Maroon 5, "Red Pill Blues" (Interscope/222 Records)
When Adam Levine hits his buzzer and swivels his chair on "The Voice," you know he recognizes talent. So is it any surprise that the Maroon 5 frontman has an excellent ear when he records with his band?
"Red Pill Blues" finds Maroon 5 doing what they do best, writing well-crafted, cleverly produced pop songs that instantly nudge you to the dance floor. Don't even try to fight it. Remember "Animals" or "Moves Like Jagger"? Just submit.
Maroon 5's strong sixth studio album is co-produced by Levine, who has a hand in writing every song, and producer J Kash, who helped the band with the previous hits "Sugar" and "Cold." Aided by some inspired guests, the 10-track album sparkles without messing around too much with the band's slick, hook-driven sound.
"I tried to resist but I just can't," sings Levine in one tune — and you'll soon know the feeling.
There are potential hits all over the album, from the opening radio-ready "Best 4 You," to the flirty, dance floor-friendly "What Lovers Do," showcasing a super SZA. "Lips on You," co-written by Charlie Puth, is a perfect slice of melancholy electronica, while the strummy "Girls Like You" sounds nicely Ed Sheeran-ish.
The spare "Bet My Heart" combines acoustic and murky electric elements and "Help Me Out," co-produced by Diplo, gets a nice assist from an ethereal Julia Michaels. Throughout is Levin's fearsome falsetto; there's simply no one better at it right now.
"Whiskey" sees Maroon 5 take a bit of a risk, mixing Levine and A$AP Rocky on a stripped-down, hypnotic slow jam that sounds perfect to blast on the ride home late at night. The moody and beautiful "Closure" fittingly closes the album and, once Levine's vocals are done, lets the band jam with throwback funky textures and riffs for another 8 minutes, a bold, confident step few bands could pull off.
Maroon 5 is firing on all cylinders with "Red Pill Blues," an album that sounds ultra-current and yet shows off enough versatility to seduce virtually anyone. You need to turn your chair and face the music.
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits