Maroon 5: The Billboard Cover Story
Adam Levine doesn't want to sound like he's complaining. He recognizes that
Jordan Feldstein, the band's manager at Career Artist Management, says the time was right to recruit Lange, who's best-known for his multiplatinum work with
Berkman admits he faced initial resistance getting the band back on top 40 radio following the three years since "It Won't Be Soon Before Long." "There's been some skepticism from PDs who are unsure how to program 'Misery' in a set with Ke$ha and Jason Derülo and Lady Gaga," he says. "Or who are unsure if they even want to."
"Maroon 5 presents a big challenge to certain rhythmic-leaning pop stations that are used to playing club-oriented records," Diener adds. "But once the records do go on, they seem to stick out like a sugar-coated sore thumb. If we can get them to take a chance -- and it seems odd to say 'take a chance' with an act that's sold 10 million records -- the band does connect, which suggests that maybe the audience has a thirst for more variety than stations are inclined to presume."
"Misery" is No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100, and follow-up track "Give a Little More" debuts at No. 86 this week. "All that skepticism eventually went out the window," Berkman says. "And those people who were like, 'Yeah, we're not sure,' became converts. Radio needs hits from stars, from bands people know. You look at the chart right now and it's like, 'Sure, this artist has hits, but does anyone know who he is?' Everyone knows who Adam Levine is."
To keep the band's profile high, Feldstein says the act will be on the road for much of the next year. Its current U.S. headlining tour hits Indianapolis Sept. 1, after which a break is planned for promotional duties around the album's release next month; another round of American shows begins Oct. 6 in Santa Barbara, Calif. Next year the band will play Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia, then head back to the States for another run, according to Feldstein. Release-week TV engagements are scheduled for "Today," "Late Show With David Letterman," "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," "Chelsea Lately" and "Tavis Smiley."
The message throughout these appearances? That not unlike Blondie 30-something years ago, Maroon 5 is a band. "It's the reason we make a point of having them do some sort of performance in their videos," Feldstein says, "and why their Rolling Stone cover had all five members on it, and why we've never gone out to the third-party writers du jour. We've really tried to maintain the idea that this is a self-contained unit."
New York Times music critic Jon Caramanica says hiring Lange should help get that point across, though not necessarily to the broad base that Diener and Berkman say they're courting. "It's been a while since Mutt Lange had a real trademark sound that people got behind," he says. "So to go back and choose him, rather than choosing someone more of the moment, that to me is a real signifier to AOR fans, people who are into late-'70s/early-'80s stuff. You're basically sending a smoke signal to that audience: 'We like what you like. We like the songs that you like. We're interested in being a band that's like the bands you used to like.' "
If that turns out to be the case, Feldstein acknowledges that there are certain advantages to Maroon 5's in-between status among younger listeners. "I don't think our fan base minds if we license music," the manager says. "Kings of Leon didn't license their music to 'Glee,' but we can do stuff like that and reach people we might not normally reach."
However far "Hands All Over" goes toward solving Maroon 5's perception problem, Levine feels the band's longevity is already beginning to pay off. "You get to a point where you can outlive your criticism, and I think we're starting to turn that corner now," he says. "People are saying, 'Wow, this isn't a flash in the pan -- this is a band that's been around through other bands' rising and falling.'
"At the end of the day it's about whether or not the music resonates with people," he continues. "Are people showing up to our concerts? Are they buying our records? That's all that matters."