Release Date: Nov 3, 2017
Record label: Interscope
On the sixth M5 LP, Adam Levine nuances a role he plays well: the Top 40 old-soul navigating whatever the pop-music moment throws his way. He works well alongside young talent, trading playful "hey now, baby"s with SZA over crisp brunch funk on "What Lovers Do" and ascending into falsetto sunshine with Julia Michaels on "Help Me Out." Kendrick Lamar provides a high point simply by showing up for "Don't Wanna Know." Whether skating over house beats on "Plastic Rose" or cruising through a ballad like "Denim Jacket," Levine proves himself a pliant star of Jacksonian ease and Stingly self-assurance. .
Set aside the unforced error of the title Red Pill Blues, an allusion to The Matrix that has also been co-opted by Men's Right Activists -- a group whose combative sensibility is the polar opposite of the perpetually smooth Maroon 5. Set aside, too, the album cover, where the group -- who now number seven -- are all decked out with Snapchat filters, a gambit that suggests the group is a bit too sensitive about their veteran status. Taken on its own musical terms, Red Pill Blues is a sleek, assured affair, one that sustains a seductive neon-streaked mood from beginning to end.
Q uite how Maroon 5 have become one of the world's biggest groups might seem a mystery worthy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But, as Sherlock Holmes was wont to say: once you have removed the impossible, what remains - however unlikely - must be the truth. And what remains are a handful of impeccably structured pop songs - the likes of This Love and Moves Like Jagger - that are enough to generate Maroon 5's huge popularity.
Adam Levine's voice is one of the most benignly ubiquitous sounds in pop. It is air-conditioning, it is tap water, it is a thermostat set to 72 degrees. It's coming, right now, from behind that potted plant over there. It doesn't even belong to Levine's throat alone--it is a sine wave that has also been loaned out to Akon, to Bruno Mars, to Nico & Vinz.
There's a new Blade Runner in movie theaters. The most buzzed-about television series is an amalgamation of the peak-era work of Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, and John Hughes. Even the pop charts bear the unmistakable whiff of Aqua Net. So it should come as no surprise that, in the grand tradition of Bruno Mars reinventing himself into a more tween-friendly Morris Day of the Time, Maroon 5 has, with Red Pill Blues, rebranded themselves as Daryl Hall and six John Oates—or at least a watered-down Chromeo.