Sound — 7
Since Maroon 5 released the hit singles This Love and She Will Be Loved back in 2004, it seems like the production value of the band's studio recordings have had a noticeable increase. The Los Angeles natives' latest release It Won't Be Soon Before Long immediately focuses more attention toward things like enhancing keyboard effects, and in the first few songs it pays off. It's in those first moments where we hear the funkier tracks that are brought to life by added instrumentation. But about halfway through the album, the tracks take a mellow turn and the momentum is halted.
The opening tracks are actually pretty inspired tracks, and the band wisely chose If I Never See Your Face Again as the one to start everything off. Between the funky pop melody and the cool keyboard licks, it shows the band is thinking outside of the Top 40 radio world. As odd and wrong as it seems, Maroon 5 are pretty competent at performing a funk tune. They're no Parliament, but they do have songs like Not Falling Apart that feature solid funk guitar work from James Valentine and the reliable keyboard skills of James Carmichael.
Where the CD takes a downward turn is when you get to Won't Go Home Without You and Goodnight Goodnight. They are tracks in the same vein as She Will Be Loved and just seem a bit contrived, and almost seem to be playing to the female teen crowd. There is definitely an audience for ballads, but a love song like Nothing Lasts Forever doesn't go anywhere new musically.
The band has already been making the talk show circuit playing Makes Me Wonder, but the CD actually shows off the band's talent more than the live show. There are some underlying guitar and keyboard tracks that aren't heard in the live show. Vocalist Adam Levine's vocals are strong on both the ballads and up-tempo tracks, and are definitely a big reason why Maroon 5 has become such an identifiable band.
Lyrics — 7
The lyrics on It Won't Be Soon Before Long seem to go in very different directions at times. Take for example the song Makes Me Wonder, in which Levine sings about a relationship turned sour. The topic is nothing new, but it just gets a bit weird when Levine starts spilling his innermost thoughts about sex. He sings, I wake up with blood-shot eyes; Struggled to memorize; The way it felt between your thighs; Pleasure that made you cry. The explicit honesty alone will probably lure listeners to it, but at the same time I know some people who will cringe hearing it.
Then there's the other side of the Levine spectrum: a sensitive man who understands the emotions of the wounded woman's heart. It seems a lot of Maroon 5 songs have this theme, so it's hard to say how much is inspired by real life. He sings, This isn't how she thought that her life would be; When they first met back in '63; And a future together was all she could see; All she could see. Although the theme gets old at times, Levine still has the ability to word it in such a way that it does have some fresh descriptive qualities.
Overall Impression — 7
Probably the biggest and most unexpected impression that is made on the latest record is the band's adeptness at funk-laced pop. While you may hear some traces of it in past singles, there are more than a few instances on Won't Be Soon Before Long that the band delivers infectious rhythms that almost a retro feel to them. Keyboardist Jesse Carmichael takes center stage a lot of the time, particularly on a song like Wake Up Call with it's heavy synth intro.
The album does tend to go into ballad mode over and over again, however. Ballads can be great if they are consistently sung with passion, but Levine's delivery just sounds like it did when he originally sang She Will Be Loved. The single She Will Be Loved was one of the main reasons why the band exploded into mainstream media, so for good or bad, the latest album's heavy helping of love songs should still please a large section of the public.