Welcome to Junk Mail, where a few Music Times staffers email back-and-forth about each week's biggest release throughout the work day. This week Carolyn Menyes, Kyle Dowling, Caitlin Carter chat about Maroon 5's new album, V.
Carolyn Menyes: I am always simultaneously annoyed and impressed by Adam Levine's vocals, which I think is the solid precedent for how I feel about Maroon 5 in general and the band's new album V. That being said, this is a marked improvement from its thirsty, poppy 2012 record Overexposed, so as a whole, I can't complain.
But, let's get this ball rolling! First impressions of Maroon 5's V. And... go!
Kyle Dowling: So, here we are again! Another Junk Mail. I feel like Maroon 5 gets a lot of crap - perhaps because of their frontman - but in my opinion, V is a rather solid record. I liked most of the songs and couldn't help but also be impressed by Levine's vocals. I think the songs have great hooks and I'm also rather impressed by the production value. I like the way they went with this record. I dig!
Caitlin Carter: I see this record as an excellently executed product. I mean it starts off with a bang. Three solid hits in a row and the rest that follow hold their own. Levine and Co. went the pop route years ago, and pretty much every song on the album will either chart or make them money in some way (licensing, etc.) But for me the reasons why the album is good is also why I think it's weak. For me, Levine loses a bit of his soul on this record, which happens when songs are recorded with extreme precision.
CM: Well, the album purposefully starts off with the three lead singles, "Maps," "Animals" and "It Was Always You," and what are clearly the most radio-friendly tracks. Your points are really interesting, Caitlin, and kind of what piss me off about 2014 Maroon 5. I hate to use this phrase but HERE WE GO... Maroon 5 totally sold out.
Remember their kickass funky debut album Songs About Jane? Remember how much "Harder To Breathe" rocked? Like, damn. And then, after nobody cared about the band's third album Hands All Over. They got desperate for mainstream success -- the band admitted as such in an interview. So, they hired a few co-writers and went for dat Top 40 grind. So, yeah, Levine is a little soulless here, but this is really the second album like this for Maroon 5.
That's a totally weak and lame criticism, but this kind of stuff hurts me as a former indie/alt-rock snob.
KD: It's interesting, thinking about the difference between "Harder To Breathe" and the more current Maroon 5 hits. I imagine the fan base the group had when Songs About Jane debuted is much different than the ones they have now. Of course, that "selling out" factor is, unfortunately, just part of the business for some artists.
I'd 100 percent agree with Caitlin about each individual track being able to chart or make them money. With that, I guess this album could be seen as a double-edged sword. On one hand, it'll lead to money in various capacities, but on the other ... do they lose artistic integrity?
CC: I guess it depends on how you describe artistic integrity. It's almost the perfectionist vs. the raw/realist. The more manufactured a song seems, the less "handmade" or "real" it feels. But then again, a song crafted with extreme precision also shows artistic talent. Whether artistic integrity lies in the "scars" or "flaws" of a song or whether it lies in the vision for the song can be argued forever.
For some, a good song means a song that feels real. A song where you feel their pain and their flaws show authenticity. For others a good song is one where they can find no flaws. That's why it's hard for me to rate this record. My opinion is closer to the "beauty in flaws" mentality, but I see merit in a well executed product.
The one thing that stuck out on the album that I just absolutely hate for some reason is on "Animalls" -- the part where he goes "animals, animals, animals, mals." That last "mals," or "moles" as it sounds to me, just irks me for some reason. It's a very particular detail, but hey. Anything you guys didn't like?
CM: You got really deep with that, Caitlin... I can't compete with that description, but I totally agree with you, and my feelings of "beauty in flaws," but I think that's because we come from a similar rock background. I can appreciate a nice polished pop record for what it is, however. So, that's where we are with Maroon 5.
If we're going into nitpicks... I can't disagree that the "mals" ("moles"?) thing is a little odd, but I don't think it gets to me quite as much as it gets to you. What disturbs me more about "Animals" is Levine's repeated phrase "I'm inside you." Ick! Like, I get how sex works, but that phrase has always grossed me out. Sorry to get a little graphic there, but ADAM LEVINE DID IT FIRST. He is to blame.
I also have a few other lyrical nitpicks, in that "Maps" is the exact same construct as "Payphone" (antiquated forms of communication to find a long lost love). That's annoying. I also kind of hate when artists bring modern technology into a song, so "In Your Pocket" as a whole kind of gets on my nerves.
Musically, I can't deny those songs are all catchy as hell and surefire hits, but I'm a lyrics person, and god, some of these are really bad and cheesy.
KD: In regards to Adam Levine being inside us ... I guess there are worse artists to be there, right? Maybe that's just me. The "mals" thing just confused me. I can't see them being in the studio and someone NOT mentioning it to Adam Levine, but apparently it wasn't a deal-breaker.
So, what nitpicks do I have from the album? I really don't like the lyric: "Show me that phone in your pocket girl." It's my least favorite track on the album, and for some reason that lyric just irks the hell out of me.
Like you said, Carolyn, musically, it's hard to kick the album ... they all pretty damn catchy.
CC: As far as songs I liked on the album...
My favorites were "Unkiss Me" (other than the cheesy/generic chorus), "Leaving California" and the '80s-inspired "Coming Back for You." How about you guys?
CM: Is it cheating if I go into the deluxe edition of the album? Because "Shoot Love" is far and away better than anything on the standard edition. I love the way the song rushes and drives forward, and Levine's usually irritating voice blends perfectly into the chorus. I wonder if they purposefully pushed this nugget to the deluxe edition to drive those sales. ('Cause the weird, subdued Marcy Playground "Sexy and Candy" cover ain't doing it for me.)
If I have to be basic and stick to the standard edition, I think "It Was Always You" is pretty solid -- I love songs that sound like a hunt, and this one definitely oozes of yearning for love.
Overall, I think this album is totally OK, but it's easier for me to pick out things I don't like. Sorry, Caitlin, but I think "Leaving California" is way too sleepy. I'm also not here for the Gwen Stefani collaboration "My Heart Is Open." That is just too obvious as a promotion for The Voice season whatever and ugh. How thirsty.
KD: YES IT'S CHEATING! Kidding. I would say "Unkiss Me" takes it for me. And I realize how cheesy the song is, but can't lie ... I dig it. I will also defend Caitlin's choice of "Leaving California." I enjoyed the song. So step off, Carolyn! Joking again.
As far as Gwen Stefani and "My Heart Is Open" ... no thank you.
CM: I feel very personally attacked right now. But it's fine if y'all want to like such a boring song. That's your problem.
KD: Boring is my thang. Lest we forget, I do tuck in most of my button shirts.
CM: Is that actually the case? I've never noticed before but now I will take note.
With that all being said... shall we move on to Final Thoughts? We're digressing pretty quickly at this rate, lol.
KD: I like the album for what it is. Is it my favorite? No. Will it be on my list of music to play in the next comings months? Probably not. But I enjoyed my listen, I enjoyed the hooks and I enjoyed most of the music. In the end, I think Carolyn said it best when she said the album is "totally OK."
CM: And I maintain that V is the epitome of OK, even though that may be a boring conclusion to come to. I enjoy the way this album seems to be a final coming together of everything Maroon 5 has done before -- it's a little poppy, a little funky and there's tons of crazy falsetto. But, this still isn't inherently my bag. While there were a few musical standouts, I won't be returning to this album in the coming weeks or months, either, and I'm probably going to turn of the 'mals when it comes on the radio too, because Adam Levine just grosses me out.
CC: I think we are all on the same page. It was a well executed album with a few interesting tidbits here and there. It definitely felt manufactured, but it works as the epitome of a pop album. I don't see myself returning to, but I didn't want to blow my brains out while listening either. So there ya have it. Adam Levine is good at being a star, writing pop music and sprinkling in that little but of creepy while he's at it.