Album review: Maroon 5’s ‘Red Pill Blues’ fails to continue momentum of previous work

Posted on Nov 14 2017 - 11:12am by Adam Dunnells

Earlier this month, Maroon 5 released its sixth studio album, “Red Pill Blues.” This follow-up is better than the band’s fifth album, “V,” but its differences feel too few and far between.

Interestingly, the two lead singles, “Don’t Wanna Know (feat. Kendrick Lamar)” and “Cold (feat. Future),” do not appear on the standard release of the album, only on the U.S. Deluxe edition. On a certain level, this works, as the album already features four guest artists in 10 songs. Adding those two songs to the mix would have made it six out of 12 songs, meaning half of the album would have had tracks with guest artists.

On the note of guest artists, almost all of them hurt this album. The eighth track on the album, “Whiskey (feat. A$AP Rocky),” has an eerie pop ballad feel, reminiscent of “She Will Be Loved” from its first album, even. However, A$AP Rocky appears for 26 seconds, only rapping 14 lines, and then he disappears. His inclusion in the track is wholly unnecessary, and not only that, but it detracts from the song. Similarly, the previous track, “Who I Am (feat. LunchMoney Lewis),” has the guest rapper only appear for 10 lines in 19 seconds.

The 10th track, “Closure,” which ends the standard release of the album, feels out of place. In an album full of three- to four-minute songs, “Closure” is 11 ½  minutes long, and approximately 8 ½ minutes are instrumental. It feels like sitting in on a jam session with the band, but not in a good way. With the record being so overproduced, the attempt and a candid vibe just comes off as contrived and forced. The album is about dealing with breakups, and the concept of closure in a breakup helps the hurt parties move on, so this track works as a closer, conceptually. However, it would have worked better if the band released it as a three-minute song on the standard release of the album, and the 11 ½ -minute version on the deluxe edition; that way, both albums end with “Closure,” and the audiences don’t necessarily have to listen to the instrumental portion.

This is not to say that album has no redeeming features. For example, when a guest artist works for this band, he or she works very well. “Help Me Out (with Julia Michaels)” is the best example of that, as Michaels’ voice compliments Levine’s falsetto very well. Similarly, “What Lovers Do (feat. SZA)” provides a nice anchor for the album. The song’s funk-inspired pop calls to mind the song “Makes Me Wonder” from the band’s second album, again reminding audiences of the band it used to be.

The album also has some solo gems that were not released as singles. The opening track, “Best 4 U,” has a very catchy bass line that draws in listeners. The second-to-last song, “Girls Like You,” is the standout hidden in this album, and certainly a must-listen. Also, the song “Denim Jacket,” only available on the Deluxe edition, warrants a listen.

While “Red Pill Blues” does mark a shift for Maroon 5, it still does not hold a candle to its first two albums. If you are a die-hard Maroon 5 fan, you will love the things it does on this album, but if not, find the songs you like and forget the rest.

Grade: B-