Songs About Jane
Brimming with attitude and eager to impress, Songs About Jane is a debut album that displays zero lack of confidence. Then again, Maroon 5 had plenty of time to get ready for this moment. Four of its five original members—singer and rhythm guitarist Adam Levine, keyboardist Jesse Carmichael, bassist Mickey Madden, and drummer Ryan Dusick—had already weathered an earlier life as Kara’s Flowers, the band they originally formed while still in high school in Los Angeles. After an unsuccessful major-label album and a hiatus for studies at college, the four reconvened, added guitarist James Valentine and—after a long sojourn in New York, where Levine soaked up hip-hop culture and nursed a major but valuable heartache—reinvented themselves as Maroon 5. In place of the Britpop and punk-pop leanings of Kara’s Flowers came the R&B bravado and funk-influenced rock that make Songs About Jane as arresting as it is immediately appealing. The first and most aggressive of the album’s hits, “Harder To Breathe” introduced the flair for high drama that would serve Levine very well in the years to come. Nor is this the last time his songwriting would vividly portray the to-and-fro of a toxic romance (“want to stay but you know very well I want you gone”), though, in the future, he’d shy away from expressing the kind of raw anger and hurt that’s so evident in “Shiver” and “Not Coming Home.” Not even the irrepressible exuberance of “This Love”—which became the breakout hit that the band had been gunning for since its days at Brentwood High—can entirely disguise the emotional turbulence at the core of Levine’s songs. Just as surprising is the softness that exists within it, too. With Levine’s tenor floating on a groove that manages to be both insistent and featherlight, “She Will Be Loved” sees Maroon 5 balance the cocksure attitude of so much of Songs About Jane with a sense of yearning, one that suggests his Lothario pose may really be just a useful disguise.