Maroon 5, Hands All Over

Back when Fully Reconditioned was being formulated in wingback leather-chair NFL-owner suites, Tyler suggested that first-person pieces should be verboten.  Nathan dissuaded him of this notion.  Tyler will now take advantage of this concession to pen a personal rave about Maroon 5’s most recent album, Hands All Over.

I mean, Jesus.

It’s easy to imagine any number of reasons for expecting very little from a Maroon 5 album that nobody noticed saw release. I’ll save you the trouble.  The “This Love” band?  Adam Levine?  Isn’t he on The Voice?  Why do all their videos feature said Levine banging some transcendent model/actress on the rise?  Wasn’t that song “She Will Be Loved” kinda awful, actually?  Didn’t they release a second album–this is their third?  Did not that second album proffer the lyric “Sweet Kiwi/your juices runnin’ down my chin?”

So, skepticism aplenty, and justified.  Maroon 5 aren’t a hatable band, but there’s no reason to think they’re more than, say, Train, with better production, songwriting, and a full-voiced, (somehow) less laughable frontman.  They’re just kind of…there.

But no, they’re not.  I struggled to put down why I’d fallen for Hands All Over for most of a week, and every time I played the record for reference I ended up tapping my toes or texting a friend “Really, this Maroon 5 is some Off The Wall shit”.  In the end, I can boil down the appeals of this unexpected kinda masterpiece of a pop record by measuring my visceral reactions.  We enjoy pop music–and we all do, be the artist Lady Gaga or Rascal Flatts or The Strokes or whoever constitutes mindless fun in whatever genre they represent–and we enjoy it because it’s comfortable, easy, and God damn catchy.

“Misery” is one of the better opening tracks you might hope for, if you were anybody, ever, anywhere.  It also is a light appetizer.   Bang-bang-bang, you follow up with “Give A Little More,” “Stutter” and, perhaps the centerpiece of the record, “Don’t Know Nothing.”  “Never Gonna Leave This Bed,” a track with a terrible title that Coldplay would have made a wedding song.  “I Can’t Lie” speaks for it-fucking-self.  “Hands All Over,” burdened with title-track impetus, is ridiculous and hilarious.  And infectious.  The ballads start rolling in with “How,” a magnificent song that defers comment to the earlier crack about Coldplay.  The final stretch shuffles two how-are-they-not-hits dancers alongside two straight-face heartbreakers, and, for the first time in Maroon 5’s career, the ballads steal the show.  The hooks are no longer forgotten even if the subject matter is “serious.”  Exquisite harmony speaks for itself.

These are bar-level excuses for defending an album, and late-night bar-level at that.  This is appropriate.  Hands All Over is not the favorite you flash at wedding reception tables to sound up on things and better than the guy criticizing the table wine.  What it is is a phenomenal pop album, worthy of celebration both as escapism and damn fine musicianship.  Again, it’d be nice if that guy Levine wasn’t such a vibrator, but to deny his talents behind the microphone or at the lyric sheet would be birther-level delusion.  He ain’t dividing the atom here, and he knows it.  He’s just trying to sing things to which anybody who’s ever had a halfway-reasonable relationship might in some way tip the cap, and he’s trying to do it over necessarily flawless production.  If you can pull that off, you’re talented.  Voice shit aside.  Begrudgingly.

If you don’t want to drift off from time to time, Hands All Over is not your album.  It’s silly and is proudly catered to a rather low denominator.

If you like to just forget whatever needless nonsense is bothering you at the moment and aren’t embarrassed when you end up doing a little Chicago-step alone while riding public transit, you might enjoy it.

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