by Emma Turney
If you’re still holding on to hope that Maroon 5 will return to the days of the guitar filled, soft rock Songs About Jane, it may be time to officially give up. On November 3rd, the band released their sixth LP, the pop and R&B blend Red Pill Blues, a reference to the “Matrix” when Morpheus offers Neo a red pill that will reveal the truths about the world. This title suggested that Maroon 5 decided to follow the political trend in music recently and release a so-called “purposeful pop” album. Alas the lead singer, Adam Levine, spends 15 songs on the deluxe version summing up the theme to any pop love song ever created. However, if you let go of your preconceptions of Maroon 5, Red Pill Blues surprisingly turns out to be a collection of infectious, addicting hooks that cement in your brain no matter how hard you try to resist.
Arguably, Maroon 5 has been a true pop band since the release of Overexposed in 2012. It’s obvious that the band have become pros at creating Top 40 hits. They have a way of creating these hooks that you somehow continue to hear everywhere you go. I don’t think there’s a single person that can’t at least hum the tune to “Payphone” or “Moves Like Jagger.” Although not every song on Red Pill Blues is that big of a hit, there are a few contenders. The first track on the album, “Best 4 U,” shows their masterful hooks. The buildup to the chorus where Levine sings ‘I just want the best for you / but I’m just not the best for you’ with single syllable words that match a slower drum beat is so simple that it becomes insanely catchy. This use of punching single syllable words in the hook continues on “Girls Like You.” It’s easy to sing along to and sounds like it was manufactured for radio play.
The endless Top 40 collaborators on Red Pill Blues adds to the album’s hit making possibility. The SZA featured track, “What Lovers Do” teeters on the line of reggae and EDM. It’s an unexpected mix, but works perfectly, with two contrasting voices like those of Levine and SZA. Although, the feature from Julia Michaels is sadly not as successful and slightly disappointing. The possibilities for a duet between Levine and Michaels are limitless considering they both have insane vocal range. Their falsettos in “Help Me Out” match up perfectly, but build up to a flat chorus that has no catchy rhythm, ultimately leaving the song forgettable. The endless list of frat-boy-ready rappers featured on this album make up almost the rest of the collaborations. Future’s verse on “Cold” confirms the songs nonchalant, cool vibe. Surprisingly, the most impressive feature on the album comes from lesser known LunchMoney Lewis on “Who I Am.” The rap verse sounds seamless and purposeful instead of sounding like two separate songs like Kendrick Lamar’s feature on the Taylor Swift track “Bad Blood.”
Possibly the most interesting moments on Red Pill Blues come when the band focuses less on making a Top 40 hit. The electronic ballad “Denim Jacket,” which is unfortunately left as a bonus track, is reminiscent of Maroon 5’s debut album with sentimental lyrics and Levine’s signature falsetto. The closing to the album, appropriately titled “Closure,” goes on for over eleven minutes with a seven-minute jam sesh. It’s a bold move but with Maroon 5’s history of hits they can safely step out of the box sometimes.
It’s safe to say Maroon 5 have abandoned trying to stay in one genre. Through their genre bending career, Red Pill Blues turns out to be Maroon 5’s most ambiguous album to date. Although a few songs on the LP only deserve one listen and are sadly forgettable, the hits shine through and promise to be heard on the radio in the near future.
“Best 4 U”
“What Lovers Do”