Since their huge breakthrough in 2002 with debut album Songs About Jane, Maroon 5 have moved further and further away from their pop/rock hybrid sound. Their 2014 album V was pretty much pure pop and their latest album, Red Pill Blues, finds them pretty much leaving any hint of rock at the door. Instead the sound is electro-pop with elements of R&B and funk thrown into the mix.
The album’s first two singles Don’t Wanna Know (feat Kendrick Lamar) and Cold (feat Future) are oddly shoved at the end of the album, despite both being decent-sized hits for the band. Third single What Lovers Do featuring SZA is a catchy three minutes of sugar-rush pop. Frontman Adam Levine trades falsetto moments with SZA’s Rihanna-like delivery. The track is a good indication of what to expect from the record and it’s definitely Maroon 5’s poppiest effort yet.
Red Pill Blues opens with Best 4 You, a dreamy electro-pop number that pulsates along with a strong melody and a catchy hook. Current single Wait features sparse instrumentation that builds into a beat-driven R&B track with Levine’s vocals layered throughout. Of course his trademark falsetto gets a workout on the chorus and the effects on his voice give it the cool vibe that pop is chasing after right now.
One of the problems with Red Pill Blues is that there’s not all that much variety between the tracks and at times I’d barely registered that one track had finished and another had begun. The album seems perfect for a party soundtrack but it feels like the shallowest collection of songs that Maroon 5 has put out yet. It’s really missing the heart of their older material and while the songs are catchy, they aren’t memorable in the same way.
There are some great moments such as the off-kilter beats of Help Me Out featuring star of the moment Julia Michaels and the sparser Bet My Heart, which doesn’t have as full-on polished production as much of the album. The most interesting moment comes on the final track Closure, which is an 11 and half minute jam that draws from blues and jazz. It’s surprising and unexpected, and I wish there were more moments like this on the record.
Red Pill Blues is geared up for mainstream singles success and as an album it’s cohesive if not a bit samey in places. I actually miss the days when Maroon 5 were pop/rock and it’s a shame that they are following the sound that’s dominating radio at the moment. Red Pill Blues isn’t a bad album but it could be recorded by plenty of other chart stars and you probably wouldn’t notice the difference.
Track list: 1. Best 4 You 2. What Lovers Do (feat SZA) 3. Wait 4. Lips on You 5. Bet My Heart 6. Help Me Out (with Julia Michaels) 7. Who I Am (feat LunchMoney Lewis) 8. Whiskey (feat A$AP Rocky) 9. Girls Like You 10. Closure 11. Denim Jacket 12. Visions 13. Plastic Rose 14. Don’t Wanna Know (feat Kendrick Lamar) 15. Cold (feat Future) Record label: Polydor Release date: 3rd November 2017