REVIEW: Maroon 5 – ‘V’

Artist: Maroon 5
Album: V
Genre: Pop Rock
Label: Interscope Records

Maroon make a strong argument for continued pop radio domination with V, but the shtick is beginning to wear thin.

Unless you’re a music critic with a job that involves working through most major album releases there are only a handful of reasons to ever pick up a Maroon 5 album, and even fewer reasons why you should consider buying such a thing. In the years since Songs About Jane hit, the Adam Levine-lead group have become top 40 mainstays, and as such their albums often serve as little more than a launching platform for future singles. There is rarely any sense of cohesion or flow to be found, and that again is the case with V.

Starting with a string of potential radio singles, each slightly less infectious than the one before, V begins more with a whisper than a roar. There is a strong 1980s influence, but it stays on the fringe of most songs early on. The lead single “Maps” serves as the opener, but the strength of the song sets the bar for quality a bit too high for “Animal” and “It Was Always You” to match. “Unkiss You,” which serves as the record’s fourth track, is the album’s low point. The verses work, but the chorus is so mindless that it feels more like something a boy band would deliver than a group well into adulthood. It’s as if Levine believes his fans cannot handle anything more complex than a single word or phrase being repeated over and over again, often at a relatively slow pace. That idea may make for one solid anthem, possibly even two, but at this point in Maroon 5’s career they have stretched the concept too thin for its own good.

“Sugar,” the fifth song on the album, marks the first time V has anything truly fresh to offer. Backed by a throwback sound that would work in any decade, Levine talks about a love that got away and the cravings for their love he’s been trying to fight in the time since their departure. He wants some of their sugar, even though he knows he doesn’t deserve it, and the resulting hook is so sexy your pants may unbutton themselves before the second refrain is complete. More importantly, the song kickstarts a string of strong and diverse musical offerings that prove Maroon 5 are still evolving as a band. “Leaving California,” for example, is arguably the band’s most mature ballad to date. It’s driving from the opening note to its anthemic closing moments, building from something melancholy and soft to damn near inspiration in just under three and a half minutes.

As the album reaches its final leg, V finds Maroon 5 exploring the various directions they may push their sound in the years to come. “New Love” offers a thumping EDM bass line that makes the whole affair feel like a freight train gone off the rails while still playing to the band’s female demographic. “Come Back For You” sounds like a Duran Duran b-side made fresh once again with Levine’s signature croon. The lyrical content is nothing worth applauding, but there is a vibe to the track that is hard to shake. It sounds like late summer nights feel, when the heat is high and the sun is low. Anything is possible, even though you will probably do the same thing you do every day, and in that sense of freedom you find joy. This is again present on “Feelings,” even though the song could not sound more different than its predecessor, and then disappears entirely before the Gwen Stefani assisted closer, “My Heart Is Open,” ends things on a power ballad. It’s a chilling number, but it feels incredibly out of place when played alongside everything else V has to offer.

Though Hands All Over and Overexposed provided Maroon 5 with a number of radio hits, neither album showcased much growth from the Los Angeles based pop band. V is a bit of a different story, offering diversity and evolution while still sticking to subject matter fans expect. The results are more mixed than anyone probably would have liked, but there are a number of brilliant moments that provide hope for even better musical creations down the line. Maroon 5 do not need to innovate with each release, but here that is exactly what they decided to attempt, and that alone should give listeners enough reason to spin the album in full. You might not love everything you hear, but you will be unable to deny the growth Maroon 5 have undergone or the bright future that still lies ahead.

SCORE: 7/10
Review written by: James Shotwell

James Shotwell
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