If you listened to the radio at some point this week there’s a good chance you heard any one of Maroon 5’s singles, considering the band has been a top 40 mainstay for well over a decade. Their pop ubiquity began with the release of their breakup-themed LP Songs About Jane, which turned 15 on Sunday (June 25).
Although it’s regarded as Maroon 5’s official debut, the group initially formed as California teens in the ’90s as post-grunge band Kara’s Flowers. Their fuzzy, Weezer-esque sound landed them a record deal and even a cameo at The Peach Pit on 90210 — ultimate teen goals of the turn of the millennium — but it never caught on commercially as they hoped.
Following the addition of guitarist James Valentine, a name change, and Adam Levine’s discovery (and perhaps binge-listening) of Stevie Wonder, they ditched their alt-rock roots and embraced a funkier, falsetto-heavy persona that saw its fruition on Songs About Jane.
Maroon 5’s range of genre-dabbling and artist features has changed significantly since the early ’00s, but it feels impossible to evaluate any new material without considering where their pop trajectory began. Songs About Jane, which peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 and was eventually certified 4x platinum, was career reinvention in its finest form. Levine began to explore his range, and exposed the band’s most earnest lyrics in the process. And while Maroon 5 is very much a singles act in present day, landing a few hits on the Hot 100 every few years, Songs About Jane stands as their most complete album, with cohesive storytelling that’s weaved through every track.
Take a break from “Cold” and “Don’t Wanna Know” and revisit the cathartic, catchy beauty of Jane, as we rank each track.
12. “Sweetest Goodbye”
The final track of the album indeed comes in last, due to its lackluster finale, and somewhat cheesy title placement. The slow pace eventually turns into a riveting guitar solo from Valentine towards song’s end, but there’s not much to grab your attention within the first minute. Props for ending accordingly on the album’s sentimental theme, but there were higher expectations for a closer to a hit album.
Mickey Madden’s funked-out bass lines are synonymous with Jane, and they’re especially apparent on this track’s thumping and drum filled-intro. While “Tangled” follows a similar formula to several Jane highlights, the energy here falls short, and could use some of the album’s more poppier inflections. Levine does hit some soaring notes as he sings lyrics of regret; so don’t be surprised if you catch yourself mouthing the words. The intention is there, but the execution falls flat.
10. “Through With You”
Levine makes it clear he’s done playing relationship games, but he refuses to let his ex forget the damage she’s inflicted. His vengeful lyrics take center while the band drives the narrative with a sinister melody accompanied by a theatrical piano. It’s the classic tale of refusing to get back with someone while also obsessing over the relationship’s memories. Levine in a lower octave isn’t where his voice shines, but hey, the man is angry.
9. “Must Get Out”
The European-released fifth single from SAJ is the softest, and one of most rock-infused, tracks on Jane, trading in the smacking bass for harmonious drums and piano, and moments of twangy guitars. There are some trite lyrics (“There’s only so much I can do/ After all the things you put me through), and not to be too picky, but Levine’s voice has an unpleasant crack towards the end. But clearly he has his higher register down by now.
8. “Not Coming Home”
“And does it make you sad, to find yourself alone?/ And does it make you mad, to find that I have grown?” Levine strikes back. This track picks up where “Through With You” left off, but this time he’s more confident (“Go on misuse me and abuse me/ I’ll come out stronger in the end”) and is more assured in moving on from this toxic union. His vocals also thrive more, with an exploding range that bounces through pounding riffs and a cheering crowd in the background, giving the impression it’s a live recording.
7. “The Sun”
Levine knows he sounds like a broken record with his heartbreak woes, but it’s all part of the healing process. As he looks back on old photographs, he’s filled with remorse for the deceased relationship and the life that once was. He eventually finds optimism in consoling words from his mother, and the band matches his wise epiphany with buoyant guitar riffs. There’s also a verse that features sensual, on-point harmonies from Levine – and something about slipping sex in coffee, to boot.
Speaking of harmonies, Levine shows them off again on this slinky tune that incorporates some serious guitar shredding. We’d be more inclined to tie this one with “The Sun,” but “Shiver” features an infectious, breathy chorus that could appear as subtle if you’re too deep in the melody (“There may not be another way to your heart/ So I guess I’d better find a new way in”). It all makes for a highly seductive tune.
Starting off on a quiet, ominous tone, “Secret” takes a much more darker turn sonically than expected for a pop band, but works perfectly here. The eeriness transforms into a slow and carnal track, as Levine croons, “I know I don’t know you, but I want you so bad/ Everybody has a secret, but can they keep it.” It’s pretty obvious what intentions he has, through each lusty innuendo.
4. “Harder to Breathe”
The first single to be released under their new moniker was an infectious launch for Maroon 5, peaking at No 18 on the Hot 100. Between the gritty guitar interlude and abrasive drum intro, “Harder to Breathe” carries a suffocating (obviously) tone of desperation. You can literally hear short breaths gasping behind the chorus. While ex Jane was inspiration for some aspect of each song, Levine revealed that “Harder to Breathe” was about mainly about the pressure the band felt from their label to produce a new single. In this case, working under stress went very well for their favor.
3. “This Love”
This was the song that ignited the Maroon 5 pop sensation that we know so well today. As the set’s second single, “This Love” didn’t land on the charts until 2004, but garnered the group attention like never before, ultimately peaking at No. 5 in the Hot 100. The band molded all the pain-inflicting themes from the album into one massive radio anthem, with one of the most recognizable intros of the era. Hear the first few pounds of those piano keys and you know it’s about to be karaoke time.
2. “Sunday Morning”
Probably the most underrated Maroon 5 single, “Sunday Morning” is all about positive vibes on this jazz-infused number. Its pounding piano hook is cinematic, but not in a cheesy way, and the chorus is simplistic enough to hook you on first listen. The relationship Levine describes isn’t perfect, but it’s far from the pain that’s echoed through the rest of the album: Instead, it captures the sweet and tender moments that can outweigh the bad, like waking up next to the one you love on a rainy cuddle day.
1. “She Will Be Loved”
The stripped-down acoustic verse. A chorus that sings of unrequited love, and ends up lingering in your head for days. A music video worthy of its own soap opera spinoff. Maroon 5 checked all the right boxes with this beautifully mellowed single that matched the mega-success of “This Love,” also peaking at No. 5 on the Hot 100, and even grabbing a Grammy nomination. Valentine’s guitar wails in sync with Levine’s vocal pining for someone who won’t ever look your way. Songs About Jane is packed with experimental flourishes, but it’s also Maroon 5 at their storytelling best, and “She Will Be Loved” remains one of their most captivating tales to this day.