By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine may have charmed TV viewers as a judge on NBC's hit singing competition "The Voice," but music critics have given mixed reviews to the band's latest album "Overexposed," out on Tuesday.
The album is the fourth studio effort from the Los Angeles quintet led by Levine, who shot to fame in 2002 with singles "This Love," and "She Will Be Loved," from its debut album "Songs About Jane."
"Overexposed" sees the band moving away from the alternative rock that influenced their previous records, and embracing pop music whole-heartedly.
The set has already spawned a hit with the angst-driven lead single "Payphone" featuring rapper Wiz Khalifa, and the band is following up with reggae-infused second single "One More Night."
"Payphone" has had 2.7 million digital song sales in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
But reviews for "Overexposed" are mixed, with the album earning a score of 51 out of 100 on review aggregator site Metacritic.com.
Entertainment Weekly's Adam Markovitz criticized the album's lyrics, saying "verses alternate between horndog rhapsodies ... and bratty put-downs of some Everygirl who always disappoints." He said the "strongest wordcraft" was in the album title.
Levine, who co-wrote each track on the album, stuck to the themes that Maroon 5 is best known for -- love and heartache, with playful innuendos.
The singer also conjures up the troublesome femme fatale throughout the album in tracks such as "Lucky Strike" and "Tickets," where Levine sings of his female subject being "perfect on the outside, but nothing at the core."
In "Ladykiller," Levine pays a subtle homage to the late Michael Jackson with his falsetto in the chorus singing "she's in it just to win it, don't trust her for a minute."
The band revive 80s disco sounds in tracks such as "Tickets" and "Doin Dirt," and club-friendly beats in "Lucky Strike" and "Love Somebody," - the two tracks on which One Republic's hit-maker Ryan Tedder makes his mark on lyrics and production.
The move towards pop comes after the band scored its biggest hit with the single "Moves Like Jagger," featuring Christina Aguilera, which has sold 5.2 million copies in the U.S. since June 2011 according to Nielsen SoundScan.
The song's success was fueled by Levine and Aguilera's roles as judges on "The Voice", which has seen their popularity soar in the last year.
But Maroon 5 also makes sure on the new album to feature its acoustic roots from 10 years ago, showcasing Levine's voice against a guitar-driven melody on "Beautiful Goodbye," and in the anthemic "Daylight." Levine gives his rawest performance in "Sad," a piano ballad of heartbreak and personal anguish.
Rob Sheffield at Rolling Stone called "Overexposed" the band's "best yet," giving it three and a half stars out of five and praising Levine, who "cops to the slick Hollywood sex-panther role he's perfected on TV, wheedling and pitching woo to every lady within earshot."
Caroline Sullivan at British newspaper The Guardian said the album's "hooklines and characteristic high-shine production are there," but didn't replicate the "blue-sky charm" of "Moves Like Jagger," giving the record three out of five stars.
(Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy, editing By Jill Serjeant)