This album is the biggest step away from the pop-rock days of Maroon 5’s early material, veering more towards an electro-pop/R’n’B crossover.
The synth-heavy ‘Best 4 U’ opens the album with its repetitive chorus and multi-layered rhythm, setting the tone for the rest of the album.
‘What Lovers Do’ is the first of many collaborations on the album, with this song featuring SZA. It is one of the best songs on the album, with her soulful R’n’B voice working seamlessly with Adam Levine’s distinctive tone. The high pitch of the track also helps to show off Levine’s immense vocal range.
On an album made up of a lot of radio-friendly pop, this is about as good as it gets. The thing is, though, that the song lacks the style of any other material SZA has featured on before. The bite and sassiness heard on her Rihanna collaboration ‘Consideration’ is completely missing.
The same could be said for some of the other unexpected collaborations, including Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Rocky, who sound like they’ve just been oddly shoe-horned into songs for the sake of shifting a few more records because of their sheer clout in the music industry at the moment. Without A$AP Rocky’s wildly unnecessary verse, ‘Whiskey’ works as a bit of a necessary change of pace halfway through the album.
‘Who I Am’, a collaboration with LunchMoney Lewis, sounds more like the good old Maroon 5 we know and love. It’s melodic beats and plucky guitar make for a catchy, upbeat pop track that seems much more mellow than a lot of the other tracks that rely on too many “ooh-hoo-hoo-hoo” or “ah-ha-ha-ha” lyrics that make each song sound almost exactly like the last.
While ‘Plastic Rose’ has a snappy electro beat, like a lot of the rest of the production on Red Pill Blues, it maintains Maroon 5’s style of metaphorical relationship talk and is one of the stand-out songs on the 15-track collection.
‘Closure’ is an odd beast of a song. It starts off sounding like every other track on the album, catchy enough but easily forgettable, before stretching out into an eight-minute-long instrumental, featuring everything from a bluesy guitar and keys line before the sax and other elements are introduced.
It’s an interesting concept that pays off to a certain extent. It’s one of the only points in the album that seems as though the band have had any sort of artistic freedom away from the finely tuned blueprint of the overly-clinical pop of the rest of the album.
It could have maybe done with being a couple of minutes shorter as it just ends up sounding like eight minutes of elevator music by the end. What with the name of the song, and the experimental ending, this would’ve worked as a great album closer. Instead, it just seems to keep going with some more middle of the road pop songs, before eventually coming to a close with singles ‘Don’t Wanna Know’ and ‘Cold’.
It’s a shame this album seems like such a wasted opportunity. While there are some bright spots throughout, a bunch of the tracks feel like filler that could’ve been left on the cutting room floor. If they had put more effort into the song-writing than into getting everyone and their mum to collaborate with them, this could’ve been an exciting step into the R’n’B genre for the band.