Maroon 5 are barely the same band that first hit radio waves with debut single “Harder to Breathe” a decade ago. The song is still a staple of their live show, but its alt-rock licks are a far cry from the direction the band has taken since hitting pop’s big leagues. In 2012, Maroon 5 is a band searching for the upper reaches of the Hot 100, especially after hitting the top spot with last year’s inescapable “Moves Like Jagger.”
The Christina Aguilera duet appears as a bonus track on some international versions of their latest album, “Overexposed,” and sounds right at home, given the band’s new pop-centric direction. Plenty have already cried foul over the changes on “Overexposed” and, warranted or not, there’s no denying it’s a leap into new territory for Adam Levine and company. The band’s fourth studio record enlists more superstar producers than any before ( Max Martin, Benny Blanco, and Ryan Tedder, to name a few) and largely drops the last traces of Maroon 5’s rock influences. Since settling into his role as a judge on NBC’s “The Voice,” Levine could even be on the fast track towards a successful solo career, and “Overexposed” might be our first window into those aspirations.
Regardless of how fans respond to the band’s creative facelift, “Overexposed” promises to mark an important point in Maroon 5’s already highly-successful musical career. So which tracks on “Overexposed” are immediate highlights? Check out our track-by-track take on Maroon 5’s latest.
01. One More Night – “Overexposed” begins with its second official single, an upbeat, faintly reggae-tinged track about a bad influence Adam Levine can’t seem to shake: “I cross my heart and I hope to die that I’ll only stay with you one more night.”
02. Payphone ft. Wiz Khalifa – Levine’s tone shifts from indecision to heartbreak as Maroon 5 enlists the help of “Black and Yellow” rapper Wiz Khalifa for a heartstring-puller that’s not far off from “She Will Be Loved” and “Never Gonna Leave This Bed”. And if you ever wondered what Adam Levine might be like in a “Die Hard”-esque action role, check out the official video.
03. Daylight – On one of several “Overexposed” tracks co-produced by Levine himself, “Daylight” finds Maroon 5 in their soft rock wheelhouse. “Daylight” is a bittersweet tale that builds momentum towards one of the album’s most up-tempo songs that follows it; listen closely and you might hear a Chris Martin homage in Levine’s “whoa-oh’s.”
04. Lucky Strike – Maroon 5’s guitars finally come out to play in the opening bars here. Though not a “rock” song per se, it still packs the energy of the band’s earlier, more band-based material.
05. The Man Who Never Lied – “Man” finds Levine in more relationship trouble, this time playing the role of the good guy: “I was the man who never lied… but I couldn’t break your heart like you did yesterday.” Musically, it keeps the energy from “Lucky Strike” going strong, with one of “Overexposed’s” most memorable choruses.
06. Love Somebody – When the band announced “Overesposed” as their most pop-friendly yet, they probably had tracks like “Love Somebody” in mind. The song is almost completely driven by Tedder and Zancanella’s beat, inching along through the verses before bubbling over just before the chorus kicks in. Sadly, it’s a track that fades into the background amongst “Overexposed”‘s stronger points.
07. Ladykiller – Did Adam go and jack the title of “Voice” co-star Cee Lo Green’s last album? Here, Levine breaks out some high-pitched falsetto to tell the tale of a femme fatale, while a twitchy little guitar solo prior to the final chorus proves to be one of “Overexposed”‘s most pleasantly unexpected moments.
08. Fortune Teller – Although “Fortune Teller” is one of Levine’s most honest songs lyrically, it’s not one of “Overexposed”‘s strongest. The track has an auto-pilot feel to it, with the verses and chorus melding together a bit too predictably.
09. Sad – “Sad” gives “Overexposed” its one true piano ballad — and gives us some insight into why piano ballads were never quite Maroon 5’s calling card. Levine certainly has the pipes to pull it off, but in the end, all he can muster is a simple, “I’m so sad.” Bummer!
10. Tickets – “Overexposed’s” most interesting track features twisting production (at one point early on, it sounds like it’s about to contort into Benny Benassi’s “Satisfaction”) yet ultimately comes through as a tight, techno-influenced pop song. Fans of “Give A Little More” off Maroon 5’s last effort should earmark this one.
11. Doin’ Dirt – The energy of “Tickets” keeps going strong, and much like “Lucky Strike,” “Doin’ Dirt” is the kind of high-energy, beat-driven song that begs for a dance remix. Let’s just hope potential remixers leave Shellback’s shimmery synth flashes from the chorus intact.
12. Beautiful Goodbye – Maroon 5 back off from the club-friendly vibes and offer a good-natured closing statement in the vein of pop rockers like Train and Gavin DeGraw. It’s an acoustic ode that’s bittersweet, yet ultimately positive, and one that could have found a home on any of Maroon 5’s pervious records.