Sound — 9
Following up on a debut like "Songs About Jane" would be an intimidating task for any band - it had enough firepower to buy them a good five years, during which Maroon 5 blossomed from an up-and-coming pop/rock band to a bona fide Top 40 act who were there to stay. The tongue-in-cheek title and the fact that the band sought four different producers to work on this album also reflects the pressure on Maroon 5 to deliver on the heels of a stellar debut. However, the moment you start listening to this record, any doubts of sophomore jitters are shattered. Maroon 5 sound more confident than ever here, and zone in on the funk and blue-eyed soul/R&B flavour that tinged "Songs About Jane". The band also takes cues from '80s pop idols such as Michael Jackson and Prince to deliver a sound that is retro, accessible and presented in a thoroughly modern and radio-friendly manner thanks to the high-gloss production.
Lyrics — 9
The lyrics are still very much from the same bag as "Songs About Jane" - heartbreak, lust, sexual obsession, etc. But this time around they're not about bemoaning an ex-girlfriend, rather they're meant to provide an envious insight into the love life of a playboy pop idol and his many conquests. There's a steely professionalism to Maroon 5's craft on this record - which is also reflected in the tuxedos-and-glam-shoots image that the band adopted to promote this album - especially when compared to the almost empathetic sincerity that characterized much of their debut. The good news is that it works - Adam Levine is somehow more appealing as an icy loves-you-and-leaves-you manwhore than someone you'd feel sorry for. Although this album's songwriting is a highly collaborative effort (for the most part) between the band members and their musicianship is undeniably tight, at the end of the day it is Adam Levine who is the star of this show. His distinguished falsetto fires on all cylinders here and is employed to stunning effect, especially on the ballads. There's also a more melodic, soulful R&B approach to vocal delivery (as compared to his style on "Songs About Jane"), which does a great job of showcasing his impressive pipes.
Overall Impression — 8
The best thing about this record is that Maroon 5 have come to terms with the fact that they're a great pop band and don't feel the need to prove their rock credentials - it's a very confident, catchy and polished pop album, and virtually every song here could be a hit single. Despite having four producers on board, Maroon 5 are able to assert their own identity throughout the record. If anything, the shiny production is an asset and chisels their massive hooks - which penetrate with the precision of a sniper bullet - down to the muscle. Most songs here are meant to stick in your head on the first listen and grow on you with every repeat listen. The uber-funky "Makes Me Wonder" is arguably their most danceable, leanest and meanest track yet. The aggressive, fast-paced "Little Of Your Time" provides the album's rockier moments, "Wake Up Call" shows the band's edgier side and "If I Never See Your Face Again" is an impressive mid-tempo collaboration with Rihanna. Ballads such as "Back At Your Door" and "Better That We Break" grow with every repeat listen and feature some of Levine's best performances on the record. A few songs may blur into each other (especially in the middle of the album) and the band's nods to its influences (Prince, The Police) may be a bit too obvious on a few tracks, but overall this is a meticulously crafted classicist pop album that still manages to remain relevant on modern radio playlists and serves as a testament to Maroon 5's (undeservingly) oft-slighted musical integrity.