* This is a review of the deluxe version of the album*
I’m a fan of pop music. I’m a fan of Maroon 5. And yet, I’m not a fan of Maroon 5’s 4th studio album, Overexposed. Following the underwhelming response to the band’s last album, the underrated Hands All Over, Maroon 5 has released a new album that capitalizes on their newfound success stemming from last summer’s hit single “Moves Like Jagger.” Instead of simply relying on their own very capable songwriting skills, the band has brought on a number of high-profile collaborators like Max Martin, Savan Kotecha, Shellback, and Ryan Tedder among others. The result is an album that plays very much to the pop crowd (not surprisingly, considering Martin, who also executive produced the album, has written hit songs for Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, Katy Perry, and many others) and would fit quite well amidst Top 40 mainstream radio of today. That is also what is fundamentally wrong with the album.
I love Maroon 5, but with a few exceptions, Overexposed is almost too pop/too Top 40, and doesn’t quite sound like Maroon 5. I mentioned in a previous post how Maroon 5’s signature sound is that of pop/rock with some added soul/funk influences. That fusion sound is distinctly theirs and sets them apart from other groups in the industry. With the new album, they have delved deeper into the pop world, a decision I seriously question as a fan. To me, there isn’t much to Overexposed that feels distinctively Maroon 5 and is so overproduced that it sounds like any pop artist could have done the song. Maybe that’s because only 4 of the 14 original songs were actually written by the other band members alongside frontman Adam Levine, as opposed to just Adam plus the new collaborators. That in itself is a huge departure to what the band has done previously, with most (if not all) of their songs written by the band themselves, and few collaborators.
- One More Night – Opening up the album, this reggae-tinged track gives us a first glimpse of what to expect for the rest of the album. Mainly, that it’s a departure from the usual for the band. I wasn’t very fond of this song at first listen because I thought the song might’ve been better suited for somebody else. But I’ve come to really like the song, partially because the dance fan in me can picture some great choreography to go with it.
- Payphone ft. Wiz Khalifa – The first single took me some getting used to. I already felt as though it was very pop and the Wiz Khalifa verse seemed kind of tacked on as some pop songs with a rap verse tend to be. But hearing it on the radio against all the frivolous dance tracks, it just seemed better and like ‘One More Night’, I find myself picturing choreo to it, particularly during the rap verse. Upon hearing it against the rest of the album, I realize that this is actually the closest (albeit a little bit of a stretch) to classic Maroon 5. As a friend of mine also pointed out, the lyrics aren’t entirely there, especially with the use of said payphone. I see what she’s saying that the metaphor wasn’t used more, though at the same time, I wouldn’t have wanted the song to become cheesy if it was overwrought with phone analogies.
- Daylight – I honestly thought that this was a Ryan Tedder-produced song when I initially heard it, because that’s what it reminded me of. To my surprise, it actually wasn’t. It sounds to me a little generic pop, like it could have been a song written for these new young pop stars coming out, not a band that has been around for over a decade.
- Lucky Strike – The first of two Ryan Tedder produced songs, ‘Lucky Strike’ comes off as the next step up from ‘Moves Like Jagger’, with its dance-pop glitz sound. It’s a sound that worked better on songs like ‘Give A Little More’ and ‘Get Back in My Life’ because it was more grounded/natural on those songs, as opposed to very produced to the point where you wonder where the band actually is on the track.
- The Man Who Never Lied – Musically, it sounds like they tried to take a cue from Coldplay. At the same time, it sounds like some other pop/rock bands who are trying to get into the mainstream. In other words, it’s (again) overproduced and generic; doesn’t sound like Maroon 5 at all.
- Love Somebody – What I said before on ‘Lucky Strike’ being so very produced to the point where you wonder the band itself is on the track, completely applies here. I barely hear the faintest of real instruments on the song. Ryan Tedder, you are 0 for 2.
- Ladykiller – Finally, we get a song written by the band and features real instruments! The chorus evokes a feeling of the 70s, but I only wish they had expanded the lyrics a little more because the song does feel a little short.
- Fortune Teller – Though the band did write this song, the techno bass underlying the song just doesn’t sound right. It fits with almost everything else on the album, but in my opinion, I think it would’ve worked much better if they stripped a couple layers off. For a mid-tempo song, it’s got a little too much going on. I am really banking on this song playing better in concert than it does on the album.
- Sad – One of the standout tracks from the album. While the rest of the album is produced to the finest detail, ‘Sad’ stands out for featuring Adam’s vocals with only piano accompaniment. Simple, understated, no bells and whistles – just wonderful.
- Tickets – Despite the dance feel with a rock/punk twist, along the lines of what No Doubt was doing on their last album, the guys make it work on this song. It’s got an infectious beat and I would certainly suggest this song as being a 3rd or 4th single.
- Doin’ Dirt – It’s got a throwback 80’s sound to it and not in a good way (though granted, the 80s…) The lyrics really leave something to be desired, which is disappointing because I know they are capable of so much more. Without a doubt, probably my least favourite song on the album.
- Beautiful Goodbye – There’s a laid-back, almost reggae-inflection, feel to this song. It’s not Jason Mraz ‘I’m Yours’ laid-back style, but sort of reminds me of Andrew Allen ‘Loving You Tonight’ and a little bit of Andy Grammer ‘Keep Your Head Up’. The title invokes memories of M5’s similarly titled song ‘Sweetest Goodbye’ (probably my favourite M5 song) from SAJ, so I feel like I might be a little harsh on the song. It’s not a bad song, but might take me a few more listens to really like it.
- Wipe Your Eyes [Bonus Track] – Hearing this song the first time, I immediately thought that it sounds like something Safetysuit or The Script (or a mix of the two) would do. Not really liking it, even though I like the music from those other 2 bands, but this isn’t M5.
- Wasted Years [Bonus Track] – Any fan of M5 already knows this song. For years, all we’ve had is the live version that they performed in concert from the “Friday the 13th” DVD, which was in-between “Songs About Jane” and “It Won’t Be Soon Before Long.” That live version that we’ve heard sounded like a natural progression from SAJ, with that fusion sound of theirs. This studio version that we’re finally getting, has more of a jazz/hip-hop/pop feel to it. Actually upon hearing it for the first time, it really reminded me of the version of ‘New York, New York’ found in the movie “Friends With Benefits.” I mean jazz/hip-hop can kind of throw you off a little. I don’t mind the sound, that’s not my gripe (it’s actually really cool) and I am very thankful that we actually have a studio version of the song. However, I can’t say that I wasn’t a little disappointed that the mix wasn’t simply a recorded/polished version of what we heard before in concert.
- Kiss [Bonus Track] – Not an original track, but rather a cover of the famous Prince song. My love for covers is endless and I must say this was a rather interesting cover. The guys did not do this as a straight cover. Instead, they changed it up and kind of countrified/blues’d it out. If there was ever proof to how The Voice has influenced M5, this would be it. Clearly, Blake Shelton’s little snippet of this song in the coaches’ Prince medley during season 2 influenced the guys, and I must say – I love it!
Don’t get me wrong, I support change and musical growth. Maroon 5 has shown a lot of musical diversity with each successive album, while still sounding distinctly like themselves. With the direction that they have taken on Overexposed, it feels a little like they tried too hard to make the album commercially successful, with its dance-y/pop vibe, that doesn’t particularly suit them that well. I mean if a song invokes a feeling like someone else could have sang it or it reminds you of another artist/band, that’s not a particularly good sign is it? Then again, this is the type of album that mainstream radio will most definitely eat up (the music industry confuses me so much these days…)
Trust me, as a fan, it pains me to say such negative things about my favourite group, but I say all this and I’m doing this because I care. I don’t expect them to make a Songs About Jane volume 2, but all I ask is for them to trust their ability as musicians and songwriters, and not feel like they have to conform in order to compete with what’s popular in music today – JUST MAKE GOOD MUSIC! I’ll chalk Overexposed as being their experimental album, as long the guys promise to take their time and gets back to what makes them Maroon 5 on the next album. There are still some good songs on the album that doesn’t make it a total wash, but all things considered, I can’t help but feel a little letdown.