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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Maroon 5: "It Won't Be Soon Before Long"

In a business as predictable as today's mainstream music industry, Maroon 5 has always been an enigma. When they first burst onto the scene in 2002, their music didn't fit in with the rest of what was playing on MTV or the radio. Perhaps that was their appeal. In the midst of emo, pop-punk, and guitar-driven crap rock this band came out of nowhere and reminded everyone what good music sounds like. It's been way too long since that album came out and many fans, like myself, have been clamoring for some new material from this great band. After all that time, Maroon 5 has once again taken over our speakers and our hearts with "It Won't Be Soon Before Long," an album that reminds us why they were so popular in the first place.

Part of the band's appeal has always been their ability to blend elements of jazz, funk, rock, and pop to form a sound that is incredibly unique. "It Won't Be Soon Before Long" continues this tradition, while branching out into other territories as well. It begins with the near-perfect "If I Never See Your Face Again," a funky rock song that draws heavily from mid-eighties pop music like classic Michael Jackson. The production value is high, here, utilizing some fantastic samples and infectious harmonies to form a truly catchy pop song. "Makes Me Wonder," the first single from the album, has an addictive fuzz-bassline that drives the song throughout. Adam Levine is at his absolute best as he sings the chorus ("Cause I don't believe in you anymore, anymore"). The song may very well be the highlight of the album, but at only track two, there is much more to enjoy coming up.

Take, for example, "Little of Your Time" which sounds extremely reminiscent of Outkast in it's production (particularly "Hey Ya"). It's poppy, staccato guitars are contagious and Levine's performance is undeniably top-notch. "Wake Up Call" is a direct throwback to their previous LP, "Songs About Jane," while "Won't Go Home Without You" is the obligatory ballad that sounds too much like "She Will Be Loved" for it's own good. "Nothing Lasts Forever" is a hopeful song, but it share's it's hook with Kanye West's "Heard 'Em Say" (which Levine was featured on). While it may be entirely possible that this song was actually written before Kanye's song, the fact that it's used again just seems incredibly redundant, especially when you consider that it sounds much better in it's previous incarnation.

"Can't Stop" brings back the staccato guitars to form a truly rocking song, but it is followed by the uninspired and cliche-ridden "Goodnight Goodnight." The chorus is powerful in itself, when Levine sings "Goodnight, goodnight, goodnight..." but even then it sounds like we've heard this all before (especially when you consider that the opening guitar riff sounds just like 3 Doors Down's "Kryptonite"). "Not Falling Apart" is a decent song in itself, though there's very little that would distinguish it as Maroon 5 apart from Adam Levine's unique vocals. One could easily imagine Kelly Clarkson singing the exact same thing, which isn't really an insult at all. "Kiwi," however, is just aching for an insult. The song is filled to the brim with innuendos ("Sweet kiwi, your juice is dripping down my chin") and even some not-so-subtle sexual references. Like the opening track, the song sounds like old-school Michael Jackson at times; that is until it explodes into an all-out rock fest, complete with an impressive guitar solo.

The album closes out with two ballads, both worthy of praise. "Better That We Break" is a piano ballad in the vein of The Fray, while "Back At Your Door" is just all sorts of beautiful. It may very well be the best Maroon 5 ballad yet, which is saying quite a lot. Overall, "It Won't Be Soon Before Long" is a pretty impressive sophomore effort from a band that refuses to fully compromise their sound for more success. In an industry that has the tendency to leech onto a specific sound, milk it for all it's worth, and toss it aside for the "next big thing;" the fact that Maroon 5 still sounds fresh and unique speaks volumes about the talent that this band has. "It Won't Be Soon Before Long" may not be the flawless, magical album that "Songs About Jane" was, but it's far from a sophomore slump. While some songs should've been left in the studio, there are others that truly make this album worth the purchase. If you have ever liked Maroon 5, this album is for you.

Recommended for fans of Maroon 5, Kara's Flowers, Justin Timberlake, and anyone who wants to hear the most talented band in mainstream music...stil.

Key Tracks:
1. "If I Never See your Face Again"
2. "Makes Me Wonder"
3. "Little of Your Time"
4. "Can't Stop"
5. "Back At Your Door"

6 out of 10 Stars

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