Maroon 5 & Needless Swearing In Pop Music

With Maroon 5 scoring their ninth US top 10 hit in Maps (from their upcoming fifth LP V), I thought it was about time to address my three main feelings about this band:

#1: Adam Levine should stop needlessly swearing in songs that sound like sing-alongs for the kids i.e. Payphone (“one more stupid / f*ckin’ love song,”).

#2: Maroon 5 have spent a decade making some of the most consistently good blue-eyed soul this side of Hall & Oates.

#3: Their mid-career slump Hands All Over (which has since been semi-disowned by the band) is their best album and is still untapped in its potential. Hands All Over produced one US top 20 hit in Misery before being later re-released with the US #1 Moves Like Jagger. The band’s next album was a multi-platinum success with four US top 10 hits.

Let’s flesh things out a little:

Point #1: Can anybody tell me what the necessity is in recording two separate versions of highly poppy songs (“poppy” not said in a negative way) where it makes total sense saying “stupid” and equal or less sense saying “f*cking”? I can deal with the f-word in music, though too often it is used cringe-ably rather than offensively or appropriately. I’d rather the word was appropriately offensive than uneccessarily embarrassing.

A good example is Eminem’s stunning, highly strung Lose Yourself (2002) which amidst the staggering rhymes has two f-words that contextually fit emotionally and are bleeped out for their radio versions. However, Justin Timberlake’s mellow, classic-sounding R&B ballad One Bad Thing has quite possibly the clunkiest bleeped-out f-word in music history: “You might f*ck around,” instead of, “you might mess / stuff / fool around.” Why is it clunky where Eminem isn’t? Simple, JT is trying to be romantic. It’s as misplaced as it would be hearing Al Green drop an f-bomb in the chorus of Let’s Stay Together.

Almost as bad is Mariah Carey’s melodic Motown-throwback duet with Miguel Beautiful where radio’s “you’re beautiful” becomes “you’re f*ckin’ beautiful” for absolutely no other reason than the try-hard credibility middle-aged singers think a warning label gives their albums.

Point #2: When all is said and done Maroon 5 is not a rock group (as they’re sometimes described) but a blue-eyed soul / pop act and songs like This Love, Misery and One More Night should appeal to anyone with an appreciation for carefully constructed late-70s, early 80s R&B by the likes of Michael Jackson, the Bee Gees, Prince, the Police and Hall & Oates.

Point #3: Maroon 5’s career was at a crossroads after the mediocre response to their third album Hands All Over (2010) and before their The Voice-inspired mid-2011 comeback Moves Like Jagger (featuring Christina Aguilera). But just because this album was commercially middling doesn’t mean it was artistically mediocre. Let’s not forget that Pet Sounds and Astral Weeks were only moderate sellers on release and before you lose your breakfast, I’m not saying Hands All Over is comparable with the best of the Beach Boys or Van Morrison.

However, it is more than comparable with the best of Maroon 5 and arguably suffered from poor choice of singles. Beyond the excellent Nile Rodgers-esque Misery (a US top 20), pleasantly forgettable songs like Give A Little More and Never Gonna’ Leave This Bed should never have been put forward for radio-play when hits-in-waiting like the funky Stutter and especially the ballads Just A Feeling and Out Of Goodbyes were being overlooked. As with The Killers bungled Battle Born LP (2012) where the the two weakest songs of an otherwise strong album were chosen as the two lead singles, Hands All Over was classified as an artistic failure due to the underwhelming response to its singles.

Members of Maroon 5 have since stated the creativity of the Mutt Lange-produced Hands All Over was stifled by recording in the cold conditions of the Swiss mountains, but I disagree. Have Maroon 5 ever done better, more radio friendly ballads than Just A Feeling and Out Of Goodbyes? Just A Feeling is an R&B ballad with a hook so massive the clumsiest of ears could clutch it on first listen. As for Out Of Goodbyes, the song melds the R&B stylings of Maroon 5 with the country of Lady Antebellum for a harmony-drenched song so dripping in hit potential the A&R rep who overlooked it needs belated firing if they haven’t been given the sack already.

Country and soul have always had a meeting point, the most obvious being Midnight Train To Georgia by Gladys Knight & The Pips – originally a country song written by Jim Weatherly called Midnight Plane To Houston. These days Out Of Goodbyes should be almost as requested on late-night radio love-songs shows, except for the small matter that nobody knows it.

So righting that wrong, here are Maroon 5’s Just A Feeling and Out Of Goodbyes from their third album Hands All Over to celebrate the upcoming release of their fifth album V. Enjoy.

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