’ve loved/hated more than this; at times I can’t stop playing it, while at others I erase it from my hard drive entirely out of anger. Where does this leave me today? With the distinct impression I overplayed some of the best pop music of recent years.
I suppose the first thing that should be addressed is singer Adam Levine and his rather ‘endearing’ voice. While there are at times cries of his vocals being too heavily produced, I find that they did a perfect job of capturing it. It’s high and annoying, similar to many similar male pop vocalists in the mainstream these days, but at times still holds a hint of edge and a sense of Levine being more than slightly jaded. It was more unique when Songs About Jane
was first released, but it still stands out two years later. A more surprising aspect of the band, however, it how good the actual music is.
Now, granted, pop music normally isn’t about the band members. It’s about how much people like the singer, and then in turn how much they can “relate" with the lyrics. Maroon 5 is no exception to this rule; instead, in addition to that, they actually know how to create interesting compositions. James Valentine can provide some very nice and fluid guitar progressions, standouts including those off of Harder to Breath, Shiver,
and Not Coming Home
. While not being anything new, Valentine still knows how to lay down a nice compliment to Levine’s vocal styling, and at times can steal the show, most noticeably on Shiver
. Mickey Madden is obviously no Les Claypool (or even Mike Dirnt…), but at times he can provide a steady, if unoriginal, bass line to keep the song a’ rolling. Drums for the album were provided by Ryan Dusick, and while he may act as a metronome for most of the album, he functions well as a cover up for the weaker parts of the rhythm section. Through With You
does show him providing some interesting fills, and is also one of the few instances keyboardist Jesse Carmichael is really noticeable. While the lighter tracks may have some more of influence, its obvious that for most of the album he is merely an afterthought.
As mentioned briefly at the beginning, lyrically this album is not to be taken lightly. While not breaking any new ground in the songwriting department, much of this is cliché and sappy topics made more interesting due to Levine’s psuedo-dark writing style. Secret
is the quintessential down and dirty sex ballad, as Levine simply states “And as you wipe of beads of sweat, slowly you say ‘I’m not there yet!’". The infamous This Love
is the ode to women who, frankly, toy with guy’s emotions. While it’s all rather childish, you can’t help but sing along to “And I won’t say goodbye anymore". However, the third single She Will Be Loved
features Levine at his best, being about a young girl (probably around 18, maybe even a beauty queen) who runs to him in her times of trouble. Escaping the realms of being relatively contrived by his honest “answers" to the young lady (“It’s not always rainbows and butterflies, it’s compromise that moves us along" may seem cliché, but works extremely well within the context of the song), it’s one of the more emotional, if not quite moving, singles of recent years.
Enough about all of that, though, there are obvious discussions of the songs to be had. Harder to Breathe
was the first single off the album, and arguably its strongest. With extremely well placed “Whoah-oh’s" (a staple of pop, to be sure), and a funky guitar line from Valentine, the slight techno feel lends to the songs aesthetic quite well. The ever-popular pop/alt rock solo accompanying the song is also a welcome, if strange, surprise. Sunday Morning
, the fourth single from the album, was actually quite a mystery to me. After releasing three strong songs, they released in my mind the weakest track on the album. While there isn’t anything specifically wrong with the album, it drags on for too long, and doesn’t do anything whatsoever to differentiate itself from the album, even the addition of horns didn’t do it for me. Levine’s voice proves to be the strong point once again, but this quickly turns into a skippable track.
However, that’s not to say the song following Sunday Morning
is anything short of great. Secret
(the previously mentioned “sex ballad") is one of the darker songs on the album, and the 45-second ambience intro helps add to the mood and atmosphere of the song. While relatively simple and low key, Levine’s voice and lyricism is the glue once again. While the song may feel biting and gloomy, the following song Through With You
takes the same dark concepts, but adds a bouncy guitar line and key’s to make an effective juxtaposition. While it runs somewhat in the same vein as Sunday Morning
in that it’s a tad bit indistinguishable, the far more interesting lyrical matter (about a rather forceful breakup) gives it a bit more than a slight edge.
All in all, however, this album is excellent. Yes, it may easily get on your nerves; unlike some albums, this is one of those where extreme overplaying can cause you to hate it. Radio play of This Love
has ingrained a new “angry-vein" in my head that pops up whenever I even hear mention of it. However, very few mainstream pop albums in the past two, hell, five years have hit both this level of musicianship and songwriting ability. Maroon 5 takes concepts normally frowned upon by the “real" music community, and somehow makes them refreshing and interesting to listen to. Yes, if you hate pop music, you probably wont like Maroon 5, or this album. If you think songs about women and failed relationship are “so 30 years ago", you probably wont like Maroon 5. You know why you might like Maroon 5? Because you, like me, enjoy a high pitched, slightly effeminate singer like Adam Levine, appreciate some catchy and sometimes jaded music, and can understand that Tangled
is in fact, not
about pubic hair.
Harder To Breathe
She Will Be Loved