Review Summary: nosediveHands All Over
arrived at a key point in Maroon 5's career. They'd proven themselves twice, made ridiculous amounts of money, and somehow were only on their third album eight years in. At this point, if they made one more solid project, they could have had resounding long-term acclaim (if only for their beginning of their career), It Won't Be Soon Before Long
would have been reevaluated and eventually received the acclaim it deserved, and they would have probably had a very different career path, motivated as a group and not just a solo project in disguise. But that's not what happened, at all. This album convinced anyone who was still holding onto Maroon 5 as a consistently good band (yours truly included) that those days were gone. Completely hit-or-miss, it defied expectations by failing in the ways they had never failed before, while still barely holding on by virtue of the ways they hadn't yet.
The best moments here are the ones that basically just sound like something off an older album. "Misery" is alright at best but it sets the energy for the hot and funky "Give A Little More" and "Stutter," which mixes the corny feel-good energy they had mastered previously with raw energy for the first time. This dies out after the next couple tracks for a more subdued vibe, laying on the beach, drying out to the showtune-esque "Don't Know Nothing" and "I Can't Lie," which is sure to be performed by an acapella cover band at some point. Shortly after that, "How" and "Get Back In My Life" hit, which are pleasant enough to be played by Sara Barreiles or Five for Fighting. For the most part, these songs are good at best, not particularly praiseworthy but certainly not what drags the album down. In fact, the end of the tracklist, where Maroon 5 typically suffer, houses some of the best tracks, like the legitimately beautiful "Just A Feeling" and the spunky, bright "Runaway."
What hurts Hands All Over
is twofold. First off, there's just an overall sense of mediocrity and weaker writing than ever. It's hard to listen to this while having heard the rest of their discography. "Out of Goodbyes" is supposed to be taken seriously when "Won't Go Home Without You" exists. "Shiver" is a more complex and sonically diverse "Don't Know Nothing." And there's so many sounds here playing all the time, when they used to use silence in the best way, and even manage to regain that ability to some degree later on. Lyrics are worse than ever, and it's not endearing anymore when it doesn't seem like they care. Second, and most importantly, some of the tracks on here are just terrible. The title track is probably their lowest point as a band, a completely misplaced Bon Jovi rip-off in an album that's just trying to capitalize on Train hype. While "Get Back In My Life" doesn't viscerally irritate like the former, its forgettable growls and jittery bits certainly aren't any good. These songs ruin the flow of what could have been at least a decent album, not great but shining through at its peaks. Instead, they balance out the best parts to create a mixed bag, with a couple nice songs, a lot of filler, and two awful ones.
This was released in September 2010. Nine months later, lead singer and creative force Adam Levine's partnership with The Voice gave birth to the massively successful electropop "Moves Like Jagger," setting the stage for the future of the band. In another hypothetical world, they would have delayed the release of their third album until then, and they could have reacted accordingly instead of dropping this largely low-effort spitfire of attempts to take over the LITE FM stations. For a band so previously focused on at least succeeding in style, it's disappointing to watch them give up in their prime, especially when with just a few changes this could have been alright, instead of just average.