As one of the few (at least few I can name) bands of the modern age to have a career lasting more than a decade, Maroon 5 were once the dominant force in pop-rock charts around the world and now, they’re back to try and reassert said dominance with their sixth album Red Pill Blues.
There’s a glint of humour to Levine’s voice on opening number “Best 4 U” which makes the vocal seemingly shimmer on a track that’s as catchy as it is lyrically simplistic – (very). Follow up “What Lovers Do” featuring SZA, fares batter, upping the tempo somewhat and bringing back that almost infamous Levine falsetto that made the band so noteworthy back in their heyday.
“Wait” adds an R’n’B vibe to proceedings, something which doesn’t quite fit with the bands’ usual sound, but they should be commended for experimenting at a time when many of their artistic counterparts refuse to do so. “Lips On You” slows things right down, which is a shame as it disrupts the albums’ rhythm up to this point, however it does allow Levine’s vocal to take centre stage without distraction caused by guitars and a thumping drum beat. Nevertheless, it is the album’s weak point thus far.
“Bet My Heart” picks things up somewhat, certainly in terms of the tempo, although the track is far from anything special, while Julia Michaels’ guest vocal on “Help Me Out” is the best thing about the track and makes the song worthy of repeat listens and of its status as a current single. “Who I Am” meanwhile has a toe-tapping rhythm which is enjoyable enough, but its lyrically basic enough to have been written by a pre-teen.
A$AP Rocky’s appearance on “Whiskey” doesn’t fit with Maroon 5’s style or the album they’re unveiling to those who listen to it and so his vocal talent is lost among lyrics that make little to no sense such as “she kissed me like a whiskey.” That part of the song is memorable, but sadly for all the wrong reasons. “Girls Like You” is only marginally better, helped by its considerable club feel which “Closure” attempts to recreate, but it’s “Denim Jacket” that returns the album to somewhat stronger and more stable ground, and brings back Levine’s (much missed at this point) falsetto, before “Visions” injects a rather reggae twist to proceedings, although, despite being so different to anything else featured so far, works rather well.
It’s a shame therefore that “Plastic Rose” undoes most of the hard work delivered by its two predecessors, but the ‘mistake’ is rectified somewhat by the arrival of 2016 ‘s lead single “Don’t Wanna Know”, featuring Kendrick Lamar, although the song would work perfectly well without his input.
Closing with “Cold” which features Future, the collection ends on a surprisingly positive note as the instrumentation and vocal blend impressively well and while the album is no modern-day classic a la Songs About Jane, and is certainly more experimental, notably thanks to Levine and THAT vocal ability, Red Pill Blues certainly won’t see Maroon 5 fade into obscurity any time soon.