Pop music is having quite the spurt of creative productivity these days. Maroon 5’s new album, “Red Pill Blues,” comes right smack-dab in the middle of it.
Released Nov. 3, the album combines Adam Levine’s consistently smooth vocals with a freshly electronic sound. The track “What Lovers Do” featuring SZA has remained steady at number seven on the Billboard Top 40. The band’s sixth album completes their full transformation from a soulful, pop-rock group to a dance-pop one.
Maroon 5 eased onto the pop scene with their first album “Songs About Jane,” which was built on blues-y chord progressions, simple drum beats and accessible lyrics and melodies. The band continued to build this soulful pop-rock sound throughout their second and third albums, with “Hands All Over” being their most well-reviewed album to date. However, the past two albums, “Overexposed” and “V,” initiated the diminishment of their well-known soulful sound.
“Red Pill Blues” introduces the revised Maroon 5 sound as a hodge-podge mixture of EDM, dance-pop and R&B.
The album starts with a track called “Best 4 U.” Joining the trend among other current pop songs, the track takes cues from 80s dance-pop with a driving bass line and layers of synths. It’s one of the better songs on the album, highlighting some of the best parts of Levine’s vocal range.
The album is also unique from Maroon 5’s previous work in that it features other artists on five of the tracks. “Whiskey” features A$AP Rocky and is another track to highlight because of its vulnerable lyrics. Thanks to A$AP’s rap verse, it also has a more lyrical depth than it would otherwise.
The best track on the album is “Lips On You,” a sultry, steamy song that suits Levine’s crooning voice. It has a wide dynamic range, the highlight of which is a moment where a simple, soft piano line breaks through the heavily electronic arrangement. The song’s arrangement feels somewhat orchestral and engaging, with lush vocal harmonies surrounding the chorus. The last chorus also features a descending, descant vocal run from Levine that adds some interest in the midst of the song’s repetitiveness.
While there are a few somewhat decent tracks on the album, most of the others are pop-driven fillers. They only contribute to the generally lukewarm feeling of the album; they lack dynamic range and are overly repetitive in chord structure and lyrics.
The worst song on the album is “Closure.” It’s an 11-and-a-half-minute track with roughly eight minutes of unnecessary vamping. The intention may have been to feature the other artists in the band, but it fails at doing so. There isn’t much opportunity for anyone to shine, since there isn’t any interesting instrumentation throughout those eight minutes. The track absolutely begs for “closure” by the time it reaches its full length. It belongs on an elevator or an easy-listening station much more than it does on a Maroon 5 album.
All songs considered, “Red Pill Blues” came out just fine. It meanders through a few pop styles, hoping to deliver something for every pop music lover, but leaving the band’s new sound somewhat undefined. This is a prime example of a band being boxed into a mainstream sound. While they may have not been truly outstanding, the old Maroon 5’s more cohesive sound made them more memorable in the pop music scene.