Maroon 5 released their sixth album today. It’s called Red Pill Blues and it features Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky and like, one or two other people.
I could care less.
However, there was a time, a long, long time ago, back when George W. Bush was president, the Red Sox were the Red Sox of old and CD books were a thing, when I actually cared quite a bit about Maroon 5. It seems borderline nuts now, but the passage of time is nothing if not a method of inciting madness as you look back at your past decisions and choices.
See, Maroon 5’s first album, Songs About Jane, was really good. It was refreshing and fun, like an updated version of the best Hall & Oates songs run through the blender of late 90’s grunge – with the caveat being that grunge didn’t really exist in the late 90’s, but the memory remained in the way guitars were played and songs were constructed in a soft verse, loud chorus fashion.
The album’s first single was “Harder to Breathe” and that song drove, dude. The beat and groove were pulsating forward in a way that made the song sound more rocking than it actually was. As far as opening tracks go, it was a damn good one.
The songs that brought the majority of people to the tent were the second and third singles, “This Love” and “She Will Be Loved.” “This Love” went on to win a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo/Group in 2006, four years after it was released. So yeah, it’s not like the band was an overnight success. They just kind of kept building momentum and speed until all of sudden they were everywhere, the “it” band of the mid 2000’s. Maroon 5 hit that sweet spot in terms of audience response. The gals liked them because you could dance to their music and front-man Adam Levine was a good-looking dude and the fellas were cool with them because they played pop rock that didn’t treat the rock part for granted. They could really rock if they wanted too.
And come on, how could you not like their song “Sunday Morning?”
It’s light, breezy, fun to sing along to – everything you could possibly ask for when it comes to say, listening to a song in the car with friends. And I listened to Maroon 5 while driving a lot during a stretch there between 2003-2006. When the band I was in at the time was traveling around the Northeast for shows, it was one of those albums that seemed to be in heavy rotation. I feel like it was Maroon 5, Paranoid Social Club, Gang Starr and then maybe Rage Against the Machine, Soundgarden and possibly Sublime, because who wasn’t listening to Sublime in those days.
Oddly enough, Dane Cook’s first two comedy albums Harmful If Swallowed and Retaliation were also frequently played in the Super Trooper. Cook is another artist that father time has left behind for me. Still, I’ll never think about screaming YOU’RE ABOUT TO BE HIT BY A VEHICLE when I see it almost happen.
Since Songs About Jane, Maroon 5 have gone in a direction I would say isn’t ideal from my perspective. They definitely left the rock part of themselves behind years ago and fully embraced the pop. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it’s just not my jam. Levine has become kind of like a revised version of that dude from Sugar Ray, Mark McGrath, a pop culture personality who has become bigger than his band, but in a way that’s not always positive.
Also, somehow there are seven guys in Maroon 5 now. Seven! And at least two of those guys play keyboards. That is almost never a good sign, the Roots being one of the main exceptions because as a general principal, the Roots are typically an exception to most rules. If you have seven members in a band, at least one of them should be playing a horn of some sort or, and this is limited in a scope to country/alt-country bands, three guitars are okay.
Bands can have such long careers that where they started out can easily get lost and forgotten. But I think it’s important to remember that first album or two, especially in the case of Maroon 5, as it sounds so different and unique than what they are doing now, over a decade later. Bands evolve and styles change, that’s part of the game. However, if a band is around for more than three or four albums, you’re really under no obligation to stick with them through the entirety of their career. At a certain point, there’s a bail out option, especially if they start veering off in a direction you don’t like. I really liked that first Maroon 5 album, but I was under no such obligation to automatically like anything they did after that, which is good, because I don’t.
But I did like Songs About Jane and instead of paying any mind in the general direction of Red Pill Blues, I’ll look fondly back on “Sunday Morning” and “Harder to Breathe” and “Not Coming Home.” Then I’ll go about my day, check out the new Pinegrove song, probably blast some Run the Jewels and call it a day.
I just think it’s best that way.