Maroon 5, a Band You Love to Hate, ‘Blown Away’ by Its Own Longevity
With Maroon 5‘s fifth album projected to debut at No. 1 on Wednesday, the band has roared back into everyone’s ears with a sound influenced by Prince, Stevie Wonder and Sting.
Titled V, the album features Adam Levine’s falsetto, and marks the return of guitarist and keyboardist Jesse Carmichael, who was absent from the 2012 album Overexposed.
“I took a break after our first three albums, so I feel like it was this trilogy that had been created — Star Wars through Return of the Jedi,” Carmichael said at Mashable‘s offices in New York City. “And then they went back and made Phantom of the Menace without me.”
“Not cool,” replied bandmate Micky Madden, who first joined musical forces with Levine and Carmichael in 1994 when they were in high school as a band called Kara’s Flowers.
“Endurance is its own reward, and our presence for this long is remarkable; I’m blown away by it,” Madden added.
As the story goes, the group broke out after rebranding themselves as Maroon 5 in 2001, and releasing Songs About Jane, the 2002 album filled with strikingly relatable breakup lyrics and hits that pushed it platinum five times over.
“Lyrics have been a big part of why people have stuck around, but it’s also that Adam is super cute,” Carmichael quipped.
V Rains down with darker relationship songs
Jesse Carmichael and Mickey Madden of Maroon 5 goof off at Mashable’s NYC HQ on Sept. 4.
Image: Christina Ascani/Mashable
Maroon 5 isn’t fixing what’s not broken, employing a successful combination of brooding and yearning themes on V, just like the band has done in its previous four albums — think “She Will Be Loved,” “Makes Me Wonder,” “Payphone” and “One More Night.”
The formula, singing about relationships, is all over V, which dropped Sept. 2.
“The lyrics on this album encompass the whole spectrum of relationships,” Carmichael noted. “We’ve got some issues of fidelity [on the smartphone-themed ‘In Your Pocket’ track], we’ve got a classic rom-com situation of the woman who wears the glasses and has her hair in the ponytail and you don’t realize she’s the one until she takes her hair down [on ‘It Was Always You’]. And we’ve got some really dark stuff.”
Maroon 5 has indeed gone darker with disturbing music-video concepts. Its upcoming “Animals” video, for example, will be a literal bloodbath. “Have you seen The Shining?” Carmichael asked. “There’s gallons of blood involved.”
The dramatically dreary approach for V‘s promotional push began with the album’s lead-off single, “Maps,” which had a music video that surprised fans with a deadly storyline. “I like the idea of using a video to work against expectations then you would have just listening to the song,” Madden said. “It was actually inspired by Irréversible by Gaspar Noé, which is told backward, and it’s a very beautifully made and disturbing movie.”
Not all gloom and doom, V does have some free-spirited tracks, such as “Sugar,” which exudes a groovy vibe reminiscent of Earth, Wind and Fire. “It’s a warm blanket of a song,” Madden said. “I really like the song ‘New Love,’ too.”
If V goes no. 1 next week, as estimated, it will be Maroon 5’s second chart-topping album. It Won’t Be Soon Before Long accomplished that feat in 2007, while the two albums released in between each peaked at no. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart.
Maroon 5 will take these new songs on the road in 2015 for a world tour, one in which the stage design will be created by “a guy who has worked with Nine Inch Nails.”
At the tour, you might see attendees who absolutely love Maroon 5, kind of hate them or once fully hated them, but have been brought back as fans, because at some point since 2002, the group has become a band people love to hate to love.
— Tiia Öhman (@unikissa) September 7, 2014
my mom: i never want to see maroon 5 again
me: yeah same i hate them!
me in three whips of an alligators tail: howls along with animals
— madelyn (@feverdallon) September 4, 2014
I hate myself for this status but this new Maroon 5 album is awesome.
— #TeamAlbino (@Poets_labyrinth) September 3, 2014
I can’t fucking believe maroon 5 covered sex and candy I fucking hate them it’s so good fucking fuck fuck
— Emma (@emsareh) September 2, 2014
Maroon 5 on the ’90s, music industry and tech
Jesse Carmichael and Mickey Madden of Maroon 5 play with toys at Mashable’s NYC offices.
Image: Christina Ascani/Mashable
On touring: “I remember when our first band started to tour we used to have a clipboard with paper on it, and we’d collect email addresses by hand and personally email people about upcoming shows,” Carmichael recalled. “Then we had the idea to invent Facebook, and we sold it.”
On the music industry: “We were signed in the ’90s with our old band and saw the high decadent end of that era very close up — and it was doomed; it really was doomed,” Madden said. “The amount of money that was being spent and wasted, the amount of bands that were being signed by record labels was just absolutely absurd. There had to be some kind of reckoning. CDs were $20 — it was insane. The music industry is just now only adjusting to the shock it had, but it was inevitable.”
On apps: “I’ve been studying music over the past couple of years more so than ever before. There’s this app called Tenuto; it’s good for sight-reading and ear-training. There’s a lot of great drum machine apps like iMachine that are very cool … I’m a big Viner. I like loops of all kinds.” Madden added, “I’m a big advocate of Waze for maps. Dropbox is great. Scrabble.”
On product placements and corporate partnerships: “It’s just a way to fund these things now. It’s a matter of necessity. The music industry used to be so flushed with money for so long, and then all of sudden all of the money went away,” Madden emphasized. “The idea of a corporate partnership was so anathema when we were coming up that you would be instantly branded as a sell-out. But it’s just a matter of practicality now. To get things made in the way that you want them made with the funding that you need it’s a matter of expediency. It’s important to vet these companies, and make sure they’re ethical.”
On taking a break: “I was so grateful to just take the time off, and then just come back in,” Carmichael said. “It was such a lucky thing. It was so helpful on refreshing my whole perspective on what the band is, and how incredibly lucky we are and how grateful I am to be part of it. I also just got to experience life on my own for two years because we have been together since we were 14 years old, basically making all of our major life decisions as a group.”
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