Every time Maroon 5 puts out new music, I get my hopes up. I always imagine that, at last, the band might be getting back to their pop-rock, bluesy, funky roots, back to the days of Songs About Jane and It Won’t Be Soon Before Long, the days when Maroon 5 wrote anthems; the days when Maroon 5 tapped into the power of pop choruses but underlined those choruses with interesting, dynamic guitars and unique takes on common lyrical themes.
And every time Maroon 5 puts out new music, I am sorely disappointed.
This time, though, with the release of Jordi, I thought things would be different, owing to a little text-blurb that is attached to the deluxe version of the album on Apple Music. A text blurb that includes this quote from Adam Levine, the frontman of Maroon 5: “At this point, we’ve made it. We’re not trying to do anything to make it any further, we’re not trying to just make a buck. We’re trying to do things to challenge ourselves, to move people in the right ways. We’re trying to make great music that stands the test of time.”
Contrary to what Levine says here, Jordi doesn’t feel like a musical challenge. It doesn’t feel like great music that will stand the test of time. It feels like an album that is riding in the slipstream of what is popular right now. It’s an album that kind of feels like a continuation of Red Pills Blue, the album the band released in 2017.
Jordi is an album that is loaded with features from artists including Megan Thee Stallion, blackbear, Bantu, H.E.R., Juice World and Nipsey Hussle & YG, features that, often, serve to pull away from the core of each song the artists appear on.
Jordi is an album with electronic drum pads and the kind of trap beats (albeit slightly more subtle) that have become commonplace in today’s pop music realm. It is full of vocal styles that are recalcitrant of standard pop music; nothing unique, nothing particularly Maroon 5 and little that serves to accentuate and utilize the full range of Levine’s vocals.
There are, however, a few songs and a few moments in the album that stand out against the rest of the album.
The track “One Light,“ for example, which features Bantu, has a nice sentiment to it. (“One light / It’s a damn dark world / But there’s one light / Long as I’m with you, then I’m alright”). And the guitar in this song is a little more present, running a constant melody throughout the song. The modern elements, though, really pull away from the sentiment Levine is expressing. And the Bantu feature really pulls away even further. This is a track that would be well-served by a stripped-down acoustic version.
And “Memories“ is an interesting song. It’s similar in concept to Train’s “Play That Song,“ whose melody was based on the song “Heart and Soul“ written by Hoagy Carmichael. Here, “Memories“ follows the exact chord structure and basic rhythm of Pachelbel’s Canon, which is an intriguing musical choice to make and results in a pretty decent song. This song is also the closest we get to a more stripped-down Maroon 5, mainly just a light electric guitar accompanying Levin, which is really a great combination, as his voice has always been great. And the sentiment expressed in this song is really beautiful; simplistic yet powerful.
But that track is really the one clear highlight of an album that is okay at best.
Perhaps I should just stop hoping that Maroon 5 will ever return to the kind of soaring pop choruses, funky, blues guitars and unique lyrical takes that launched their career back in 2002. Jordi is proof that they’ve turned a corner on that part of their career and will likely never turn back, which, to me, is a realization that is just as disappointing as the album.