Maroon 5 are set to release their seventh album on Friday. It’s called Jordi. The album features Megan Thee Stallion, the late Nipsey Hustle, Stevie Nicks, and a couple 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/Yankees rivalry was must-see TV, 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 cruel method of inciting madness as you look back at your past decisions and choices.
See, in my defense, Maroon 5’s first album, Songs About Jane, is pretty good. It is refreshing and fun, like an updated version of the best Hall & Oates songs run through the blender of late 90’s grunge. It’s smooth and soulful coupled with the lessons learned from the early 90s with music leaning heavily on the soft verse, loud chorus format.
Editor’s Note: We’re going to shift to past tense here because it’s just easier. Speaking glowingly of Maroon 5 in the present tense just doesn’t feel right.
The album’s first single was “Harder to Breathe” and that song drove. 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-2000s. 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 to.
Well, rock in their own kind of way. No one was flipping over any tables or throwing back shots of Jager listening to Maroon 5. Let’s not get carried away here. They rocked in a way where it was fun to play some of their songs loud.
But regardless of your gender, 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 listening to a song in the car with friends. And I listened to Maroon 5 a lot while driving 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. There was Maroon 5, Paranoid Social Club, Gang Starr, Rage Against the Machine, Soundgarden, and 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, the band’s trusty vehicle. Cook is another artist that father time has left behind for me. Still, I’ll never not 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 something of 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. Multiple keyboardists are troubling unless you’re the Roots, although to be fair, 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. Unless it’s a country/alt-country band and in that case, seven members is cool because the more guitars the merrier.
Some acts are lucky enough that they 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 because it can either show the band at its most raw or hint at some promise or potential. In the case of Maroon 5, remembering that first album is interesting as it sounds so different and so much more unique than what they are doing now over a decade later.
Bands evolve and styles change. That’s part of the game. With that being said, it’s kind of an unwritten rule of fandom that 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. That is especially true if the act in question starts veering off in a direction you don’t like.
I really liked that first Maroon 5 album and once in a blue moon, I dust it off and give it a spin. But I am under no such obligation to automatically like anything Maroon 5 did after that album.
Which is good because I didn’t and still don’t.
But I did like Songs About Jane and instead of paying any mind in the general direction of this new album of theirs, 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 Dispatch album, probably blast some Run the Jewels or find a random Phish show and call it a day.
I just think it’s best that way.