Review Summary: crash
I've been learning about personality for the past couple months in a class for my psychology degree. One of the biggest questions in the field is whether personality traits are really something innate and lasting or just something forced on us by our chronologically and sociologically specific situations. Permanence isn't an assumed construct. This is controversial, of course, but the ability to change can at least mean people aren't defined by some uncontrollable abstract called our nature. Much of this discussion tends to boil down to personal self-concept - if you're not happy with who you are, you want "who you are" to not really exist, and if you're happy with your life, you're much more likely to be scared of the idea of that changing because of something outside of yourself. When it comes to Overexposed
, I wish I could believe that they were going to revert back to their original form, but the truth is that Maroon 5 are clearly defined by what people want them to be at that given moment.
Changing isn't bad, and the best artists do it all the time. But loss of character entirely is not. Not only does this feel like Maroon 5's soul is gone (literally - most of their previous work had touches of the genre, but it's gone now), but it feels like there's nothing there to replace it. This album is empty, meaningless. It's not annoying like Hands All Over
occasionally is, but it's just kind of floating there, with only Adam Levine's distinctive voice keeping them recognizable in the slightest. To be clear, I'm not dismissing their new identity, but the fact that there's nothing there to be called one. None of these lyrics matter in the grand scope of things or even feel like they mattered to anyone in the band - "The Man Who Never Lied" is a great example, with lines like "In the middle of Hollywood Boulevard, what am I doing in Hollywood Boulevard, in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard, screaming at each other, screaming" composing an entire verse. I have no idea what the significance of Hollywood Boulevard is to Adam Levine's personal life, and it's not clear why he was "screaming" and or why his heart was broken by the unnamed love interest, as he mentions earlier in the song, since he was dating Anne Vyalitsyna when the song was written. Admittedly, he could have written this years earlier, but it's hard to imagine anyone planning lines like that for an extended span of time, and examples like this pepper the album, not just lyrically. “Ladykiller” feels like a spiritual sequel to Hall & Oates’ “Maneater,” with significantly more boring production, writing, everything. It’s weirdly unenergetic, and feels like a demo, with seemingly random vocal bits added in the background and empty spots where drum breaks, guitar licks, even brostep drops would be more welcome. It’s hard to see why they would accept this, or “Sad,” a dull piano ballad by a band
that knows how to write exciting ballads with many instruments, or “Fortune Teller,” which actually does try to steal some brostep wobbling bass alongside very little other instrumentals but a drum, which forces Adam to provide almost the emotion with the cadence of his voice.
It’s not like this was standard for the time. Ke$ha, Imagine Dragons, Ellie Goulding, Passion Pit, Rihanna, Usher, Calvin Harris, even the Beach Boys all made far better mainstream pop albums this year. Even on this album, there are a few decent songs, enough that on first glance, this honestly seems like it could have been decent. Ryan Tedder, Max Martin and Benny Blanco were all involved with production and writing, and the band obviously has done well historically. There were nothing but good signs for a consistent, cool, if maybe slightly bland sound. This isn’t what happened. Maroon 5 showed so much effort for so long, so when they give up and just kind of let it happen, it’s glaringly obvious. This is a serious dip from their previous work, clear even when they've finally fixed their biggest problem - Overexposed
is their first album with a truly consistent sound. There's only this one thing that really identifies what went so deeply wrong here, and it's the timeframe. Barely a year on from their return to chart success with a single that is better than almost anything on here, Maroon 5 spit out something that barely sounds like anything at all.