Album review: Maroon 5 – V
No band are more dependent on hit singles than Maroon 5. Sure, they have sold an impressive 17 million albums – but most of that success was powered by a string of glittering hits to cover up what has been, so far, four stodgy albums.
Perhaps this was on the mind of the singer, band leader and The Voice (American version) coach Adam Levine, when returning to the studio to record the band’s fifth release, V. Levine and a gaggle of the pop world’s top producers reportedly set out to craft the most consistent Maroon 5 release yet.
A noble ambition. However, as it transpires, the aim seems to have been nothing more than creating another batch of potential singles as opposed to anything cohesive. The end product is a shining corporate release that is so eager to please that it nearly sacrifices all of its charms.
This is a pity as there is a lot to enjoy about V. The opening salvo, Maps and Animals, comprises two of the album’s strongest tracks – and, unsurprisingly, its first two singles. Levine has never hidden his admiration for Sting and he apes his inspiration all over Maps (co-produced by One Republic’s Ryan Tedder). The slinky verse sounds like an updated homage to Roxanne before the driving bridge provides a faint echo of Message in a Bottle.
Animals picks up where One More Night left off – it’s another carnal tale where Levine plays a mix of stalker and Lothario. The lyrics are clunky at best but that loping falsetto hook is simply irresistible. The highlight, however, is undoubtedly Sugar. This breezy disco jam has a bullseye of a chorus that will have you singing along immediately.
Unfortunately, most of the remaining tracks fall under the weight of their calculated nature. The power ballad Leaving California boasts a huge arms-in-the-air chorus that sounds too laboured to be any fun. In the dance-driven Feelings, Levine tries so hard to out-Jamiroquai the feather-hatted one that his shrill falsetto positively grates.
The less said about the closing piano ballad, the plodding My Heart Is Open, the better. The much touted duet (a rare failure by the ace songwriter and Chandelier singer Sia Furler) with fellow Voice coach Gwen Stefani is absolutely charmless – both can use it in the talent show as an example of a performance that doesn’t gel.
With the album and the single Maps recently topping the charts, Maroon 5’s success continues unabated. However V increasingly affirms they offer little more than radio fodder.