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Maroon 5 – Overexposed Review

June 26, 2012 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas

1. “One More Night” (3:39)
2. “Payphone” (featuring Wiz Khalifa) (3:51)
3. “Daylight” (3:46)
4. “Lucky Strike” (3:05)
5. “The Man Who Never Lied” (3:25)
6. “Love Somebody” (3:49)
7. “Ladykiller” (2:46)
8. “Fortune Teller” (3:26)
9. “Sad” (3:14)
10. “Tickets” (3:30)
11. “Doin’ Dirt” (3:33)
12. “Beautiful Goodbye” (4:18)

Maroon 5 are undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with in the pop music field. The five-man group, fronted by Adam Levine, burst onto the scene in 2002 with their debut album Songs About Jane and made an instant impact on the pop landscape. With breakout hits like “Harder to Breathe,” “This Love” and “She Will Be Loved,” the band rode the album’s success to multi-platinum certification in multiple countries and 2.7 million copies sold in the US alone. Their next album, 2007’s It Won’t Be Soon Before Long, debuted at #1 on the strength of hits like “Makes Me Wonder” and “Wake Up Call.” The fivesome had a sound that was distinctly pop but also entirely different than the cookie-cutter pop groups cluttering the marketplace and it helped people flock to them. That was followed by a more soulful album in 2010 with Hands All Over which, although an improvement over their past work, didn’t click with audiences and was considered a disappointment. However, the group was instantly revitalized thanks to Levine’s mentoring duties on NBC’s The Voice which brought them the song “Moves Like Jagger,” a collaboration with Levine’s fellow Voice coach Christina Aguilera that was an instant success. With more eyes than ever focused on them, the group has returned with their latest album Overexposed in the hopes they can get back on top.

Like many albums, the first track of Overexposed gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect from the rest of it: extremely radio-friendly, hook-based pop music that is somewhat overproduced. That’s not to say that the track, “One More Night,” is a bad one; far from it. With a reggae tint to the top 40 sound and the fiery opening lyric “You and I go hard at each other like we’re going to war,” this is actually a very good pop track. Max Martin produced this track and that influence is evident; Martin is known for producing radio hits with hooks you can’t get out of your head, and I guarantee that if you listen to Top 40 stations, you will have Levine inescapably singing “So I cross my heart and I hope to die/That I’ll only stay with you one more night” in your head at some point this summer. The album quickly drops into the next single–actually, the first single, which is “Payphone.” This song, hampered only by an unnecessary-yet-obligatory guest appearance by a rapper (Wiz Khalifa in this case), has a fun dichotomy of a very upbeat sound against depressed and even angry lyrics. Even Levine’s voice contributes to the “up” tone, at least until he gets to “All those fairytales are full of shit/One more fuckin’ love song, I’ll be sick.”

That’s not to say that Levine isn’t capable of projecting emotion, because he absolutely is. Despite your standard unhealthy level of digital manipulation that is part and parcel to pop music these days, Levine has that kind of voice that is able to project emotion even through a wall of tweaks and twists. The problem with Overexposed is that he doesn’t let himself do that enough. Hands All Over may have been a commercial disappointment but it was a solid album because Maroon 5 retained its humanity in a sea of generic pop clones of each other. Unfortunately, the success of “Moves Like Jagger” seems to have impressed on the band the idea that they need to join the masses to be successful. Look at “Lucky Strike,” a song with some fun lyrics but decides to meld into the crowd by adding prerequisite dubstep breakdowns. The band hired a host of highly-successful pop producers for this album and they aren’t playing around in this arena. In addition to the hook virtuosity of Martin the band brought on Benny Blanco, Ryan Tedder and Noah “Mailbox” Passovoy to make sure there’s no chance that this album could be mistaken as anything more than a pop hit. And that’s sort of the problem. There are plenty of great hooks and baselines, but there is nothing organic about it. This is a selection of twelve hit singles; it’s not an album. Individually many of these songs are very good pop songs, with the appropriate assembling of melodies and beats around Levine’s voice. But there is no flow to them the way that Maroon 5 has done before. Their integration into the hit-obsessed top 40 scene is complete, to their detriment.

But hey, that’s not to say that there isn’t some fun to be had on this album. One of the advantages of pop music’s focus on single-driven albums is that there are always a couple good hits in there. In addition to the first two tracks there are a couple enjoyable numbers, such as “The Man Who Never Lied.” This is one of three tracks on the album where Levine takes on some production and under the guidance of Passovoy he delivers a good, solid hit about a relationship on the outs that will get a decent amount of airplay if the band so wishes it. Also worth checking out is “Love Somebody,” one of the more emotional tracks on the album and a rare moment where, thanks to Ryan Tedder and Noel Zancanella, the overhanging production tricks ease up just enough to make for an honest-to-God song with emotion and not just a laser scope aimed at the Billboard charts; the smoother sounds of “Ladykiller” are likewise a sign of the old Maroon 5 before they were drowned in a homogenous sound. On the flip side, Levine tries to create an Adele-like ballad with “Sad” and like many of the people who have attempted to ape the British singer on Levine’s show The Voice it falls painfully flat. Nothing else really stands out as bad, simply because nothing stands out. And that is perhaps the album’s biggest failing.

Standout Tracks: “One More Night,” “Payphone,” “The Man Who Never Lied,” “Love Somebody”

Skippable: “Sad”

The 411: Maroon 5's latest album Overexposed could have been more appropriately titled Overproduced. With a host of hit producers providing catchy hooks at every turn, the band gets lost in the shuffle and the end result is a collection of singles that never quite adds up to an album. While there are absolutely several songs that will play well on radio and are even good pop songs on their own, the whole is far less than the sum of its parts. Ultimately, Overexposed is more evidence to prove that when a group tries too hard to fit within the Top 40 mold, they're destined to succeed to their own loss.
Final Score:  5.5   [ Not So Good ]  legend

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Jeremy Thomas
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