Maroon 5 Perfects Mainstream Pop on Latest Album ‘Red Pill Blues’

Adam Levine and Maroon 5 are back with their sixth studio album “Red Pill Blues.” Their newest effort finds the guys sticking with what they know best. Pop music runs ramped throughout, finding a multitude of mainstream genres meshed together in an overall well-crafted pop album. It’s hard to believe that Maroon 5’s debut, 2002’s modest, acoustic-lead “Songs About Jane,” would eventually lead them to become one of the most well-known mainstream pop bands of our time. And in 2017, perfectly crafted pop music is now Maroon 5’s default setting.

Don’t Wanna Know” is the album’s first single since and features Kendrick Lamar in their first-ever collab. Even though it only lasts about 20-seconds, Lamar’s verse feels immediately odd behind the tropically-infused dancehall-esque beat. We’ve come to expect nothing less than sheer raw attitude from K-Dot over the years, and, granted, he’s had his fair share of pop features lately (Taylor Swift, Imagine Dragons, The Lonely Island), this one stands out as particularly misplaced. Lamar’s verse was solid nonetheless amongst Levine’s talk of keeping distance from ex-lovers so as not to fall into the trap of jealousy and regret.

The track “Whiskey” sees A$AP Rocky following Levine’s ill-conceived suit of comparing a girl’s kiss to grain liquor. Again, the verse is so miniscule – and like “Don’t Wanna Know” comes at the very end of the song – that it makes very little impression. Conversely, Future’s verse on “Cold” feels a bit more cohesive and well-placed, as does SZA’s duet on “What Lovers Do,” arguably one of the band’s most undeniably catchy pop songs since “Moves Like Jagger.”

The guys run through a slew of mainstream genres on “Red Pill Blues.” From the aforementioned dancehall and trap to house, and R&B and even The Police-style reggae (“Visions”). Levine has said that this is the band’s R&B album. Perhaps in comparison to other Maroon 5 records, but as far as traditional, or even experimental R&B goes, that description is a far stretch. After all, crafting a true R&B album would go against Maroon 5’s overall aim of pop domination, which, after listening to this album, is clearly their goal.

“Wait” finds Levine’s pitter-patter vocals and superb falsetto being placed over a friendly trap beat, while “Lips on You” mimics The Weeknd’s slow-burning R&B sensuality. “Plastic Rose” uses deep-house to dissect false love and “Girls Like You” uses a similarly use of lyrics to find Levine wishing he had a “girl like you,” though it’s entirely unclear what type of girl the “you” is in this scenario. Pop-generalities play an important role in “Red Pill Blues.” When doing a quick scan of the lyrical content of this album, coming across lines that end in “Ooh” or “Yeah” is not uncommon.

Like many expertly-produced pop albums, there’s a lot to find appealing. The album is filled with that radio-friendly sound that would make as much sense in a club as it would on Radio Disney. It’s clear Maroon 5 is doing everything they can to stay on top and they’re no doubt succeeding. There’s nary a song here that wasn’t specifically designed to be catchy as hell. This is Maroon 5 now. Moreover, this is pop music now.

Red Pill Blues” is available Nov. 3 on Apple Music.