‘Overexposed’ and Underwhelming: Maroon 5 Loses Its Rock Roots
Simon Marcus Gower
Album titles can sometimes say more than is intended. Such is the case for Maroon 5’s latest album, “Overexposed,” released on the back of last year’s inescapable radio hit “Moves Like Jagger.”
Presumably intended as a tongue-in-cheek comment on the band’s recent rise to mainstream fame — thanks mainly to that overplayed single as well as frontman Adam Levine’s TV gig as a judge on the US talent show “The Voice” — the title instead rings unfavorably true for a pop-rock band that has forgotten its roots.
“Overexposed” is just that in a number of ways, from its heavy-handed production to its undisguised intentions to throw the former garage rock band deeper into the realm of money-making dance-pop.
When Maroon 5 first began to hit the charts, about a decade ago, the band formerly known as Kara’s Flowers maintained an element of rock in its pop-style sound. Its debut album “Songs About Jane” contained some genuinely catchy tunes that suggested something quite fresh and original had arrived.
But where did Maroon 5 go from there? Instead of developing the sound that won the band its first fans, it appears to have ditched its rock roots and headed straight to commercial pop.
In “Overexposed,” this attempt to produce saleable pop has resulted in nothing but a hodgepodge of songs that try to be all things to all listeners, and ends up being nothing of very much significance to anyone.
The first three tracks illustrate the lack of roots in the band’s sound.
The opener “One More Night” has Levine trying to get away from a lover singing lyrics like “I’ll only stay with you one more night” over reggae-influenced sounds from the band.
Next up, “Payphone” features rapper Wiz Khalifa bringing an incongruous hip-hop influence that is not helped along by Levine’s use of expletives.
Then we get a Coldplay-like song, “Daylight,” that at best could be taken as a tribute to the British band, or at worst a rather bad imitation.
This is not a good start. Things improve with “Lucky Strike,” which at least brings guitars to the fore, but this weak rock influence does little to salvage an album that is evidently not going anywhere further than unchallenging pop.
With the production largely handled by “pop candy producers” Max Martin, Benny Blanco and Shellback — names normally associated with the likes of Britney Spears and Katy Perry — it is not hard to see where the album will go.
Assuming that the title “Overexposed” reflects a sense of wit on the band’s part, listeners may hope to at least hear some clever lyrics here. Sadly, the album does not deliver on this level, either.
In parts, the lyrics are downright embarrassing, as on the track “Doin’ Dirt,” when Levine sings “I light you up when I get inside” — even the artist formerly known as Prince would wince at such an expression.
“Overexposed” is likely to sell well, but it certainly won’t be remembered as the best Maroon 5 can do. If the band is to produce memorable music, as it has in the past, it needs to get back to its roots.