Review Summary: Adam Levine cashes i—I mean consolidates on his commercially successful solo debut with his sophomore effort.
Pulling no punches, The Voice was the worst thing to ever happen to Maroon 5. Sure, frontman Adam Levine’s gig as judge brought the band more exposure, and “Moves Like Jagger” catapulted the already well-known group into the starlight reserved only for mainstream pop’s hottest acts.
But the glow of success proved to be a garish light indeed. Following “Jagger,” Maroon 5’s fourth LP was clearly the weakest entry in the band’s discography. Overproduced and overwrought, Overexposed
signaled the good days were, well, over. It was a collection of songs about Adam, and on V
, let’s just say the cult of personality is still very much in tow.
plays immediately as if it’s the consolidated follow up to Levine’s solo debut. The slick beats and synths are prominent; the rest of the group is not. Even though lead single “Maps” has James Valentine’s groovy guitar in the subdued verses, it’s immediately drowned out by the wash of mainstream pop’s favorite electronic bells and whistles by the time Levine’s falsetto croons “map that leads to you!” “Animals” is worse and features the dooshy repetitive background vocals of “hey” found on Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” and Tyga’s “Rack City” three years prior. “It Was Always You” has a dubstep beat. “My Heart is Open” boasts the guest vocals of Gwen Stefani. So, it’s no surprise that most of V
borrows from hit music's grab-bag of goodies and comes off as an ill-advised experiment breeding Bruno Mars’ terrible imitation of the 80s with Justin Timberlake’s new age pop sensibilities.
What distinguishes V
is that Levine’s vocals are the most uninspired they have ever been. He’s always had such a compelling pair of pipes with his high register, but his voice often bleeds into the cacophony of synth and beats and saps any emotion from it. Each track is blandly pleasant like elevator music before fading into the next forgettable offering. This is especially prevalent on numbers like “Feelings,” “Shoot Me” and on the dull ballads “Unkiss Me” and “Leaving California,” which makes you marvel at how this is basically the same band that produced such cuts as “She Will Be Loved” and “Sunday Morning” almost 15 years ago. Therefore, V
is more vapid and insipid than its predecessor which at least had the anguish of the jaded lover in “Payphone” and the raunchy swagger of “One More Night” before “Daylight” and “Love Somebody” revealed the lackluster tedium to follow two years later.
Perhaps what’s most unbearable is that V
's best moments are not the mildly interesting tunes and hooks on “Maps,” “In Your Pocket” and “Coming Back For You.” Even “Sugar,” which comes the closest to vintage Maroon 5, is agonizingly lacking compared to what’s on V
’s deluxe edition. Rather, Levine and company soulfully cover the 90’s alternative rock classic “Sex and Candy” and really make it their own. Marcy Playground’s original is better but not by much. It’s still the best thing they’ve done in years. And Levine’s “Lost Stars” is not too shabby for the featured song on the soundtrack of the rom-com Begin Again
, which marks Levine’s film debut. However, it’s still too much to trudge through the sonic quagmire of V
to get to these riches. Their very tantalizing existence makes you shake your fist and exclaim, “You bastards!” And you still had to pay a little extra to hear them.
Ironically, we have at least the angst of “Harder to Breathe” coupled with the pop-rock bliss of “This Love,” “Misery” and the criminally underrated “Never Gonna Leave This Bed” to console us, the latter of which was snuffed out just as it was gaining steam on the radio by “Moves Like Jagger.” It still doesn’t change the fact Overexposed
put Maroon 5 in the grave for Levine to just clamber over its corpse on his bid to stardom. V
just serves as the sneering epitaph to desecrate the honorable dead.
"Sex and Candy"