Maroon 5 certainly work quickly. Although it’s been about two years since the release of fourth disc Overexposed, the strength of the multiple singles has given that album a long radio life. It’s time to make room for some new songs in your life though, because on August 29th, the band released its fifth album, the aptly titled V. Jesse Carmichael is back in the saddle on keyboards after skipping Overexposed, and of course the rest of the band (Adam Levine on lead vocals, Matt Flynn on drums, Mickey Madden on bass, James Valentine on guitar, and PJ Morton on additional keys) are here as well.
In just a few short months, the band has initiated the launch of several singles, including opening track “Maps.” If you enjoy the heavy percussion, sexy guitars, and punchy vocal delivery of the band’s most recent direction, then you will love this song. Adam Levine, despite being recently married, still has a dearth of heartbreak and lovers scorned to sing of. While he’s admittedly hurt and sings “I miss the taste of a sweeter life”, he later acknowledges that despite that, he’s “following the map that leads to you.” The chorus is certainly a dance hit explosion, but you wouldn’t be able to differentiate it from the content on Overexposed.
The next track, “Animals,” also became a hot hit. It borrows influences from rock and techno, and with chanting background vocals throughout, the track insists on being remembered and replayed. You shouldn’t miss the romantic crooning of “It Was Always You,” which may see Levine at his softest since some tunes on Songs about Jane. The heavy dance-floor flavor of this tune is infectious.
It seems pretty simple to understand why the band would have picked “Sugar” as the upcoming single. It sounds like a 70s disco throwback with itssmooth guitars and shimmery vocals. Levine reintroduces his stunning soprano for the first time in far too long. You’ll groove to this track without even realizing it. The lover-in-need sentiments are fairly standard from the band at this point, but the flavor of the song reinvents Levine’s lyrics.
Towards the middle half of the album, the momentum sags a bit. “In Your Pocket” has a great lyrical idea of expressing distrust between two people in a relationship, but the lyrics, where Levine demands “show me that phone in your pocket, girl” against a speedy tribal beat just comes across as a little strange. The catchy “show me yours, I’ll show you mine” vocal part of the song almost makes up for it though.
The second half of the album kicks back with the catchy percussion of “Coming Back for You,” a romantic track that almost invokes the band’s older sounds save for the techno keys in the background. If you’re not quite sold on this album, “Feelings” might help, for it’s another track with a musical throwback attitude where Levine implores a taken lady to be his for the night. Despite the simplistic lyrics, they shine with a soaring chorus.
No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani shares some vocal duties on the delicate piano ditty “My Heart Is Open”. However, Stefani sounds somewhat out of place on a song with few other instruments but a piano and strings. “Shoot Love,” a silky three minute tune in which Levine implores his lover to retain their bond, returns back to the band’s standard fare. The Marcy Playground cover of “Sex and Candy” is another great moment, for the band cloaks it in blues and jazz. Closing out the disc, “Lost Stars” surprises with its gentle, acoustic attitude and mature attitude about broken love and life.
Overall, V toes the line delicately between propulsive dance tracks and dreamier romantic expressions. Too many fast tracks would have burned the disc out quickly, and Maroon 5 is hardly known for a slow song. The combination of sounds works to the album’s favor, giving it enough depth and variety. While the songs are sometimes guilty of sounding too similar, they’re mostly solid.