Maroon 5 are to the 2010s what Chicago were to the Eighties and Nickelback were to the 2000s…the patently and consistently terrible band who inexplicably receive massive amounts of undeserved success, to the point of being the most commercially successful act in the entire Rock genre. Granted, Maroon 5 were once a legitimately good band…their first two albums in particular were excellent…but then, the same can be said about Chicago. In any case, anything good about the band was lost over the course of the early 2010s, and by the time their fourth album was released in 2012, they were the definition of mindless, soulless sellout Pop-Rock polished to a slick sheen to pander to the masses.
Maroon 5’s previous album, Overexposed, was mostly made up of bland, soulless garbage, but this album is on a whole new plane of terrible. In fact, it might beat out Kesha’s first two records as the worst album I’ve reviewed for this site so far. This is also another example of how lead singles can be misleading, as “Maps” was Maroon 5’s best single since “Misery”. The song had a co-writing assist by the new and improved Ryan Tedder, and possibly thanks to his influence, this represents at least a partial return to the pop-rock sounds of Maroon 5’s classic era. Notably, you can actually hear the rest of the band for the first time in ages, and even if the song is kind of on the bland side and the auto-tune still not doing anything good for Adam Levine’s voice, it’s still a clear improvement on anything they’ve done since “Moves Like Jagger”.
Admittedly, there are two or three other decent items, like the New-Wave-flavored “It Was Always You”, or the slow, sensual “Unkiss Me”, but none of these are really all that interesting, and they certainly can’t make up for the rest of the album. And even these songs suffer from Levine’s poor vocal performance…the sad thing is, Levine actually had a really interesting voice before he started slathering it with auto-tune. Now, I will readily grant that auto-tune has its place, but it doesn’t work for everyone, and there’s no question that its effect on Levine’s unique voice is spectacularly unflattering.
I’ll say this much for the album, though…if nothing else, it displays great variety in its awfulness, demonstrating a wide range of different ways that music can be terrible. For example, “Leaving California” is just unbearably oily and bland, while “Sugar”, which lifts its disco-like melody almost note-for-note from Katy Perry’s idiotic “Birthday”, features agonizing falsetto squeals from Levine that sound like a cat being tortured, which is odd given that Adam Levine has been singing in a falsetto range throughout his career and has generally sounded fine as long as he wasn’t slathered with auto-tune.
“New Love” and “Feelings” combine two of the most annoying beats I’ve ever heard with spectacularly unlikable and insincere “love” song lyrics. “Feelings” in particular combines all the worst features of the manipulative vagueness of One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful”, all those bad Rap sex jams about taking someone else’ girlfriend, the very worst excesses of the Disco era, and Maroon 5’s earlier hit, “Sugar”. It’s an incredibly annoying dance song with vocals just as bad as those on “Sugar”, where the singer tries to seduce someone who’s already in a relationship with ambiguous declarations that make him sound like he’s manipulating her (the chorus is “I’ve got feelings for you”, wailed out in a terrible falsetto, but he never offers any clarification of what those feelings are).
Meanwhile, the obnoxiously overblown power ballads “Coming For You” and “My Heart Is Open” manage to make their supposedly loving messages sound belligerent, almost threatening. Going from a soporific melody on the verses to an obnoxious chorus with its overbearing piano chords and wailing hook of “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah”, “My Heart is Open” is simultaneously one of the most insipid and one of the most overblown Easy Listening ballads I’ve ever heard.
“Animals” got a lot of undeserved flack for being overly creepy and inappropriate when it came out, with some even invoking the political correctness movement’s favorite word when it comes to Pop music…’rapey’. For the record, though, it is a terrible song…just not for the reason the political correctness crowd seemed to think. It’s not creepy at all…it’s silly, with goofy, over-the-top lyrics that sound like a parody of stalker songs (‘baby, I’m preyin’ on you tonight/hunt you down, eat you alive’). Still, the furor it provoked was a definite overreaction; frankly, it’s not interesting enough to be offensive. If you want something that really is creepy, try “In Your Pocket”, which really does seem to paint a portrait of a paranoid, borderline-abusive relationship.
But where the album really sets its record for sheer awfulness is in the bonus tracks. Given that even truly great Pop albums often have embarrassingly terrible stuff festering in their deluxe editions (look at Take Care and “The Motto”, or Beyonce’s self-titled and “7/11″), this probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise. The three tracks addended onto the first deluxe reissue were as bad as the rest of the album…”Shoot Love”, which applied a gruesome murder metaphor to a supposedly romantic subject (it’s possible to make this kind of thing work, but it takes skill these idiots don’t have); a neutered cover of Marcy Playground’s “Sex and Candy” (a song that, ironically, the band could probably have pulled off in their Songs About Jane days); and “Lost Stars”, the boring, pretentious Oscar Bait ballad Adam Levine recorded for the film Begin Again.
But the real horror came with the second reissue, which features a new single entitled “This Summer’s Gonna Hurt Like a Motherfucker”. Maroon 5’s late-career, post-sellout output has maintained a pretty consistently low quality for the most part, but this is in all seriousness one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard. I think it has one of their typical asinine lyrics about women, but I can barely tell because the agonizing headache this song invariably gives me makes it very hard to concentrate on the lyrics. Not only is this concentrated musical migraine easily the worst hit song of 2015, it is a very serious contender for the worst song to crack the Top Forty in the entire current decade. The rest of the album is exceptionally terrible by any ordinary standards, but it is dwarfed by this horrific monstrosity, which irrevocably seals this album’s fate as one of the worst efforts of the decade, and Maroon 5’s status as the worst band currently around.