After their stellar debut Songs About Jane in 2002, I’ve totally gotten used to the fact that Maroon 5 is a hit-and-miss band on every subsequent album. In the 3 albums since their debut, for every “Moves Like Jagger” and “Makes Me Wonder”, there’s a clunker you never want to hear again. Entering into the era of their fifth album, V (well, that’s a rather obvious title), the California pop-rock band was following that same pattern. First single, “Maps”, was kinda boring (other than its gospel breakdown towards the end), but it did become an earworm you couldn’t escape. Then the promotional single, “It Was Always You”, is a crazy good 80s throwback, but then second single, “Animals”, is just plain annoying. Hit-and-miss.
Well, boy was I wrong. Listening to V, you’re waiting for a track to be a “miss” and it just doesn’t happen. After the 3 previously mentioned songs lead off the album (“Animals” doesn’t sound as bad in the context of the album), “Unkiss Me” is a thrillingly original heartbreak song accompanied by a Justin Timberlake groove. “Sugar” is reminiscent of Katy Perry‘s “Teenage Dream”, but it’s not a copycat. Its summery guitar groove stands on its own.
The band accepted a full-on pop sound a couple albums ago, so it’s bound to have similarities to other artists, but never before has the genre worked so well for Maroon 5. It helps that Adam Levine pushes his voice more than I’ve ever heard before. Some of the high notes, like on “Sugar”, “Leaving California”, “New Love”, and “Lost Stars”, are really impressive. He’s still got some surprises in his bag of tricks.
Co-written by fun.’s Nate Ruess, “Leaving California”, is one of the bombastic ballads the band has ever had, “In Your Pocket” is an angry song about infidelity with a pounding tribal drum, and if you thought “It Was Always You” had an 80s vibe, wait until you hear “Coming Back To You” and “Feelings”. They are full throttle synthesized love songs that are just pure fun. Then there’s the closer “My Heart Is Open” with Gwen Stefani. Adam wasted no time in signing up the future The Voice co-judge (debuting in late September) for a track, but it’s not the funky, offbeat track you’d expect. Co-written by Sia, it’s a simple piano ballad with major power behind it.
V isn’t some groundbreaking piece of music, but it’s an insanely strong collection of catchy pop tracks that works from start to finish. Even the Deluxe Edition songs (which includes a killer cover of Marcy Playground‘s “Sex And Candy”) are strong, which rarely happens.
I love when a pop artist surprises me. Not that Maroon 5 changed their sound here, but they surprised me in how catchy each song is. I guess they made the right choice with number 5 because this might be their best album yet.