Originally published on So So Gay on 14 September 2014.
With long-standing guitarist Jesse Carmichael back in the fold after sitting out 2012’s Overexposed, Maroon 5 are back with fifth studio album, the rather obviously named V.
Lead single and opening track, ‘Maps’ is an obvious choice to lead the charge, being a commercially-primed slice of pop with an infectious chorus. However, during the verses, Adam Levine’s voice does veer towards grating territory.
Generally a very good singer, Levine’s vocal failing is he can sometimes go too high and squeaky that it becomes unpleasant to sit through – a recurring issue during V. His falsetto should really be reserved for the ad libs and harmonising rather than a song’s driving force.
The pleasing disco funk of ‘Feelings’ is almost derailed by this fact, as Levine’s shrillness on the chorus is unavoidable, which is unfortunate since it would be an album highlight otherwise. By contrast, the superb ‘It Was Always You’, with its crunching synths and lower register delivery by Levine, mark it out as an album highlight, if not the best song on V.
Other high points come in the form of the Shellback produced ‘In Your Pocket’, with its toe-tapping rhythms and a chance for Levine to show off his vocal range, while the 80s shimmer of ‘Coming Back for You’ is irresistible.
There’s also the enjoyable bounce of ‘Sugar’ that feels like the guys are covering a Katy Perry song, which is perhaps down to the presence of Perry’s collaborator and producer, the mighty Dr Luke. However, and perhaps for this reason, it also feels a little soulless and a pop-by-numbers piece of filler – a criticism similarly applicable to the Ryan Tedder track, ‘New Love’.
In fact, in terms of collaborations, Maroon 5 have pulled in a number of notable names for their fifth collection of songs – undoubtedly a reflection of the popularity and success of their music. That said, it does occasionally feel like this assorted cast of musical talent assembled has slightly muddied the waters, with V being a slightly uncohesive listen at times.
The attempts at ballads on V are all competent and earnest inclusions, with Gwen Stefani cropping up on the standard edition’s closer, ‘My Heart is Open’. Sadly, they are generally unremarkable – perhaps the emotional pleading of ‘Unkiss Me’ aside – and feel like stopgaps between the generally better uptempo numbers that are arguably Maroon 5’s forte. ‘My Heart is Open’ in particular is a surprising non-event, considering Levine co-wrote it with Sia and Rodney ‘Darkchild’ Jerkins’, amongst others. It’s a shame and also mind-boggling that so much talent came up with comparatively so little – a case of too many cooks, perhaps.
Maroon 5 have a successful formula for making enjoyable and commercial pop rock, and V further proves this. This latest album will undoubtedly please fans and casual listeners alike, as the songs are hard to dislike, all being highly polished and well produced – even if the lasting impression is generally rather ephemeral.
Standout Tracks: ‘Animals’ / ‘It Was Always You’ / ‘In Your Pocket’ / ‘Coming Back for You’