In 1994, Adam Levine, Jesse Carmichael, Mickey Madden, and Ryan Dusick got together to form Kara’s Flowers. They released a couple of records but met with a complete lack of interest from both the critics and the public. In 2001, they re-emerged with a new name, a new guitarist, and a new record deal. The upshot was Songs About Jane, one of the biggest hits of the early 2000s and one of the best debuts from a pop band in years. Twenty years later, Maroon 5 are still one of the most popular bands around. Their sound may have evolved over the years, but they’re still as capable of topping the charts as they ever were. Here, we take a look back at their career as we rank all 7 Maroon 5 albums.
Jordi, Maroon 5’s latest album, was released on June 11, 2021. At just under 38 minutes long, it’s the shortest LP Maroon 5 have ever released. For many listeners, that’s the album’s only saving grace. In fairness, it wasn’t a complete flop with everyone. NME, for example, described the band as being “more visible, and, at times, vulnerable” than they’d ever been before, and praised the versions of Memories as “sharp pop songs with both substance and heart”. Other people were less kind, with “banal,” “advertisement-friendly,” and “unmemorable” just a few of the less than stellar terms bandied around. Despite the criticism, it was still a hit, becoming the group’s seventh top-ten record since their debut and eventually certifying Gold.
Described by Medium as the nadir of the band’s uber-pop music and image, V, Maroon 5’s fifth album, is as commercial as the band have ever got. Sugar, its biggest hit, is a ridiculously catchy piece of pop that’s impossible to scrub from your head. The rest of the album, on the other hand, consists of a collection of largely forgettable songs blighted by overblown production and sentimental melodies. It’s not offensive as far as lightweight pop goes, and the singles (Maps, Animals, and Sugar) are hugely accessible, but it’s about as imaginative as the title. Released in August 2014, it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and on the Canadian Albums Chart and has since certified 3x Platinum in both countries.
5. Red Pill Blues
The title of the group’s sixth studio album, Red Pill Blues, refers to the science fiction term coined in the 1999 movie “The Matrix” of taking the red pill or the blue pill. It would be wrong to say the title is the most interesting thing about the album, but not a complete leap. The content is sleek and assured, with some irresistible beats, catchy tunes, and smooth vocals. The collaborations with artists like Cardi B and Kendrick Lamar, Julia Michaels, ASAP Rocky, and Future are a nice touch, adding an extra layer of charm to the song choices. But while the album is impeccably structured and cleverly conceived, it lacks heart. If anything, it’s too slick and too stylish, resulting in an album that comes perilously close to sounding vacuous and unconvincing. With a little more grit and a little more passion, it could have been great. As it is, it’s less ingratiating than it is irritating. Released in November 2017, it debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, No. 2 in Canada, and No. 12 in the UK.
The title of the band’s fourth album, Overexposed, pretty much sums up Adam Levine at the time. He was, quite literally, everywhere – something that may have helped the band’s fame, but didn’t do much for their reputation with ‘serious’ music fans. The album didn’t help the cause either. Even poppier than their previous outings, it’s slick, stylish, and, with the exception of a couple of decent cuts (Sad being one of the best), mostly unmemorable. There’s a little too much focus on Levine, and an underlying feeling that the band were losing their sense of self in an effort to dominate the mainstream.
3. Hands All Over
For their third studio album, Maroon 5 recruited legendary producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange. According to Levine, Lange was nothing if not a hard taskmaster. “He worked me harder than anyone ever has. I would come in with a finished song, and he’d say, ‘That’s a good start. Now strip it down to the drums and start over.'” he’s explained to Rolling Stone. It paid off. Although it’s not on a par with the band’s previous two recordings, it’s bright and breezy enough to be enjoyable, with a healthy enough scattering of punchy rhythms and big hooks to keep you invested for the duration.
2. It Won’t Be Soon Before Long
For their follow-up to Songs About Jane, Maroon 5 adopted a slightly more retro, electronic sound. It worked. It Won’t Be Soon Before Long has got attitude to spare, tunes you can actually dance to, and some very punchy lyrics. It’s immaculately crafted, with a good balance of radio-friendly singles (Makes Me Wonder, Wake Up Call, Won’t Go Home Without You, If I Never See Your Face Again) and deep cuts. It didn’t sell quite as many units as its predecessor, but it still managed to debut at No.1 on both the US Billboard 200 and the UK Albums Chart. It eventually certified Platinum in the UK, 2x Platinum in the US, and Diamond in Colombia and Mexico.
1. Songs About Jane
Songs About Jane is a clear choice for the top spot. Maroon 5’s debut was a phenomenally strong introduction to the band. It’s stylish, and the surging harmonies are undeniably pretty, but there are enough mashing guitars and grit to save it from becoming just another inoffensive piece of pop candy. There’s barely a misfire across the entire album, with each song ranking as single material. The album was originally released in June 2002 to limited success. After five of its singles became hits, it was reissued in October 2003. This time around, it was a huge success, topping the charts in Australia, France, New Zealand, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, and breaking into the Top Ten on the US Billboard 200.