We're moving back to the mainstream this week and right back into this last millennium with Maroon 5's stellar debut, Songs About Jane.
Personally speaking, Maroon 5 are one of those great bands that can create great earworms, with some of their signature songs coming from way back when on this release from 2002. In addition, Adam Levine's vocals across this record help to make the band one of the most recognisable in more recent times. This album is one that set the ball rolling for one of the funkiest bands of this century.
Opener Harder To Breathe epitomises this funk rock that the Red Hot Chili Peppers would be proud of, fusing rock and R&B in a rather pioneering way. There's a certain smoothness to the overall construction of Harder To Breathe with its flowing guitar riffs and Levine's timeless vocals. It was the world's first glimpse at Maroon 5 by way of a single release and set the ball rolling for this album's future successes. This Love comes next, building on their previous efforts, with this track marking the band's first Grammy win and perhaps their most recognised song. With Levine's swooning feel-good vocals, his higher register contrasts the deep guitar licks wonderfully and over three minutes, juxtaposes the rocking nature of its underpinnings with the grooviness of Levine's vocal and piano on the top.
Shiver continues this rock-tinged sound, pursuing the fantastically funky sound experienced on opener Hard To Breathe. With its jaunty guitar riff and hard drumming, it's a song that fits well within the overall sound of the album, undoubtedly so, and the subtle Indian influences on the riffs really do add a certain something. Things take a more emotional turn with She Will Be Loved, showcasing a lighter and increasingly mellow side to the band. It demonstrates the more caring side to Levine's character from previous tracks too, portraying commitment within a relationship, even through the inevitably tough times.
Tangled returns to the heavier, funkier sound seen earlier on, portraying feelings of regret from an abuser within a rocky relationship. Indeed, this plays to the strengths of Levine's vocals and the instrumentation from the rest of the band, with this slightly slower sound bringing out their very best. There's a Beatles-like quality with the guitar solo at the end, opting for a grittier feel that's reminiscent of something from Let It Be. The Sun immediately draws comparison to the soulful R&B of the seventies, with trickles of guitar from James Valentine working wonders in creating something that sounds like a reminder of groovier times. It's a track that wouldn't sound out of place in Stevie Wonder's back catalogue.
Must Get Out offers something a little more gentle and downtempo than its predecessors, showing the band's fabulous versatility, even on this one album. With its gentler sentiments, Maroon 5 seem like a completely different group from an utterly different age compared to the harsh stuff on the first side of Songs About Jane. There's comparisons that can be made to music on the side of blue-eyed soul, with the effervescent Mick Hucknall springing to mind, and to be perfectly honest, that's some rather high praise. The ensuing Sunday Morning continues this sunny soulful sound, once more detailing the theme of relationships. There's a nice and light quality to the track in particular, exhibiting a timelessly vintage sound that really does help to make this one of the album's standouts.
Secret is something a little more intriguing than previous offerings, stripping this right back in terms of lyrics and also vocals. The song builds for over a minute and a half before sauntering into a simply structured song, which doesn't at all detract from its brilliance. It's a certainly jazzy offering, with Adam Levine's falsettos only helping this song onto new heights. With its stripped back nature, it allows for the raw emotions within Levine's vocal to shine through wonderfully. Through With You brings back the wall of sound, but instead lets the piano take centre stage, offering something a little more aggressive and forthright compared to the softer tracks earlier on. This comes as little surprise given the song's lyrical content being from a lover's perspective towards an ex-partner, where there's obviously a lot of pent-up rage through Levine's lines.
Not Coming Home, despite being a studio song, starts off with crowd noises and synth sounds remniscent of a live jam, before launching into some wah-wah guitar in a similar vein to Jimi Hendrix and utilised it to great effect throughout the song. It's a typical early noughties tune, with some great groove present and real aggression that helps to bring out Levine's emotions as best it can. Sweetest Goodbye offers something with a bit more of a hip-hop influence to begin with, especially given its minimalistic bassline, before moving into a sound similar to This Love on the first side of the album. It's a good song about longing with a fantastic guitar solo supposedly played by Adam Levine himself, offering something gritty and grungy to counteract the song's content.
It's certainly clear that Songs About Jane is an utterly splendid album. Even with its pop-rock sound, it draws influences from far and wide to help catapult Maroon 5 to stardom. With its sheer versatility, there's guaranteed to be something for everyone and it's absolutely worth a listen.
If you want to pick up a copy, I’ll leave an Amazon link here: https://amzn.to/2CLnuqd
Or, if you’d prefer, here’s a Spotify link:
More musical magnificence to come next week!
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