Maroon 5’s newest album “V” continues the Los Angeles band’s trend of upward mobility with its fantastic vocals, variety of melodies, heartfelt lyrics, and a truly excellent collaboration with Gwen Stefani.
Maroon 5’s background makes it hard to root against them. Born from the four original members’ high school group Kara’s Flowers, the band’s first album failed. The group reinvented itself, and rose to widespread acclaim with the release of “Songs About Jane,” an album notable for tracks such as “Harder to Breathe,” “This Love” and “She Will Be Loved,” followed by three highly successful albums.
“V” is bigger and better, and gets back to the roots of Maroon 5 that fans will remember from “Songs About Jane.”
The first notable track on the album is “It Was Always You.” The minor key is a nice change from Maroon 5’s more recent pop hits such as “Moves Like Jagger” and “One More Night.” The melody takes on some aspects of techno, including a staccato rhythm that adds to the intensity of the track as a whole. Throw in Adam Levine’s characteristic crooning falsetto and some wistful lyrics, and “It Was Always You” can’t be beat.
“Leaving California” is the ballad of “V.” The melody is piano-based, rather than overly synthesized, and the drum adds a suspenseful characteristic where the audience is waiting for the big moment when Levine’s voice breaks with emotion. When the big moment comes, “Leaving California” gets even better, because instead of defaulting to his usual falsetto, Levine keeps it simple. It’s lyrical, it’s melodic, and this all rolls up into a very sweet and genuine track.
At the other end of the spectrum lies “In Your Pocket.” With its darker tone, lyrics describing distrust, and the high energy that borders on angst, “In Your Pocket” probably won’t be the song from “V” that makes Billboard 100. Despite its divergence from the norms of Maroon 5-type pop, “In Your Pocket” is a fantastic song. The melancholy melody, the urgent tone, and the argumentative nature of the song shouldn’t make it so relatable, but somehow it is. This isn’t the song you’ll blast at a party, but it’s the song that will motivate you to run another mile or do another ten pushups.
“My Heart Is Open” is a collaboration with Gwen Stefani, and everything about this song gets a resounding, and heartfelt, stamp of approval. Again, this track uses a melodic, piano-based introduction to set the stage. Then Levine and Stefani come in with surprisingly pure voices. Levine’s falsetto and Stefani’s aggressive edge are absent; the whole track is smooth and classic. This track comes off as the most honestly written one on the album, and its anthem-like qualities combined with the powerful vocals will make it a hit.
The deluxe version of the album included three additional tracks not present on “V.” “Shoot Love” is the first song where some of the punk and rock influence of Kara’s Flowers is more noticeable. The punk-rock influence adds another dimension to “V.” The lyrics make the listeners want to sing out loud, and the high energy of the melody is contagious. The cover of Marcy Playground’s “Sex and Candy” takes on a bluesy, almost R&B, melody. It’s nice to see Maroon 5 expanding out of their usual genre, and doing it so well. The final song on the deluxe version of “V” is “Lost Stars.” It’s credited to Adam Levine, and its introduction is the only acoustic part of the album. The acoustic introduction highlights the lyrics and the vocals of the track, and “Lost Stars” perfectly rounds out “V.”
For fans of Fun., The Beatles, and other Maroon 5 albums, “V” is very attractive, continuing in the pop tradition of past Maroon 5 albums, while adding a few darker and more interesting dimensions including some nods to techno and R&B.