V (Deluxe)

V (Deluxe)

Along with Adam Levine’s high-profile run as a coach on The Voice, Maroon 5’s canny collaborations with some of the era’s preeminent hitmakers had turned 2012’s Overexposed into a career-defining blockbuster. Yet keeping up that kind of momentum is a challenging task for any act, and few fans would’ve begrudged the Californian band if it followed up with 11 more songs that move just like “Moves Like Jagger.” Thankfully, Maroon 5 had different ambitions in mind for V. The band’s fifth album sees it explore new directions while also taking the chance to re-embrace the fundamentals that helped get it this far up the mountain. One of those foundational pieces is keyboardist Jesse Carmichael, whose history with the band stretches all the way back to the high school days in L.A. when he and Levine co-founded Maroon 5’s predecessor, Kara’s Flowers. After sitting out Overexposed—touring keyboardist P.J. Morton was promoted to full member in his absence—Carmichael is back and it’s no accident that tracks like “It Was Always You” and “Coming Back For You” mark a return to the group’s impeccably polished brand of R&B-infused pop and rock. Although the album features a formidable array of outside producers—including Overexposed vets such as Max Martin, Shellback, and Ryan Tedder as well as new collaborators like Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, Ammo, and Cirkut—Carmichael’s contributions also bolster the impression that Maroon 5 remains a band first and foremost and not just the Adam Levine show. Even in its bolder forays into electro-pop and anthemic power balladry, the band’s identity is unmistakable, which is only fitting since it’s also Maroon 5’s first release for 222, its newly established imprint on Interscope. That’s not to suggest the singer’s showman instincts are any less potent. Indeed, Levine clearly relishes the carnal edge he gives to “Animals” along with the flirtier vibe of “Sugar.” A duet with Gwen Stefani that was co-written with Sia, “My Heart Is Open” gives him a chance to display the vulnerability that’s always been another of those fundamentals.

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