Sound — 6
If (like me) you thought that it was virtually impossible for an act as shamelessly commercial as Maroon 5 to "sell out", think again. Maroon 5 weren't too content (to say the least) with the tepid commercial reception of their third album "Hands All Over" (which also went platinum, by the way) - it was a creamy-smooth blend of pop, rock, soul/funk that perfectly encapsulated their character as an organic self-contained pop band (in my opinion, it's still their best album yet). Just as Maroon 5's commercial prospects seemed to have finally leveled out, frontman Adam Levine landed a stint as a vocal coach on NBC's "The Voice" and the band worked with chart-topping pop songwriters to deliver their biggest hit yet - "Moves Like Jagger" (also featuring fellow "The Voice" judge Christina Aguilera), a light, funky breezy-as-a-whistle summer tune that topped charts the world over and shot Maroon 5 squarely into pop's hot-and-happening lists once again after a fairly long time. Overexposed makes no reservations about following the "Jagger" blueprint - unfortunately, it's a formula that falls flat if it's used liberally. Aside from the seemingly endless supply of barely engaging, assembly-line hooks doled out by a bevy of mercenary pop songwriters and producers, on this record Maroon 5 seems to have embraced a very generic Top 40 template instead of the distinctive blue-eyed soul/R&B flavor that up until now had instantly set them apart from any other act on the charts.
Lyrics — 7
Anyone who's remotely familiar with Maroon 5 knows what to expect in the lyrics department - breakups, lost love, obsession, sexual fireworks, etc all the cliches that Adam Levine & Co. Have so successfully ridden to the top of the charts for the past decade. However, usually Maroon 5's music was engaging and soulful enough to make the lyrics easy to digest - not so here, and the hammy lyrics occasionally stick out like a sore thumb ("She's got tickets to her own show / But nobody wants to go / And I'm still sitting in the front row" is one example). However musically the band may divert from its trademark sound here, the moment Adam Levine's vocals come into play there's no mistaking who you're listening to. His falsetto is still strong, clear and nasal and his high register delivers with all the playboy professionalism of a pop idol. However, at times the vocals are too processed for their own good and the material that they're given to work with is (for the most part) nowhere near as strong as it was on Maroon 5's previous records.
Overall Impression — 6
Not all of the album is a dud, however, and there's still potential for strong singles (although they don't match up to the ones off Maroon 5's previous records), such as lead single "Payphone" - which is much better in its alternate version that replaces Wiz Khalifa's pointless rap with an added verse (this version is inexplicably not included on any of the album releases). "One More Night" is an uptempo reggae-flavored tune with dark lyrics (this album's "Misery"?) that will have you tapping your feet in no time, and "Beautiful Goodbye" is a gorgeous romantic ballad. If there's anything that this record proves about Maroon 5 (aside from their insatiable appetite for the charts), it's that their distinctive sense of soul only becomes apparent when it's taken away from them. The album overall has a very processed, made-in-Pro Tools sound in contrast to the meticulously constructed but organic "actual band" vibe that imbued their previous records. And the fact that keyboardist Jesse Carmichael (Maroon 5's principal songwriter along with Levine up until now) sat out for this record doesn't help. There's a lesson to be learnt by Maroon 5 here - these guys do best when they're left to their own shtick, but as long as it keeps them high up on the charts, it's doubtful that they're bothered by it.