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‘V’ is a four

| Monday, October 6, 2014

Pink neon lights contrasts a cooly-colored landscape in the form of a “V” for the cover of Maroon 5’s newly-released fifth studio endeavor, assuming, of course, their audience can interpret Roman numerals. The single symbol set to a desolate backdrop of some misty desert is eye-catching enough for the pop rock group’s “lonely-love” songwriting format without sacrificing artistic merit for cheap sex appeal. Like the common thread of love in all of its forms for the brand, Maroon 5 is an all-male group of (mostly) single men who write and perform music about things that enter testosterone territory while simultaneously pulling teenage girls’ heartstrings as though they were guitar chords. It is not advised, however, to listen with the expectation that “V” will be any more immaculate than the band’s last four albums.

Ten years ago, Maroon 5, the pop rock lovechild with its six current members, was riding cloud nine on the winds of the success from its first musical partnership with Octone and J Records, “Songs About Jane.” Not since the discovery of Nora Jones have coffee shops and low-budget chick flicks been eternally grateful for “longing” and “losing” ballads like “Harder to Breathe,” “This Love” and the one that scored legions of sappy “forever alone” Facebook posts, “She Will Be Loved.” The band milked as much promotion as they could out of “Jane,” but eventually, hipsters got tired of hearing “Sunday Morning” every time they ordered a latté.

In all seriousness, Maroon 5 has reached its golden birthday of album releases. From “Jane’s” release in 2002 to “V” on Aug. 29 of this year, they have recorded and released the same number of albums The Beatles did in just 10 months (they released 20 in their first five years). When you look at that dramatic time difference, it invites the question as to how a band such as Maroon 5 would favor experimenting more with the added pressure of time plus a creativity crunch. The Beatles are not an example for Maroon 5 to measure up to in terms of sales, but rather in quality of style, sound and identification through their self-discovery as a musical group. Pop and rock music is debated and hated like oil and water in a frying pan. Maroon 5 still needs to learn how to tread the current of popular music while diving headfirst into their own style both fearlessly and experimentally.

If you liked the band’s last albums, “Overexposed,” (not one of my favorites) and “It Won’t Be Soon Before Long,” “V” is the equilibrium of both albums’ rock and pop aspects which have come to identify the sound Maroon 5. Another not-so-secret weapon to their unmistakable individuality is the set of pipes which belong to frontman and unofficial band spokesperson, Adam Levine. Beautifully and catchingly applied on “V,” Levine’s chops have the universality to go from up-tempo club beats (“Animal”) to slow jam piano blues (“My Heart Is Open”). Believing the rest of the band is in the background for songs like “Maps” and “New Love” is stretching it when every “instrument” you hear sounds like a synthesizer.

That said, I like “V” much more than I did “Overexposed,” in part due to the band’s return to their rock roots in songs like “Sugar” and “In Your Pocket.” Every song is temporarily captivating, not memorable, but addictive. As catchy as “Leaving California” and “Unkiss Me” are, they echo from past hits “I’m Never Gonna Leave This Bed,” and “I Won’t Go Home Without You.” It’s as though the band keeps dating the same types of women.

Regardless, “V” makes me hopeful in terms of what I can expect in the future from Levine and his five nameless bandmates. They may be six male musicians writing about what young adult guys think about. With Levine’s recent marriage, however, maybe Maroon 5 will begin to focus on a different kind of female, like the one we fell in love with in “Jane.”

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