Before it became the band better known as Adam Levine + 4, Maroon 5 was a band with both a surprising amount of talent – and definitely less important in general, but more important for the band’s story – an enigmatic and a unique lead singer. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that they burst onto the music scene in 2004 with two pop songs that still get airplay to this day, “This Love” and “She Will Be Loved,” which were both featured on their debut Songs About Jane that was originally released in 2002 but took two years to really gain any attention. It took a total of 5 years for their follow up, It Won’t Be Soon Before Long to materialize, and the lead single from their sophomore effort, “Makes Me Wonder,” was highly anticipated and was the band’s first hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Since It Won’t Be Soon Before Long, Maroon 5 has morphed into a pop juggernaut, releasing single after single to commercial success, but limited critical success. Songs like “Payphone,” “One More Night,” “Sugar,” “Daylight,” “Maps” have been everywhere in recent years, (trust me, you’ve heard them, surprisingly none of them have hit #1) but lack any real discernible style or distinguishable quality other than the fact that they are most definitely Maroon 5 songs. Instead, these, and every other Maroon 5 track from 2008 onwards that I’ve had the pleasure (or displeasure) of hearing on pop radio are chock full of meaningless lyrics, supposed hooks, and unnecessary electronic flourishes. Adam Levine has been the poster boy for The Voice for what feels like an eternity now, and I have a feeling that this has detracted from the quality of music that the band is creating in the studio. Levine has quickly overshadowed the rest of the band in terms of popularity, and the other Maroon 4 (heh) seem to be okay with taking a backseat and just hanging on for the money train, regardless of the low level of critical acclaim coming their way.
Maroon 5 has shamelessly and blatantly salted away all their critical success for commercial success, something that won’t get them onto any year-end best of lists, but will allow them to continue their career at their (and their label’s) pace. Songs About Jane and It Wont Be Soon Before Long were, and will probably remain, the only two half decent albums that this band or Adam Levine [in his eventual solo exploits after people get sick of seeing those “other four guys” around him (they HAVE names)] will ever make. Which is a just a shame, because this is a trend that is happening more often with bands that are around for longer periods of time. Bands who once “had it all” as both critical and commercial darlings – Coldplay is the other big band that comes to mind – are now releasing whatever dregs they want, knowing that their name and the hype of “the new big single” is enough to shoot them to the top of all of the charts.
Back to “Makes Me Wonder” – I lived through the release of this song and this album, and was surprised even at the time that this was not a more lasting hit than it ended up being. But, looking back nearly 10 years later (shit), I’m happy to say that this juicy pop-funk nugget by the Maroon crew was #1 for 3 non consecutive weeks, which is frankly longer than I recalled. Ultimately, simple timing wouldn’t allow this song to be the song of that summer – those honors went to the inescapable “Umbrella” and shameless Ben E. King sampling “Beautiful Girls,” but still, Cinco Maroon Muchachos circa 2007 is a-okay in my book.