Album review: Maroon 5's 'V' presents pristine pop
While they certainly weren’t dormant, the NBC talent reality show revived the band and brought them back to a level they hadn’t seen since their breakthrough, 2002’s “Songs About Jane.” Ever since 2011’s “Moves Like Jagger,” featuring fellow sometimes “Voice” coach Christina Aguilera, Maroon 5 has seldom been of a pop or AC chart.
Just as Maroon 5 did on its last album, 2012’s “Overexposed,” for new set, “V,” the group also enlisted a phalanx of hit songwriters and producers — Ryan Tedder, Shellback, Dr. Luke, Sia, Stargate, Benny Blanco— to come up with the poppiest of pop material. The result is a shiny, pristine album that sounds great, if a little anodyne and generic. Maroon 5’s self-penned earliest hits like “This Love” and “Harder To Breathe” were less well-crafted, but more distinctive. That said, there’s plenty on “V” to recommend it, even if it doesn't have anything quite as catchy as "Overexposed's" "Payphone."
Below is a track-by-track review:
“Maps”: Tedder co-penned opening track and first single features Levine doing his best Sting imitation on this jaunty Police-lite tune about following your love. Already peaked in the Top 10. GRADE: B+
“Animals”: A little something different for M5, “Animals” boasts a heavy drum loop as Levine compares finding love to stalking prey, as he plans to hunt her down. “Baby, you think you can hide, I can smell your scent for miles.” Ew… GRADE: B-
“It Was Always You”: Again, something different from M5. An echo-y, electronic ‘80s track grounds a terrific in-your-face vocal from Levine about searching for what was missing to realize it was in front of him all along. Would have felt right at home in an episode of “Miami Vice,” and we mean that as a compliment. GRADE: B
“Unkiss Me”: M5 takes on OneRepublic on this loping song about a cheating girl. Levine even sounds a little like Ryan Tedder as he sings in a lower register. Interestingly, this isn’t one of the tracks to which Tedder contributed. GRADE: B
“Sugar”: The best Katy Perry song she hasn’t cut. Actually, she did— it was called “Birthday.” Co-written by Dr. Luke and Mike Posner, among others, it’s combines acoustic guitar with punchy electronic instrumentation. Total earworm—despite your best intentions. GRADE: B+
“Leaving California”: Soaring ballad co-written by fun.’s Nate Ruess allows Levine to show off his fine-tuned falsetto. GRADE: B
“In Your Pocket”: Another mid-tempo track, built around a chugging drum loop, about mistrust as two lovers circle each other and each other’s cell phones. GRADE: C
“New Love”: Frenetic, drum-loop based song drowns under its own weighty production— one of the very few on the album where that happens. Probably because it’s not a strong song to begin with. GRADE: C-
“Coming Back For You”: Throwback ‘80s with synth and drum loops galore is bolstered by Levine’s strong vocal, but it needs a catchier chorus. GRADE: B-
“Feelings”: Fun, disco-oriented track about a lighthearted romance. Put on your boogie shoes and clap along to this one and don’t worry about the mindless lyrics. Just give yourself over to the rhythm. GRADE: B
“My Heart Is Open,” featuring Gwen Stefani: Levine and his fellow “The Voice” coach, Stefani, take what doubles as a promotional plug for the new season and turn it into a nice ballad, reminiscent of A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera’s “Say Something.” The Sia co-wrote sounds like a hit, even if it didn’t have a TV show connection. Grade: B+