Maroon 5: Right sound, right time
Although Maroon 5 have an extensive tour planned to support their latest album, Red Pill Blues, the first chance most fans will get to hear the new songs live will be at the band’s annual New Year’s Eve shows in Las Vegas. Now a septet—Maroon 7, in effect—they’ve whetted fans’ appetites with singles, talk show appearances and a performance of single “What Lovers Do” on The Voice, the televised platform that maintains singer Adam Levine’s stature as a household name. That, in turn, gives Maroon 5 a marketing boost that contributed to Red Pill Blues debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200.
There are other factors involved in the band’s continuing success, 15 years after debuting with Songs About Jane, including relative stability. Several of the band members were in Maroon 5’s previous incarnation as Kara’s Flowers, but Levine and keyboardist/guitarist Jesse Carmichael first met as teenagers at a summer camp with a state-of-the-art recording studio. Bassist Mickey Madden and drummer Ryan Dusick soon bonded with Carmichael and Levine, and lead guitarist James Valentine came on board when Kara’s Flowers became Maroon 5 in 2001.
The only major lineup change has been Matt Flynn taking over on drums in 2006 after touring exacerbated Dusick’s sports injuries. Keyboardist PJ Morton and multi-instrumentalist Sam Farrar rounded out the band’s sound live and/or in the studio before becoming full-time members, but Maroon 5 guest vocalists and collaborations with songwriters and producers have been extensive since Christina Aguilera’s contribution to “Moves Like Jagger” resulted in a No. 1 hit in 2011. The 2010s brought Wiz Khalifa, Gwen Stefani and Dr. Luke into the studio, while the rotating army of producers and songwriters has included Benny Blanco, Ryan Tedder and Sia, with each track a team effort accomplished with a different squad.
The songs on Red Pill Blues were constructed in similar fashion, but the album has a feel that Valentine has described in video filmed for Maroon 5’s YouTube channel as “Understated … laid-back and chill.” In keeping with their pattern of working with rising talent, they worked with J Kash as producer on the single “Cold,” which was released in February and featured a guest turn by rapper Future. He was then brought in as executive producer for the new album.
They also recruited talent such as SZA, Julia Michaels, LunchMoney Lewis and A$AP Rocky to infuse Red Pill Blues (the title was inspired by sci-fi film The Matrix) with cutting-edge, pop-chart appeal. “It was based on their talent and their new freshness on the scene,” said Levine of the criteria for qualifying as a Maroon 5 guest artist at the band’s IHeartRadio Red Pill record release party in November. “It was all song appropriate.” So far song appropriateness has resulted in six Top 10 albums and 13 Top 10 singles, the latter being the most any band has earned in the 2000s. With an entire 2018 tour ahead of them Maroon 5 is likely to extend that record, with Nickelback a distant second place and unlikely to catch up.
Mandalay Bay, 8 p.m. Dec. 30-31, starting at $90 plus tax and fee. 800.745.3000 Ticketmaster