Maroon 5 has never seemed quite so bipolar.
The band has always relied on an expert blend of ‘80s funk and modern pop/rock put to, well, sex. The occasional cynicism is there too, I suppose. But this time around, they come close to commitment, even testing out the waters on occasion, but lest they forsake their core appeal, they jump back into drunken sex and selfish cynicism, resulting in a fence-jumping roller coaster that’s extremely conflicting to evaluate.
On the one hand, these are some of the catchiest songs that the band has ever produced, and some of them even show honorable traits. The man in “Maps” is committed to reconciling with the woman he loves, even though he believes that she’s wronged him, and “Coming Back For You” assures the speaker’s love that he won’t abandon her. We might attribute some of this to the fact that frontman Adam Levine is married now, but then we get to the other side of the album.
Sex, drugs, and alcohol pervade the scene at the worst of the record’s moments, with lines like “You and me and all of that wine,” and “You’re the only drug I wanna do,” not to mention the casual drop of profanities (disclaimer: this is less than their previous albums, although that may not be saying a whole lot).
The result, then, is a very split album. This is a record that Christians can certainly find a few songs to appreciate, enjoy, and dance to, but unfortunately, it is firmly limited to a literal few.
The album opens with an amazing melody that manages to achieve a beautiful mix between pop and funk without anything outside of standard pop/rock instrumentation. It’s already one of the catchiest songs of the year, and it exemplifies commitment in a man who’s been disappointed by the woman he loves. Cynicism and digs at exes are far too common in pop music, but this isn’t about revenge; it’s about reconciliation. 5/5
This is another very catchy melody, with a really cool beat, but the lyrics of the song are a quite troublesome. It describes a relationship filled with nothing but animosity and sex, making the catchy melody more dangerous than groovy. 1/5
3. It Was Always You
This song doesn’t sound quite as original as the first two, a bit more of a standard ballad, even if catchy in its own right. Like most of Maroon 5’s tunes, it’s about love and romance, this time about a man searching for the girl’s dreams. There’s nothing terrible in it, but nothing very noteworthy either. 3/5
4. Unkiss Me
While it has some cool occasional dual-vocal harmonization, Unkiss Me is a pretty boring song overall. The chorus is a little better, but still a fairly forgettable song. The lyrics are neither here nor there, talking about a man jilted by a former lover who wants a new start. The result is a song that’s not offensive, but, again, isn’t noteworthy. 2/5
This song is also slower, but it has the funky feel that’s made Maroon 5 so successful, and is one of the most “singable” tracks on the record. There are a couple lines that stray into a bit of a gray area between descriptions of a loving relationship and innuendo, but they’re subtle enough that it likely won’t be very problematic. 4/5
6. Leaving California
Partially due to the song’s topic of a leaving lover, the song is a bit too slow and boring, and the album is, at this point, losing some of its steam. It does have a somewhat redeeming message, however, in not letting go of someone who’s leaving, which indicates a certain level of commitment, something that’s often missing in modern music (and especially Maroon 5’s music). 2/5
7. In Your Pocket
Showing a return to the fast-paced, jazzy feel of the album’s heart, this is another funky tune which makes you dance even when you’re sitting in a booth at McDonald’s using free wi-fi. That’s not to say it’s all good, though. A dropped s-word and expressed distrust of a romantic partner really contradicts the gleam of optimism in the last song. 3/5
8. New Love
Whether it’s the catchy bass, phenomenal melody, or dual harmonization, this song will keep you from hitting the skip button. That’s not a good thing. It’s catchy as can be, but it’s an expression of lust, full of crass language and sexuality, including the f-word, “you’re the only drug I want to do,” and the borderline narcissistic demand “would it kill you to forgive me?” 1/5
9. Coming Back For You
This song screams ‘80s more than any other on the record, which serves Levine’s vocals the drum-and-base-led verses, and the nostalgic synthesizers extremely well. It also shows a return to the commitment that shines through at rare moments on the album. It’s not the best song on the record, but is still a solid effort with a redeeming message. 4/5
Once again, the funky rhythms and Adam Levine’s insane vocals make you want to dance along, but there’s still something in the back of your mind that wonders if you should. The song opens with “You and me and all of that wine,” insinuating something fun and romantic about intoxicated parties, dropping f-bombs and referencing drugs. 1/5
11. My Heart is Open
Drawing a surprising to an album full of sex and cynicism, showing another rare moment of commitment: “It won’t take me long to find another lover, but I want you.” It’s also one of the best ballads I’ve heard this year, and overall a phenomenal way to close out the album. 4/5