Maroon 5 – It Won’t Be Soon Before Long Review
Who would’ve ever thought we’d get here, the highly publicized release of a second album by Maroon 5? When “Harder To Breathe” broke huge as a single, it was a nice distraction, but it seemed impossible that a band with a sound so foreign to pop radio could become more than a one-hit wonder. Then “This Love” went Top 5. Then “She Will Be Loved” did the same. It seemed like these guys just may be sticking around. Then three years passed and not a peep.
All of the sudden, Maroon 5 is back with more soul-inspired pop, more songs about Jane. And people are digging it, they’re excited. How did we get here?
In 1999, Kara’s Flowers, an L.A. rock band comprised of four former junior high friends, lost their contract with Reprise Records after just one album (The Fourth World, which failed to make the charts but earned KF spots supporting Reel Big Fish and on “Beverly Hills, 90210”) and decided to seek out new opportunities. After a few years spent attending separate schools, the members began to play together again, incorporating new musical elements like gospel, soul and R&B into their alt-rock sound. Guitarist Jesse Carmichael decided to take up keyboards, which necessitated the need for a new guitar player. SoCal musician James Valentine abandoned his group Square to fill that slot. With five members and a newly revamped sound, the guys decided a new name was only natural. Maroon, later rechristened Maroon 5, was born.
Maroon 5 spent some time in New York City (at the behest of frontman Adam Levine, who had found his music and writing influenced by the urban culture he’d observed there post Kara’s Flowers), where they signed a deal with indie Octone Records, as well as an artist development deal with famed J Records. The band entered the studio in late 2001 to work on their first album together with notable alt-rock producer Matt Wallace. That record, Songs About Jane, was released to little initial interest in June of 2002. The songs on Jane were a far cry from the grunge-inspired modern rock of Kara’s Flowers. The tracks were funked up, rhythmic, sexy and sentimental, written by Levine in a haze of marijuana and heartbreak at the end of a long relationship.
Upon its release, Jane hit #1 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart, but failed to make the big list. Thanks to a determined but steady marketing strategy, constant touring by the band, and the slow-burning first single, the soulful “Harder To Breathe”, Jane began to take on a new life in 2003. The album nearly scraped the Top 100 as the year came to a close, but the ball was just starting to roll for Maroon 5. By Spring of 2004, “Harder To Breathe” had reached #18 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Songs About Jane peaked at an unprecedented #6. It was the longest period of time between an album’s release date and Top 10 appearance in the history of the SoundScan era. The band had also become a hit in Australia and the UK.
By 2005, Maroon 5 had three more Top 40 singles under their belt with “This Love” (#5), “She Will Be Loved” (#5) and “Sunday Morning” (#31). On Grammy night, they took home an award for Best New Artist, eight years after Kara’s Flowers played their first gig and three years after Song About Jane first hit retailers. They scored another the next year for Best Pop Performance (“This Love”).
As Maroon 5 toured constantly (the acts they have supported reads like a who’s who, ranging from John Mayer to the Rolling Stones), Octone released two live albums for the band, 1.22.03.Acoustic and Live Friday The Thirteenth. Though the touring grind seemed a necessary grind, it began taking its toll, particularly on drummer Ryan Dusick. Dusick’s arms began to badly deteriorate and, as early as 2003, he had to take some time off from Maroon 5’s touring. He was substituted by Ryland Steen. In 2005, Dusick bowed out a second time, first replaced by drummer Josh Day and then by Matt Flynn, a former member of Gavin DeGraw’s band. Dusick underwent several tests to try to isolate and ultimately eliminate the pain he was suffering from, but the issues could not be resolved. In September of 2006, Maroon 5 announced that Flynn was taking up permanent residence in the band.
Not long later, Maroon 5 entered the studio to finally record the hotly anticipated follow-up to their debut. In March of 2007, rumors surfaced that the release date would be May 22. Interviews with Levine revealed that the new record would be sexier and more akin to the soul acts of the 80’s like Prince and Michael Jackson. At the end of the month, the first single appeared. “Makes Me Wonder” became the band’s first #1 single.
On May 22, 2007, A&M and Octone Records released It Won’t Be Soon Before Long, the second studio album by Maroon 5 and the follow-up to 2002’s multi-platinum Songs About Jane. The album is the first since drummer Ryan Dusick was replaced by Matt Flynn. The album is available in its standard CD version, as well as several different retail exclusive versions. Retail versions contain different bonus tracks, including “Losing My Mind” (Best Buy), “Miss You Love You” (Best Buy) and “Story” (Circuit City). iTunes versions contain the bonus tracks “Infatuation” (Pre-Order only) and “Figure It Out”. The Target exclusive version is a CD/DVD package. The Japanese version of the CD contains the bonus tracks “Losing My Mind”, “Story” and “Until You’re Over Me”. The German version contains the bonus track “Infatuation”.
The Band: 8.0
Adam Levine: guitar, drums, vocals
Jesse Carmichael: keyboards
Mickey Madden: bass
James Valentine: guitar
Matt Flynn: drums
A while back in one of my columns or reviews, I made the statement that I didn’t understand why so many “American Idol” contestants sing songs by 70’s soul/R&B acts like Stevie Wonder when those songs seem so irrelevant to today’s pop scene. I seem to have overlooked Marron 5, who have taken the Stevie Wonder method, freshened it up and made it more than relevant in 2007, they’ve made it unabashedly successful. Maroon 5 has done for Stevie Wonder what Justin Timberlake did for Michael Jackson last year. They’re bringing Stevie back, if you will.
Most of the attention Maroon 5 gets goes to frontman Adam Levine, and deservedly so. Not only is Levine an amazing singer with a sugary higher register, but he understands the nuances that can turn a song from cheeseball to pop rock hit. He also understands how to make adult-oriented pop rock appealing to the teen market, a feat accomplished by active singers that you can probably count on your hand.
Of course, Maroon 5 isn’t JUST their singer, they’re a heck of a band, and they shine on this second album, which finds them much more focused than the alt-rock/pop-rock crossroads that was Songs About Jane. You can thank years of touring for this honed sound. In an album produced by no less than FIVE people (showing that A&M and Octone have engineered this record to be a hit), Maroon 5 never gets lost, even on the production swells, high volume electronic pianos and all means of pop-funk musical tricks.
On just their second album, Maroon 5 already sounds like a group of veterans. In a way they are, I guess. Above all, they seem more than prepared to step into the roll of biggest pop band of the decade.
The Songs: 8.0
1. If I Never See Your Face Again
2. Makes Me Wonder
3. Little Of Your Time
4. Wake Up Call
5. Won’t Go Home Without you
6. Nothing Lasts Forever
7. Can’t Stop
8. Goodnight Goodnight
9. Not Falling Apart
11. Better That We Break
12. Back At Your Door
It Won’t Be Soon kicks off with the grooving “If I Never See Your Face Again”, a song that could have easily been ripped from Songs In The Key Of Life, but with a modern production that makes you feel like not only you’ve already heard this song recently and liked it, but that it’s already a hit itself. It’s a bold way to kick off the record, fully embracing the soul element that set Maroon 5 apart from their contemporaries, but it works. It really, really works. “Makes Me Wonder”, the band’s latest hit, follows. What can you say about this song other than it’s the natural fifth single by Maroon 5. A slight return to the days of Jane, fast-paced and funky, ready for a sing-a-long. The only thing that would make me wonder is if it hadn’t become a #1 song.
And the album continues in that manner, with one tight, hooky pop song after another, with a rarely a clunker or a pause to take a breath. It Won’t Be Soon is lean and mean with little wasted space. With a band full of great songwriters (not to mention the plethora of bonus tracks appearing here and there), Maroon 5 could have indulged a bit and thrown more into the pot, but they’ve trimmed this massive radio-ready hit machine down to a fit 40 minutes, and it works for it. Fans will be eager to listen again and again.
There are a couple of ballads here that sound out of place (“Better That we Break”, for instance, is a bit too Train-ish for my liking), but most are so catchy that you’ll wind up listening instead of sticking. On the other hand, fun tracks like “Little Of Your Time” and the bouncy “Can’t Stop” practically leap out of your speakers and may have M5 fans wearing out their “back” buttons. The over-produced ballad “Back At Your Door” closes this one out and, while the big-ness may overwhelm the band at times, Adam Levine handles it perfectly on vocals, practically ensuring that this track will gain life on “American Idol” in future seasons.
The 411: Maroon 5 took their time putting out their second album, but fans will find it’s worth the wait. It Won’t Be Soon Before Long is the perfect pop record, 2007’s answer to last year’s FutureSex/LoveSounds. It takes the soul of the 70’s and brings it into the present, much the same way “American Idol” finalist Blake is doing as we speak, but with a bigger, tighter band. It couldn’t be more current. People will be eating this album up, that’s been pre-arranged, but, unlike most of the over-hyped #1s of recent months, It Won’t Be Soon absolutely deserves it. It’s the equivalent of a summer blockbuster movie like Spider-Man or Pirates. It was built to be huge, but also built with plenty of skill.
|Final Score: 8.0 [ Very Good ] legend|