LP Review; Maroon 5: “Red Pill Blues”

“Best 4 U” starts with a simple melodic figure through instrumentation and electronics that establish a faint groove that holds firm throughout the whole song. Vocals for the first verse join in quickly after, and these vocals emulate the relaxed vibe that the instrumental section has previously introduced. Throughout the selection, the band toys with the adding and subtracting of instruments; however, the instrumental part of this selection is primarily minimal so the vocals are clearly heard, and the vibe can remain mellow.

“What Lovers Do” features SZA, and it starts with a small, single tone motive that leads into the first verse that has a more upbeat back-track compared to the precious track. The background music to this song is minimal; however, it supplies a thicker groove that helps it to remain upbeat throughout the entire work. The lyrics of this song aren’t overly comprehensive, but they are quite memorable, which will lead this to be one of the selections that will be memorable to the audience on their first listen.

“Wait” starts with a smooth guitar motive that quickly adds lead vocals overtop it. Soon after the first few words, the instrumental section shifts to a more upbeat back-track. The vocals of this song sound as if they belong to a more contemporary artist: this isn’t a band technique used by Maroon 5, it is just a tad off-putting because it’s far from their original sound, but it shows their audience that they are able to evolve and morph their musical sound. Towards the end of the song, the band drops down in instrumentation to build up to the same motive used throughout the rest of the song to drive their audience to the end.

“Lips On You” starts with a faint instrumentation that soon introduces more solemn vocals compared to the rest of the tracks previously stated on the album. The melodic content that drives the first verse stands out to the audience because it is interesting, and it sounds fresh and new. The genre influence of this song falls in between pop and alternative, which is strong for the band because it helps them appeal to a broader audience. With that being said, this is a foreseen favorite of the album, for it appears to be one that will likely appear on several varying radio stations.

“Bet My Heart” starts with an acoustic guitar motive that has a faint percussive phrasing underneath it. This addition to the album adds a new color to the overall structure of the work; thus, it gives the audience, again, something new and innovative to keep them engaged. The lyrics of this selection fall in the lower range of the vocalist, which pairs well with the relaxed acoustic background harmonies. In general, this selection has a very chill vibe to it, but it is also very memorable.

“Help Me Out” features Julia Michaels, and starts with a cute instrumental interlude mixed with electronics: this interlude sounds as if it would belong in a video game or a child’s show. The band quickly extrapolates on that sound to make it more progressive; however, it uses that motive to establish and maintain the groove of the selection. When comparing this song to other tracks on the album, this song falls closer to the ones that would be featured on the radio because it mixes genres to make something musically noteworthy. The overall melodic content of the song isn’t very interesting, but the blending of vocals fits beautiful to form pleasing harmonies.

“Who I Am” features LunchMoney Lewis, and starts with a technological interlude mixed with a percussive motive that juxtaposes the first vocal part that is introduced. As the first verse progresses, it is notable that the band includes small guitar motives that last for only a few seconds at a time, but each is slightly different, and they catch the listener off guard. This is a smart tactic for the band, for it gives the listeners some new material. Once the band establishes its groove after that beginning interlude, it stays static in that until the end. In the middle of the selection, the featured artist has a faint moment, which lasts about ten seconds. Moreover, his inclusion fits in nicely, acting (sort of) like transition material.

“Whiskey” features A$AP Rocky, and starts with block chords in the piano that leads into buoyant vocals, which throws the listeners off, for the piano chords would normally indicate a slower, vocal, selection. Throughout the first verse, the band utilizes minimal instrumentation to allow the audience to fully hear and internalize the lyrics. During these moments, the band includes swells of instrumentation to keep the audience interested, melodically speaking. The inclusion of A$AP Rocky feels slightly awkward in this selection, for the music moves so smoothly with lyrical ideas that glide, then his inclusion adds slightly faster lyrics that may be off-putting to some listeners. Overall, it works because this helps the band not just give their audience a bland slower song.

“Girls Like You” starts with an energetic instrumental motive that has the vocals overtop from, almost, the very beginning. This song was a smart next selection, for it gives their audience a shift in style, which helps to keep them engaged. Like other songs on the album, this song doesn’t present very interesting lyrics, but the melodic content it slightly intriguing, and the lyrics that are presented are quite memorable. This isn’t necessarily a bad song for the band, but fans may push for them to put out more innovative content and not something they’ve already heard from the band.

“Closure” starts with a much more exciting instrumental part that will quickly catch the attention of the listeners. The melody of the vocal line is smooth and connected, and it also has an intricate nature to it. As the band progresses through the selection, it is apparent that they’ve fallen into a groove that drives through the entire work. The band includes an instrumental interlude in the middle of the selection, and this interlude seems to grab influence from several different genres of music such as alternative, pop, and jazz. This is a very different sound for Maroon 5; thus, it adds variety to the album, and it shows their audience another skill that they possess, musically speaking.

 “Denim Jacket” starts with a guitar motive that has a country influence to it. The melodic content of this work sounds similar to the previous tracks on the album, while playing with rhythm and range. The instrumental back-track of this song remains static throughout, but the basics of it are more interesting than the previous tracks. Moreover, this song is odd for the band with the country flair to it, but it isn’t too far off from their sound to be displeasing.

“Visions” starts with vocals from the very first downbeat. The contour of these vocals differ from the previous ones as they have a more forward progression paired with a steady percussive motive. The percussive element remains constant throughout the song as the melodic line shifts; however, the vocals follow the same shape and range throughout. The back-beat to this song has elements that are similar to the Reggae style of music, which is completely different than everything else on the album. Towards the end of the song, the band drops down to minimal instrumentation to focus on the vocals until they build up to crash into the final run of the chorus.

“Plastic Rose” starts with an instrumental interlude with an eccentric percussive part that is partnered with several different electric tones. The vocals of this song are more separated, which mimics the blurbs of electronics in the background. As the song progresses, the band builds on the interlude that was established at the beginning, and they use that to drive the song as the vocals shift throughout each available range for the vocalist. This could be one of the more memorable songs from the album, for it is something that hasn’t been heard from Maroon 5 before, but some may challenge that this may be too far outside of their box.

“Don’t Wanna Know” features Kendrick Lamar, and starts with an energetic back-track that adds the vocals in soon after. The mixture of the vocals and the instrumental music forms a very pleasing result because they instrumental part isn’t too overwhelming, but the music as well as the lyrics are memorable. In the middle of the song, the band shifts to clapping as their steady pulse, this helps to focus on the catchy lyrics that the band has already presented once before. The inclusion of Kendrick Lamar into this song only benefits its likeability level, for his part fits into the song perfectly. This is a foreseen favorite of the album because this song seems to emulate the Maroon 5 style that has been seen previously, but it has a fresh sound to it.

“Cold” features Future, and starts with a single electronic tone that builds into the first chilling verse of the song. The melodic line of the first verse utilizes the prime pitches of the vocalist’s range, which helps to make this song more enjoyable, for it is more pleasing to the ear. The song starts with minimal instrumentation, but as the song moves to the chorus a faint groove is established; however, when the music returns to the verse format it switches make to the original layout of the song. This was an okay choice for the final song of the album, but it wasn’t the best choice. This song is pleasing to the ear, it features a well-known artist, it is memorable, but “Don’t Wanna Know” has a “cooler” feel to it, but this wasn’t a bad choice, just not the best.

Final Thoughts: Overall, I would give this album 3 out of 5 stars. The album, as a whole, shows that the band is trying to elevate their sound while staying in the realm that their fans are used to. However, a lot of the material presented on the album isn’t overly interesting, and even though some of the melodic material is innovative, the lyrics fall short or vice versa. Therefore, if you’re looking for a slightly above average album to listen to, that provides very faint grooves, then this is the album for you.

*”Red Pill Blues” was released on November 3, 2017 through 222 Records/Interscope Records.

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