#TBT: Gimme Some of That Old Skool Maroon 5
“Is there anyone out there ‘cause it’s getting harder and harder to [listen to Maroon 5’s new music]”. I’ll be the first to admit that I was a huge Maroon 5 fan in middle school when they dropped Songs about Jane and simply stormed the music scene. If I remember correctly, that was one of the first CDs I owned. Sadly, in the years to come, their direction definitely took a turn for the worst as they lost touch with their original sound. I can’t even bare to listen to some of their newest material without cringing. In honor of what could have been, let’s take a journey through Maroon 5’s past. Like I said, Maroon 5 captured the attention of America back in 2002 when they hit the ground running with the release of Songs about Jane. It’s hard to really categorize the sound of this album but I think Spotify sums it up pretty well by calling it a fusion of pop, rock, and neo-soul. There’s a hint of sassiness to this album that can found in songs “Harder to Breathe” and “This Love” as Adam Levine sings about his complicated relationships; meanwhile, on songs like “Sunday Morning” Levine swoons the ladies and flaunts his sensitive side. Aside from the irresistibility of Levine’s voice, among other things, Maroon 5 does an excellent job at selecting the instrumentation to match the feel of each of their songs. Moreover, “Harder to Breathe” and “This Love” bring sassy funk vibes and aggressive rock accents to the table while “Sunday Morning” breaks out the piano to accent the sensitive, raw vibes. In my opinion, one of the best attributes of the band proves to be their ability to mix it up and be flexible. Songs about Jane is a perfect example of this ability. Just to throw it back, take a listen to “Harder to Breathe” before we continue our journey.
After a few years of milking Songs about Jane and all it’s ensuing success, Maroon 5 returned back to the studio to work on their sophomore effort, It Won’t Be Soon Before Long, which was put out in 2007. This album definitely has songs that are reminiscent of Songs about Jane, but I would consider this the breaking point where Maroon 5 begins to tamper with a new sound and essentially sell out by adopting a pop driven sound. Once again, Levine sings primarily about the ladies on this album but gets as aggressive as can be in songs such as “Kiwi” with very, very blatant sexual undertones. The redeeming qualities of this album stem from the songs that feature the horn line and auxiliary percussion. I absolutely love when bands feature horn parts in their songs as I feel that it really adds a new dimension to the music and helps accent overall drive of the song. Popular songs on this album include “Makes Me Wonder”, “Wake Up Call”, “Kiwi”, and “Won’t Go Home Without You”. While these songs are enjoyable, there are plenty of plain strikeouts on this album like “Little Of Your Time” – I’ve got no idea what Maroon 5 was trying to do with that one. Overall, before we venture into the land of no return, take a listen to “Kiwi”!
2010 marks the year that Maroon 5 really lost my allegiance and did what every decent musician tends to do nowadays, sell out. Maroon 5’s third album, Hands All Over, consists of a bunch of generic pop songs that were played so much when they were released that whenever I hear them nowadays I go slightly insane. The biggest turnoff of this album proves to be Levine’s heavy reliance on auto tune. It’s evident on their earlier work that Levine has a very melodic and flexible voice so it’s really unnecessary for him to rely on auto tune. Additionally, this album really strays away from the rock edge that Maroon 5 gained popularity from and progresses to a fabricated and produced sound. While this may appease the general listening audience, I’m simply just not a fan. They also completely a lot of the auxiliary percussion and horn lines accents that relished their previous works. If you don’t believe me, just take a listen to “Moves like Jagger”.
For the sake of this article, I will skip over Overexposed, released in 2012, because it’s very similar in style and sound to Hands All Over. Time to take a look at their latest release, V. While I could at least tolerate some of Maroon 5’s later works, I can’t stand V at all. This album culminates Maroon 5’s transition into strictly a pop act and it just doesn’t hold my attention. Listening through these songs, it’s impossible to find even iota of what originally fostered my passion for Maroon 5. I mean, just take a listen to “Animals”.
This album relies too heavily on prerecorded sound bits and auto tune for me to really get into it. Obviously this direction has paid off for Maroon 5 as their still racking in the big bucks and selling out shows but I feel as though they have really lost a majority of their core fan base. Whenever I chat with people about Maroon 5, everyone reminisces about the days of old skool Maroon 5.
While with most bands I usually hold onto the slim chance they will pick back up their old sound, Maroon 5 is definitely is too far in the hole to make an escape. For now I’ll just listen to Songs about Jane and dream about what could have been.