When Maroon 5 arose fully formed out of the ashes of Kara’s Flowers (four-fifths of the members are graduates) in late 2001, it was clear that frontman Adam Levine and Co. had made a very interesting decision: “Instead of playing dorky suburban rock à la Weezer, we will instead play unapologetically poppy white-boy r&b.” I happened to be at one of their first gigs at the Whisky in L.A., where my friend and I guffawed at their brazenly commercial new sound. But then came “She Will Be Loved,” and I quickly realized the joke was on us, because Maroon 5 were about to become millionaires. “They sound like Journey,” I whispered to my friend.
I stand behind this assessment, just as I stand behind Journey and Huey Lewis and the News and any other prosaically sexy squads of hitmakers who decide it’s their calling to entertain arenas full of potential Survivor contestants. That’s a dirty job, and the ones qualified to do it can reliably turn out the hits. You wouldn’t chide a bricklayer if he laid a fuckin’ sweet wall, which is what 2002’s Songs About Jane was: sturdy and functional. But It Won’t Be Soon Before Long? Man, it could sprout wings and fly up my ass and it’d still be as boring as owning a goldfish.
Blame it on expectations. Jane was music made by Maroon 5 for Maroon 5; they were still essentially a garage band at the time. Like an episode of Hannah Montana, this new guy is clearly designed solely for 14-year-old girls, which probably explains “Little of Your Time,” a desperate aping of “Hey Ya”; “Won’t Go Home Without You,” a desperate aping of “Every Breath You Take”; and “Wake Up Call,” a desperate aping of R. Kelly, lyrically speaking, because it finds our hero discovering a cheating lover and then shooting the dude. (See anything you like, Ramona Quimby?)
There’s nothing wrong with making music for tweens, or lighter-lofting boomers. It’s simply a matter of execution, and here these chums are scattered and grasping. Their once tightly focused pop&b is here dashed upon the rocks of all manner of oily pop-rock tricks. Next time, fellas, just focus on building a wall.