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Maroon 5

+ {Kara’s Flowers}

Spearheaded by falsetto front man Adam Levine (who’d a spell as a judge on NBC’s talent show The Voice), L.A.-based neo-soul/pop-rock band MAROON 5 have been one of the biggest success story of the new millennium. Although sporadic in nature, the groovy group notched up multi-platinum sales for several sets. However, it was in their hit singles from `Harder To Breathe’ and `This Love’ to `Moves Like Jagger’ and `Girls Like You’ (featuring CARDI B), they made their mark.
It was so different and challenging back in the latter half of the 90s when classmates Adam Levine (vocals, rhythm guitar), Jesse Carmichael (keyboards), Mickey Madden (bass) and Ryan Dusick (drums) set out their stall with grounded alt-rock venture, KARA’S FLOWERS. With so many acts of this nature rising and falling in quick succession, the quartet released a limited-edition CD, …WE LIKE DIGGING? (1995) {*5}, that would’ve went unnoticed but for the fact it led to a contract with Reprise Records and a reasonably received official debut, THE FOURTH WORLD (1997) {*6}. Post-grunge power-pop with a penchant for sounding like The POLICE, WEEZER or WINGS, there was promise in songs like opener, `Soap Disco’ (a flop 45), `To Her With Love’ and slow-burner `Captain Splendid’.
Then out of the blue under the mellow gaze of a Californian sun ripened into the burnished sunset, a reinvigorated MAROON 5 came forth. Upon their collective return in 1999 from a college sabbatical (and adding Nebraska-born lead guitarist James Valentine), M5 finally found a sympathetic new sponsor in A&M’s Octone (and J) Records. After a sluggish start, the Matt Wallace-produced SONGS ABOUT JANE (2002) {*8} came into its own at the turn of the following year, hitting both the American and British album charts.
Coming on like a carefree choreographed RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS on pop pills, breakthrough Top 20 single, `Harder To Breathe’, took their horizontal MOR to the 30-something masses. Follow-up single, the soulful `This Love’, writhed into the Top 5 on the back of a soft-focus, soft-porn video (featuring the apple of Adam’s eye, model Kelly McKee). More sauce was to come in the promo for repeat transatlantic Top 5 smoocher, `She Will Be Loved’, a cumulative controversy which seduced the album up into pole position.
2004-2005 also saw the quintet tread ever deeper water with makeshift/lightweight mini-acoustic and live releases, namely 1.22.03 ACOUSTIC {*5} – bookended by The BEATLES’ `If I Fell’ and a parodic excavation of AC/DC’s `Highway To Hell’ – and LIVE: FRIDAY THE 13th {*5}, a full-blown CD/DVD package of best bits up to now; plus a noisy rendition of OASIS’s `Hello’. It could’ve all ended there and then.
Whilst MAROON 5 contemplated, and contemplated some more, on their next moves (Dusick suffered a serious hand injury), temp drummer/percussionist Matt Flynn was promoted to a full-time member in September 2006. The gamble paid off when both the funky `Makes Me Wonder’ and parent studio sophomore set, IT WON’T BE SOON BEFORE LONG (2007) {*6}, rocketed to the top of the charts. Gone were any traces of alt-rock, and in its place were hook-line, stylish, almost nostalgic pop, with twists of funky neo-soul in the mold of PRINCE, JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE and HALL & OATES. The album was a singles set in many aspects: `Wake Up Call’, `Won’t Go Home Without You’ and `If I Never See Your Face Again’ – the latter featuring an alluring RIHANNA on a remixed non-LP hit version in 2008 – cracking the Top 50 on both sides of the Atlantic.
With platinum producer “Mutt” Lange at their side, the pristine pop-fueled MAROON 5’s year off-grid was worth its weight in gold; both in a critical and commercial sense as album, HANDS ALL OVER (2010) {*7}, turned in another Top 3 feat. And tailor-made for a market of saturated “pop-is-the-new-rock” acts sprouting from all over the globe, `Misery’ performed the best out of singles that included `Stutter’ and `Never Gonna Leave This Bed’. The album was in fact re-promoted the following summer when they turned heads, hands and feet via contemporary chart-topper, `Moves Like Jagger’ (featuring Adam’s fellow pop-picker “The Voice” judge, CHRISTINA AGUILERA).
By early 2012, Carmichael wanted a break, and in his place arrived Paul “PJ” Morton. A relatively swift 4th set, OVEREXPOSED (2012) {*6} – featuring rapper WIZ KHALIFA on spawn single smash, `Payphone’ – guaranteed another chart spike, whilst the blue-eyed soul gents from L.A. pierced the Top 10 again: twice with `Daylight’ and `Love Somebody’; the exclusive stream, `Wipe Your Eyes’, flopped but made it to the bonus CD addendums, alongside a version of PRINCE’s `Kiss’.
Refreshed from his hiatus, Carmichael returned to the fray; although Morton maintained his place within the now 6-piece outfit. MAROON 5 signed a new global deal with Interscope-endorsed 222 Records, and with the aptly-titled V (2014) {*6}, the sextet roared to the top of the album charts on the back of big hitters, `Maps’ (very MEN AT WORK), `It Was Always You’ and `Animals’; ONEREPUBLIC’s Ryan Tedder, Con Bro Chill’s Sam Martin (plus others), and Shellback, respectively, lending a hand. Elsewhere, and most notably, `Sugar’ sweetened the Top 3 somewhat, while GWEN STEFANI was fully credited on the yearning closer `My Heart Is Open’.
A succession of streamed singles (nothing from the Euro-only “The Singles” compilation) followed; none more controversial than explicit transatlantic cue, `This Summer’s Gonna Hurt Like A Motherfucker’ – to give the song its full technicolor title. Though not nearly as adverse, MAROON 5 cleaned up their act when tackling the Top 10 again alongside KENDRICK LAMAR on the simple and summery `Don’t Wanna Know’. And then there were 7; PHANTOM PLANET’s Sam Farrar (keyboards/guitar) was introduced for umpteenth chart volley, `Cold’, featuring FUTURE.
MAROON 5 had slowly but surely slipped succinctly into a “Marmite” type act – one either loved or loathed them in their capacity to smooch. Working with an array of producers/engineers and the like, somehow Top 3 set RED PILL BLUES (2017) {*5} got buried in a Matrix all of its own – at least on a critical level, where the polarised title was one also utilised by the Men’s Rights Activist movement. The funky-dance Saturday night/Sunday morning concept was ever so apparent, but main features `What Lovers Do’ (a Top 10-er with SZA), `Help Me Out’ (with Julia Michaels), `Who Am I’ (starring LunchMoney Lewis) and `Whiskey’ (starring A$AP ROCKY) relied too heavily on Levine’s diametric compadres to pull them through. An 11-minute jam that rocked the boat a little, but not too much, `Closure’ was a sticky, self-indulgent afterthought, though nevertheless soul-searching. And unavailable on the album version, CARDI B turned up the heat on a post-set, chart-topping re-take of `Girls Like You’, coming as it did after the slush of the TIMBERLAKE-esque hit, `Wait’.
Pointing the way possibly to further slicker sentimentality, though deceptively catchy, September 2019’s `Memories’ single stepped into the Top 5 on both sides of the big pond.
© MC Strong/MCS 2006/GRD // rev-up MCS Jul2020

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