Maroon 5 moves focus from sex to soul

Lead single Adam Levine fronts for Maroon 5 at a concert at Washington State University in 2009. (credit: Courtesy of kyleMcCluer on flickr) Lead single Adam Levine fronts for Maroon 5 at a concert at Washington State University in 2009. (credit: Courtesy of kyleMcCluer on flickr)

The members of Maroon 5 have never been afraid of adding a little funk to their music. In their past two albums, they’ve openly welcomed an ’80s influence on their sound. But now with Hands All Over, their third album, they’ve totally immersed themselves in it. Both their debut and sophomore efforts were critically acclaimed, and they’ve established a name for themselves as being fresh and sensual (as evident in the new album’s cover art, the erotic sounds of their song “Secret,” and the music video for “This Love”). Changing the focus the third time from sex to soul, Maroon 5 explores a new side of the group’s musicality.

The album starts off with “Misery,” the smash debut single that became one of this summer’s staple songs. The radio-friendly, extremely catchy tune let everyone know that Maroon 5 was back in the spotlight. For a song about a depressed feeling, the music is surprisingly perky, and lead singer Adam Levine sings with a charismatic energy that makes the song extremely likable.

Next up, “Give a Little More” catapults listeners right back into dance clubs of the ’70s and ’80s. The verses are pretty tame, and unfortunately it’s easy for the music to overpower the monotonous lyric delivery of the lyrics. At first listen, it might seem that the song is meant to be gentle, without picking up speed or energy; however, this assumption is proved wrong once the groovy chorus comes in.

“Stutter” is the epitome of a pop song. The music complements the vocals, as Levine sings, “Give me affection, I need your perfection, you feel so good you make me s-s-stutter.” You can just picture what the future of this song could involve: a cheesy music video where two lovers are rollerblading in the park, overreacting to obstacles that keep them apart.

“Don’t Know Nothing” isn’t anything special, unfortunately. It fits the mold of the many other funky songs on the album, but it doesn’t contribute anything mesmerizing.

Upon looking at its lyrics, “Never Gonna Leave This Bed” is subtly heartbreaking. He wants her, but the emotions aren’t returned (“So you say go, it isn’t worth it; and I say no, it isn’t perfect”). Levine convinces us that the fight he’s trying to win isn’t easy, but the prize is worth the price paid.

“I Can’t Lie” is an easy-listening soundtrack to a stroll through New York City. Again, nothing makes the song stand out, though the lyrics (like “I wanna feel your heart beat for me instead”) are intriguing.

The title track seems to have overlapped retro with grunge, ending up with music reminiscent of the anthem “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” It’s entirely experimental, and it might be a hate-it-or-love-it song. It can grow on you after each listen, but it’s a total 180 from the funk and groove of the rest of the album.

“How” brings us back to the Maroon 5 we’re accustomed to. This is the good-boy side of Levine, asking for a way to get his long-gone-girl back into his arms. He’s really a hopeless romantic, declaring, “Though I don’t understand the meaning of love, I do not mind if I die trying” and “I have been bound by the shackles of love, and I don’t mind if I die tied up.”
Afterward, “Get Back In My Life” brings us back to the groovy tunes after a brief departure, with Levine singing about how, if his love doesn’t come back, he’s going to find her and make her be a part of his life. “Just a Feeling” slows things down and, unfortunately, ends up sounding like a cheap and tacky love ballad. The previous comment about Maroon 5 being “fresh” is retracted for this song.

“Runaway” almost serves as a sequel to the song right before it, which is not a good thing. This tune, though, introduces us to Levine’s deep voice. Shedding his high notes for this tune, he sings of a girl who just can’t seem to stick around.

The final track, “Out of Goodbyes,” gives listeners a very surprising duo by joining Maroon 5 with country trio Lady Antebellum. Because of the guest vocalists, the music echoes country.

The first bonus track, “The Air That I Breathe,” treats us to some more love song lyrics to close the CD. Levine does what he does best here, and that’s belting out some strong falsettos. He’s got a unique voice, but the nasal cry works for him and sort of juxtaposes his highly sexual bad-boy image.

The second bonus track, “No Curtain Call,” ditches the ’80s soul and pumps up the drama. With a crisp violin playing in the background, the song maybe isn’t the best way to close out the deluxe version of the album, but it’s a nice addition and adds to the variety of style on the group’s third CD.

Listen Up: “Misery,” “Stutter,” “How”
The Verdict: The recipe for this album is a bit heavy on the retro feel. If you’re looking for the pop-rock shade of Maroon 5, look a few years back in the group’s discography.