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Maroon 5 Slows Things Down with “Red Pill Blues”

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There’s something irresistible about American pop rock band Maroon 5.

Perhaps it’s frontman and lead vocalist Adam Levine’s oozing sex appeal who undeniably has further marketed the band through live electric performances and evocative music videos. Maybe it’s how the remaining band members—Jesse Carmichael, Mickey Madden, James Valentine, Matt Flynn, PJ Morton and Sam Farrar—all gather to ease listeners with their soothing instrumental works that accompany Levine’s voice. Or it could be just how their music has always been catchy and radio-friendly.

With the Nov. 3 release of the sixth album, “Red Pill Blues,” Levine said during its iHeartRadio Album Release Party on Nov. 7 that it’s meant to be complement their first album, “Songs About Jane” (2002) since their recent albums veered more into pure pop. He said that after the band’s immense success since then, they have experienced much more creative freedom, saying that it was a “miracle” they made it past their 2002 debut effort, unlike many other hopeful artists.

“Record deals are literally formed because they expect you to fail. Because they don’t expect you to succeed for five whole albums, they are like, ‘Let’s sign you for five.’ If your first one is unsuccessful then you’re probably toast. Now, we’re in a position to put out records and they get played nonstop…Maroon 5 is in a really good place right now.”

“Red Pill Blues” marks a return to the band’s former low key and easygoing tunes, affirming Levine’s statements above. It has confidently mastered Maroon 5’s unbeatable formula: catchy instrumentals fused with occasional heart-thumping beats, smooth lyrics and Levine’s signature voice.

Opening with “Best 4 U,” this song discusses a heartbreaker who warns his lover that he’s a liar and prefers her to leave him since he acknowledges he’s “just not the best 4 [her],” its surrounding background music clearly inspired by the 1980s pop scene.

SZA then emerges in the current Billboard Hot 100 hit, “What Lovers Do” where things pick up and their voices blend sweetly for a genuine pop smash, charting at number 12 as of Nov. 10. While some past collaborations were clearly forged to birth a radio and charting hit, this duet feels honest as Levine and SZA’s chemistry is very evident on the ears and eyes (just watch the trippy Joseph Kahn-directed video).

One of the album’s strongest entries is “Wait” where Levine, playing the heartbreaker again, seeks reconciliation form his lover who’s about to leave him. The chorus is infectious where Levine begins in a lower register, begging his lover, “Wait, can you turn around…Just wait, can we work this out?” Halfway through, his vocals soar higher, as if metaphorically racing for the finish line as the instrumental music speeds up along too.

Fellow singers Julia Michaels and Charlie Puth helped pen “Bet My Heart” where Levine’s whispery voice echoes as if throughout an empty stadium before the bass arrives, adding dramatic effect as he expresses his love and passion for an unnamed woman. Michaels returns to duet with Levine for “Help Me Out” where they discuss how they need inspiration and assistance from someone. Levine’s voice goes high again in the pre-chorus while Michaels’ lower register complements him in the following chorus as if they’re mindful of sharing the spotlight.

“Who I Am” featuring LunchMoney Lewis sounds perfect for a night club’s soundtrack with its infectiously light drums, sonic reverberations and staccato guitar solos. “See this one goes out to all the lovers…Who spend their nights and days under covers,” LunchMoney Lewis prefixes, further affirming the club atmosphere. Despite almost sounding like a “Songs About Jane” track, one drawback was how short LunchMoney Lewis shows up in this song though.

Comparing an ex’s kiss to “Whiskey,” Levine can’t help to reminisce about their experiences despite trying to forget her, being backed by rapper A$AP Rocky’s featured verse. “Closure,” lasting 11.5 minutes and being the standard album edition’s last song, marks the band’s longest song ever, starting out with them embracing their funky side, incorporating the guitar and saxophone. The last eight minutes is simply an instrumental “extended jam,” as keyboardist PJ Morton viewed so they could showcase their musical talents to the listener for a relaxing coda.

The deluxe edition features five additional songs—“Denim Jacket,” “Visions,” “Plastic Rose,” “Don’t Wanna Know” (featuring Kendrick Lamar and peaking at number 6 nationally) and “Cold” (featuring rapper Future and peaking at number 16 too). The latter two had already been released way prior to the album’s release to tease the band’s return since their 2014 “V” album.

“Red Pill Blues” proves that the band both masters its successful chart-topping formula and embraces its original easygoing vibes like from “Songs About Jane,” which should hush any naysayers who miss the so-called “old Maroon 5.” If one is looking for a detour from the louder, dizzying Top 40 songs of 2017, this album is sure to privately entertain.

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