Maroon 5 – V
They’ve also pretty much become an ego-boosting side project: The Adam Levine Project.
V, the band’s fifth album, is their first not to have any input by any other member besides Levine, who had a hand in co-writing every track. To dig a little deeper, the deluxe edition features a track credited to just Adam Levine, solo.
Obviously, his image is worth something and putting him front and centre is expanding on his popularity as co-host of The Voice for the benefit of the band. But for this album, his popularity continues to limit the scope with which Maroon 5 are capable of being. The biggest change for the band isn’t their popularity or number of hit singles, it’s their sound – going from a soulful pop band with blues and jazz elements to a strict pop group that sometimes sound no different than a standard boyband or the heartthrob of the moment.
Much of that can be attributed to the who’s who of people who worked with Levine on the album. Go-to names like Ryan Tedder, Dr. Luke, Shellback, Stargate, plus Sia, Darkchild and Nate Ruess, to name a few. With so many outside forces gathering together, you might expect an explosive album full of impossibly infectious ear-worms.
In my first run-through of the album, three songs caught my attention. The 80s-dretched synth-pop mid-tempo It Was Always You, which hooks with its gentle melody and sense of pure nostaglia; My Heart Is Open, featuring a bored-sounding Gwen Stefani, which only stood out because as a piano ballad, it broke the monotony of the album; and on the deluxe edition, their cover of Sex And Candy. It’s surprisingly well done as a blues-sounding cover and while 90s purists would be quick to hate it, I’m a 90s purist and I like it. How about that.
Beyond those tracks, the album consists of mostly underwhelming, generic made-for-radio songs. First single Maps was their least enticing album kick-off to date, failing to match the immediacy of Payphone, or the charismatic sassiness of Misery, Makes Me Wonder and Harder To Breathe.
Leaving California, co-written with Nate Ruess, does somewhat emulate .fun‘s arena-pop sound but doesn’t quite reach the mark, while Feelings is at the top of the catchy scale on an album with songs that range in catchiness. On Unkiss Me, Adam sounds like Gavin DeGraw doing his best One Republic (note: Neither Ryan Tedder nor Gavin had a hand in it).
V is a crisp, clean and perfect album, but perfect in the sense that it’s sterile. Other than It Was Always You, which I would say is their most captivating song since Songs About Jane, there is little to invest in. If the writers and producers chosen are any indication, it’s an album made for radio with no intention of being anything to anyone in two years. Even radio may pass on it sooner than later.
3. It Was Always You
4. Unkiss Me
6. Leaving California
7. In Your Pocket
8. New Love
9. Coming Back For You
11. My Heart Is Open [featuring Gwen Stefani]
12. Shoot Love*
13. Sex And Candy*
14. Lost Stars*
* deluxe edition