Whether by mere coincidence or an actual influencing factor, it’s safe to say Maroon 5’s music went downhill as soon as they gained more than five members. While evolving as a group and adapting to new trends may sound like a reasonable and strategic move, many fans (myself included) think otherwise.
I had been waiting for a part two of “Songs About Jane” for years now, and my hopes were dashed with the latest release of “Red Pill Blues” last week. This wish wasn’t a mere shout to the void either, seeing as in November 2015, guitarist James Valentine responded to a fan on Facebook and said the group wanted “to make a more traditional record next like the way we made ‘Songs About Jane’ just sitting in a room with our instruments and slugging it out. It’s been fun to experiment on the last couple of records with the more electronic sounds, but maybe we’ve gone as far as we can with that for now.”
“Red Pill Blues” is the polar opposite of Valentine’s promises. EDM holds a special place in my heart but not in my Maroon 5 collection. In 2008, the release of “Call and Response: The Remix Album” was an atrocity, at least by my standards. While “Red Pill Blues” doesn’t implement the same style, the vibe is still heavily electronic and loses a lot of the raw talent the group possesses in the process.
The lyrics are also generic and clearly produced with the intent of radio plays and popularity in the club. Gone are the days of poetic songs that actually made you feel something. Money is a big player in any industry, but Maroon 5 shouldn’t have to sacrifice their greatness for platitude.
Even without deeply profound lyrics, props are still in order for Adam Levine for at least still churning out material in the writing room and putting it to a beat, unlike many current pop artists. There’s no denying his musical ear, as has been made clear from his coaching on the Voice, and perhaps that’s why my disappointment runs so deep. “Red Pill Blues” isn’t reflective of his potential abilities.
Nevertheless, critics have responded to “Red Pill Blues” with an overwhelmingly positive response, presumably gauging it on today’s cultural trend, rather than the substance of the band’s improvement as a whole.
At the beginning of Maroon 5’s popularity, it was hard to put a genre label to the band. This was something they were prideful in, and rightfully so. Now, their style is so clearly modern. Every pop star and DJ from here to Timbuktu is featuring rap artists, and it hurts to see Maroon 5 hopping on the bandwagon, too, with five of their tracks including verses from prominent figures in the rap game such as Future and Kendrick Lamar.
Their latest album isn’t devoid of any redeemable qualities, but it’s certainly digressing farther away from the band I fell in love with in “Songs About Jane” and “Red Pill Blues” is my least favorite album to date. Maroon 5 has just become more basic, but that’s not saying I still won’t bop to a few staple singles like “What Lovers Do” and “Help Me Out.”
While I’d do anything to go back to the days when Adam’s crooning and Valentine’s guitar riffing gave me goosebumps, it’s going to take more than some mainstream songs to shake the girl who even has their acoustical EP from 2003 and live Friday the 13th show from 2005 in her iTunes library.