Does anyone remember when Maroon 5 was considered “alternative?” Well, say goodbye to your dreams of hearing something similar to classic Songs About Jane (2002). The band’s frontman, Adam Levine, confirmed to Rolling Stone earlier this week that their new material is almost entirely pop-centered.
“Payphone” is the name of the lead single from June 26th’s Overexposed, which, not to mention, has a title that is almost ironic. The band might be producing content related to the feeling of being too exposed to whoever they’re dating or exhausted from touring the world, but consumers across the globe have, on the contrary, have been overexposed to the image of Maroon 5. Part of this has to do with the overwhelming success of “Moves Like Jagger” with Christina Aguilera, which was, as an understatement, played nearly every possible minute on pop radio stations this past summer.
The new song, which features the quintessential high-pitched Levine in nearly every measure, was debuted this week on NBC’s “The Voice,” the show in which Levine serves as a judge and an outlet to further expose himself to popular culture.
Within the first three seconds, we are reminded of the natural falsetto in Levine’s voice but simultaneously introduced to an instrumental tone that is unfamiliar to fans. With a strong piano beat in the back and a light guitar rhythm, the song chugs the pop-heavy beat you might have imagined. It’s similar to the sound of Bruno Mars‘ “Just The Way You Are” but with a more “what could’ve been” vibe instead of the uplifting message Mars entertains.
This new song’s message is relatively somber, mellowing on the verge of a breakup. It cries:
I’ve wasted my nights
You turned out the lights
Now I’m paralyzed
Still stuck in that time when we called it love
But even the sun sets in paradise
The theme of the payphone serves as a symbol for the lack of communication between two lovers in the song, holding onto what’s left of some feelings that were clearly not reciprocated. There’s probably a connection to Levine’s recent breakup with Victoria’s Secret model Anne Vyalitsyna. We feel bad for him. Can someone give Adam Levine a hug?
The nice thing about this new song is that it’s clearly upsetting but still not a downer. Too often these songs can wallow in their desperate voice but this one acknowledges the silver lining in the clouds.
It’s hard not to see around the theory that the band is milking the current state of their careers and rushing to make money off new content as quickly as possible in the current industry, which seems to buy anything, whether it is good or not. It’s only been a mere change of seasons since the quintet put out the mediocre Hands All Over, which is a huge difference from the great amount of effort spent in the past, recording overseas in a secluded area of Switzerland for several months. The upcoming Overexposed was created in a hurry, so nobody knows what singles following “Payphone” might bring.
By now, you might think that the five-piece band (for the first time lacking founding member Jesse Carmichael, out for “spiritual healing”) could produce a hit single on their own, but for the second time, the band features a guest vocalist. This time, rapper Wiz Khalifa changes up the pace with his rhymes. Though his efforts don’t add much depth to the song, its texture is somewhat interesting. Maroon 5 could do without, though.
Regardless of lyrical genericness and rhythmic ambiguity, “Payphone” has the hook and melody to guarantee Spring success on top 40 charts. You’ll hear it while shopping at Express and in “Hunger Games” fan tribute videos, so it’s probably best just to embrace its sounds. It’s inevitably catchy and lively, so you might as well give it a try.
The band chose an off-beat comic strip format for the song’s lyric video. See it for yourself below, and let us know what you think!