Maroon 5's Transformation: From Lite Rock to Pop Hits With SZA
    • WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 30, 2017

    • Posted by: Olivia Lewis


    It's tempting to ask, "What happened to Maroon 5?" with the release of their new, fully electropop single "What Lovers Do," featuring an unlikely appearance from rising indie R&B star SZA. "What Lovers Do" is a far stretch from soft rock, Songs About Jane-era Maroon 5, after all. Maroon 5's two other singles that have been released since their 2015 album V - "Don't Wanna Know" and "Cold" - were also strangely tropical pop collaborations with Kendrick Lamar and Future, respectively.

    After a quick look through the band's discography, though, this new style isn't really surprising. Even in the transition from their first to their second album, you can see a shift in style as the band shows their skill in morphing to exactly what the radio wants - and now, well, here we are. So, let's take a quick look back into Maroon 5's career in order to better understand how Maroon 5 went from lite-rock to… tropical house? Honestly, the only thing that's really been consistent about Maroon 5 from album to album is their uncanny ability to make marketable hits.

    1. Songs About Jane - 2002


    Maroon 5's debut album, Songs About Jane, fully embraced a smooth, soulful soft rock sound that would inevitably be played on repeat across radio stations, especially those adult contemporary, easy listening stations. Although the album is guitar-filled and features Maroon 5 the rock band, it's also undoubtedly pop in it's infectiously catchy rhythms and melodies.

    2. It Won't Be Soon Before Long - 2007


    By the second album, Maroon 5 hadn't yet abandoned the guitars, but more electronic elements found their way into the band's ever-evolving sound. Again, regardless of what style they're embodying here, it's clearly pop. The synth-y bassline in "Makes Me Wonder" is especially "Backstreet's Back"-esque, and it's almost impossible to listen to the chorus without subsequently having it stuck in your head for the rest of the day. As the first single from the album, "Makes Me Wonder" also ended up being Maroon 5's first song to make it to top the Billboard Hot 100 list.

    3. Hands All Over - 2010


    Hands All Over was initially not received quite as well as their previous albums, but they re-released it in 2011 just to include their summer hit "Moves With Jagger" with Christina Aguilera. The success of this EDM-inspired hit, the band's first number 1 single in four years, set the tone for their next album. After remembering that "Moves Like Jagger" was a thing, the single they just released with SZA really isn't all that surprising.

    4. Overexposed - 2012


    Overexposed sounds like the entire 2012 zeitgeist condensed into an album - which makes sense, since a third of the album was overplayed so much that it was inescapable. At this point, Maroon 5 fully embraced the reigning sounds of the radio, EDM and electro-pop, bolstering their relevance after their relatively less successful Hands All Over.

    5. V - 2015


    Again, Maroon 5 showed their ability to follow the trends to a T with their fifth album, creatively called V (a.k.a. Roman numeral 5). Officially entrenched into pop culture memory, singles like "Maps," "Animals," and "Sugar" don't really sound like rock, and they especially don't sound like Maroon 5's initial smooth rock/soul sound on Songs About Jane.

    Now that chilled-out tropical house songs are all the rage, at least commercially and on the radio, of course it's no surprise that Maroon 5 is following the trend. Perhaps the only surprising thing about "What Lovers Do" is that the melodies aren't actually that catchy. Generic is something you can usually expect from Maroon 5, but they at least get you with their irresistible melodies - I mean, who doesn't love those "ooh"s in "One More Night" or that chorus in "Sugar?" "Say, say, say, hey hey now baby" is kind of catchy, but overall "What Lovers Do" just feels empty. Then again, an excessive amount of anything starts to lose its meaning.
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