Something happened to Maroon 5 in the five-year break between their debut album, 2002′s Songs About Jane, and 2007′s It Won’t Be Soon Before Long. The group ditched the emo pining for love and attached themselves to the burgeoning electronic revival that would morph into the EDM movement. Their material upped in bpm, while the topics moved from whiny love songs to arrogant love songs, maintaining a healthy level of self-indulgence led by frontman-slash-TV favorite Adam Levine. Perhaps that was the change; Maroon 5′s tunes got “bigger” just as Adam Levine did. And since his fame is now astronomical, the tracks on V are equally big, bold and cinematic.
The album opens with the built-in monsters “Maps,” “Animals” and “It Was Always You” arriving all in a row. That would presumably be to the detriment of any other band’s album, but since M5 is in the business of hit-making, they have many more deliverables on the 11-track offering. The assumed next hit will be “Leaving California,” as Stargate, Benny Blanco and Passovoy (the latter two co-produced “Maps”) help craft a mellowly smooth song about how heading back East marks the proverbial end of a love affair. However, the track “My Heart Is Open” is a bigger contender, with the power circle of writer Sia, producer Darkchild and featured vocalist Gwen Stefani. It’s the slowest song on the album, but with the right push it will have the fastest success.
In theory, any number on V could be made into something — whether a chart-topping single or mechanical licensing darling on some CW show. From the mid-tempo lulls of “Unkiss Me” and “Sugar” to the rhythmic thumps of “In Your Pocket” and “New Love,” Maroon 5 continue their pop stride, adding fragments of new wave and traditional ’80s rock (evidenced by “Coming Back For You,” the aforementioned “New Love,” and “Feelings”). It’s like Chromeo, with the vocoder swapped out for Adam Levine’s Prince-pitched coos and pleasantly random F-bombs.
Following past hits like “Moves Like Jagger” and “Payphone,” it was clear that there was no turning back for Maroon 5 — pop was their permanent trajectory. From that point on, it was go big or go home, and V proves that there is no shortage of stamina for the band. If anything, they’re just getting started with wearing their still-new superstar band title. For those that love a good B-side, though, this is not the album for you. Each song is carefully designed for radio, not an obscure Spotify playlist. Once the band gets used to/annoyed by the glitz and glamour, perhaps they’ll find their way back to a bonfire with bongos and an acoustic guitar. Until then, Maroon 5 is plugged in while the whole world stays tuned in.
Best Song That Wasn’t the Single: “Sugar” has a saccharine-free approach to love, as Adam Levine brings that Prince-esque tone to the hook with sexy verses to match it.
Best Listened To: While drinking a Mexican Coke. No high fructose corn syrup around these parts.
Idolator Score: 4/5
— Kathy Iandoli
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