Release Date: Sep 2, 2014
Record label: Interscope
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Contemporary Pop/Rock
"Going so high, we fuck the sky!" Adam Levine sings on Maroon 5's fifth album – and he and the band make good on their promise. The 11 songs here are precision-tuned and lustrously polished, jammed with hooks and choruses that build a man cave in your brain. In terms of stylistic seamlessness and fluid forward motion, V might even be sharper than their 2012 blockbuster, Overexposed, which gave us "Payphone," a dazzling spectacle of 21st-century Top 40 self-assurance.
It wasn't noted much at the time, but founding keyboardist Jesse Carmichael sat out Maroon 5's 2012 album Overexposed -- a circumstance that just happened to coincide with Adam Levine capitalizing on his Voice-fueled stardom. Overexposed and over-filled with guest producers and songwriters drafted to compensate for the absent Carmichael, rapper Wiz Khalifa, reliable Swedish hitmakers Max Martin & Shellback, and icy OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder gave the group a steely sleekness to suit contemporary charts. Some of this is retained on V, the 2014 record that marks Carmichael's return to the group, partially because all those guests save Khalifa return for a second helping.
Twenty-seven million album sales and multiple Max Martin collaborations into its career, Maroon 5 can no longer accurately be called a rock band, as much as Adam Levine’s increasingly dense skin canvass of tattoos might seem to indicate that the label still applies. As the band has maintained a consistent presence in the global pop market over the past decade, whatever sharp edges it displayed on 2002’s Songs About Jane—the cheeky garage-guitars on “Harder to Breathe”, say—have been sanded down, lacquered over, and decorated with an impressively slick array of flashy sonic embellishments, culminating in the parade of top-ten singles produced by its 2012 effort Overexposed. When a band starts releasing songs via lucrative inclusions in Kia Soul commercials (see: the recent offering “Animals”), it’s fair to identify that behavior as selling out.
Maroon 5 loves the ‘80s. How much, you ask? Enough to make the instrumentation, production, and even some melodies or titles, from that era the bedrock of their fifth and latest album. The first single, “Maps,” directly rips off not one, but two, Police singles - “Roxanne” and “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” - stitching its melodies into a sonic Frankenstein.
Super-selling LA sextet Maroon 5 don't care about kudos – they care about taking advantage of romantic stereotypes and planting their unavoidable earworms. This fifth studio album is a gaudy chunk of over-produced electro-pop-rock with vocals by People magazine's "sexiest man alive", Adam Levine, who delivers his Sting-like croon with heady sentiment and some halfhearted swearwords. It verges on creepy at times – a mawkish cover of Marcy Playground's Sex and Candy neatly summarises the band's sugary and desperate audience seduction – but flips a smug V-sign at us, knowing we'll never free its singles from our skulls.
When Maroon 5 released Moves Like Jagger in 2011, they achieved something no other band had ever achieved: they made sane people question whether they might, in fact, quite like Maroon 5. Frontman Adam Levine was aware of that track's evil genius, and his band seem keen to repeat it on fifth album, V, a series of precision-tooled pop songs constructed with the help of some top-level mechanics (Max Martin, Ryan Tedder and Sia, to name just three). There are enough hooks here to show how the LA band have shifted 17m albums, but also evidence as to why most people can't remember a Maroon 5 song two seconds after it finishes.
Between Magic!’s “Rude” and Nico & Vinz’s “Am I Wrong,” reggae has been in vogue this summer. So, naturally, the new Maroon 5 album, V, opens with a reggae number that plots a perfect middle point between those two hits. Since singer Adam Levine parlayed his gig on The Voice into renewed stardom, Maroon 5 has reinvented itself as the country’s most opportunistic band, spiritedly appropriating Top 40 trends with a cold, calculated precision usually reserved for political consultants and SEO analysts.
Sometimes the voice of an era is the one that you forget all about, the one that was so ubiquitous and inoffensive, it practically became background noise. In the 1990s, that distinction likely belonged to Adam Duritz, a jangly, scattered vocalist with a hobo’s air. His band, Counting Crows, had a seven-times platinum debut in 1993, “August and Everything After” in clear defiance of grunge’s ascent, and continued releasing platinum albums through the decade.
Pop music has experienced a few epochs since Adam Levine & Co. slinked onto the airwaves with “Harder to Breathe” in 2002. Maroon 5 has kept up, and “V,” executive produced by Hot 100 titan Max Martin, is full of today’s pop signifiers: larger-than-life drumbeats, star-spangled keyboards, hordes of people singing wordlessly, Levine pushing his upper range to its limits.