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Priding herself as a 'Jack of all Trades," Ashleigh has always been one to expand her horizons and try to be that person to help someone accomplish something. A singer, a writer, a counselor, a designer, a consumer of culture; there are few things that she doesn't consider herself interested in. With a degree in psychology and a background in graphic design under her belt, Ashleigh is currently expanding her life-repitoire with a career in app building; distributing apps and producing content on Apple and Amazon's digital newsstands. An L.A. girl through and through, unless it comes to the Dodgers. You can send them back to Brooklyn, for all she cares. Go Angels.

Maroon 5’s Overexposed: Ironically Overhyped, or an Ingenious Parody?

If you listen to Top 40 radio, there’s a pretty good chance that you saw this coming: Maroon 5’s latest studio album, Overexposed, makes its worldwide release today and for many Maroon 5 followers, the promise of a new album comes with mixed feelings.  On one hand, the prospect of fresh music from a band that has consistently turned out melody-rich tracks is appealing.  On the other hand, it’s a little bit nerve wracking for the long-time Maroon 5 fan.  The hype surrounding this album has been fueled by media and band members alike, going so far as to point out that the album is the most ‘pop sounding’ Maroon 5 album to date, and kicking it off with not one, but two lead in singles that both lend themselves to potentially being the biggest hits for the band; Payphone, the first single, has already gone multi-platinum and reached the #1 spot on 3 different Billboard charts.  ‘One More Night’ is well on its way to a similar outcome, and has proven this week to be an excellent second single from an album that has only been on sale for a day.  To say that the album has already lived up to its moniker is an understatement, and I’m sure that it will continue to do so if Adam Levine has his way.

Image Credit: Maroon 5

Image Credit: Maroon 5

Coming off of the unforeseen success that was ‘Moves Like Jagger,’ it’s really no wonder that the band decided to walk the Pop tightrope with this latest album.  That does, however, concern a great deal of fans that have followed these guys over the past decade.  Out of the 4 studio albums that Maroon 5 has churned out, the sound that rings most true is what came out of Songs About Jane; a gritty, angsty, rock-infused album that really made us wonder what else this band was capable of.  And while it’s entirely unfair to compare their latest work to an album that debuted almost exactly 10 years ago (June 25, 2002), one can’t help but make those comparisons when trying to decide if Maroon 5 is actually a viable pop act.  But if there’s one thing that Maroon 5 has proven over and over again, it’s that they’re more than okay with changing their sound in the name of finding their next hit and after what Adam Levine and James Valentine have both called a ‘mediocre effort’ with Hands All Over, the band seems hungry for that hit to happen with this latest release.

Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not sitting on my Hipster High Horse looking down my nose at these guys for wanting to explore the offerings of the pop universe.  I have much respect for artists that are willing to change and grow with something as vile and uncaring as the music industry has proven time and time again to be.  I must say, though, that the album title alone speaks volumes about this new direction that Maroon 5 has suddenly found themselves facing.  It’s no secret that Adam Levine has been an oversaturated aspect of Pop culture as of late, and I can’t help but wonder if this attempt at a ‘pop album’ is just an elaborate parody of the spectacle that he’s made out of himself.

But all motive and intent aside, Overexposed does stand as a highly cohesive, high energy album, which is a nice change of pace considering the disparate motif of their last album.  On first listen it doesn’t take long to identify just what exactly Adam and the gang were getting at when they called it ‘poppy.’  It’s not completely pop.  There are still those gritty undertones and a hint of that rich funk guitar that remind you that you’re listening to a Maroon 5 album… but it is very different.  Many of the tracks stick close to a lot of current trends in music; Hard hitting drum beats, percussive vocal tracks, and even a bass drop or two make it very obvious that some big name, and currently relevant producers were brought in to make this album a hit.  It’s impressive to note, however, that while this is the first album that Maroon 5 has put together with outside writers, that none of the songs seem to hold any of the signature traits of these guest writers and producers; most notably Ryan Tedder, Max Martin, and Benny Blanco. All three of these top tier pop producers have a tendency to put their mark all over the songs that they produce, but it’s clear that the band kept a firm grasp on the direction of their own sound, which is a tough thing to do when you’re sharing creative space with such production juggernauts.

Image courtesy of iTunes

The album opens with the two already radio-saturated singles; which almost seems like a tongue-in-cheek reminder that yes, this album is already quite overexposed.  But they’re excellent openers, creating a high-energy, high-attitude atmosphere for the listener before they dive into the uncharted waters of the rest of the album.  I would even venture so far as to say that OneMore Night stands as my current favorite track on the album, and it’s rare that I like the break out singles from albums so early on.  It usually takes a bit of time for them to grow on me.  Anyway, the album then melts into a track called Daylight, which seriously, with the first verse made me think that I might have been listening to a song penned by Taylor Swift.  Thankfully it picks up after the first verse, but it never really loses that Swiftesque vibe.  Two things that this track definitely has plenty of: a percussive bass drum and lots of ‘woah-ooohh’s.

The treacly nature of Daylight is soon steamrolled by another extremely high energy track called ‘Lucky Strike,’ which is one of two tracks on this album that Ryan Tedder contributed to.  Typically when I know that Ryan Tedder has worked on an album I like to play a game of ‘find the Tedder,’ In which I try to guess which tracks he contributed to, and 9.9 times out of 10, I get it right.  This time, however, I would never have guessed that he was responsible for the dub-step-esque bass drops on this track.  It’s also worth noting another long list of ‘woah-oooooh’s.

And in case you forgot to note the ‘woah-oooooh’s on the last track, ‘The Man Who Never Lied’ gives you plenty more to take note of.  Most of the oohs, ahhs, and woahs slip under the radar just because of the flawless nature of Adam’s voice as he’s singing them, but seriously; 5 tracks in and I’m already over saturated in expressive interjections.  This is one of my favorite tracks on the album, however.  The beat is interesting and well paced, and the chorus is extremely catchy. And maybe I just really like singing along to woahs and ohhs.

Love Somebody opens up and I immediately think I’ve somehow stumbled upon some remixed U2 track.  Seriously, I’m pretty sure half of the top hits from 1994 had that back beat.  I was not surprised by the fact that this was another one of Ryan Tedder’s offerings;  the high percussive nature of the beat was just signature enough to pick out.  And while they were not as front and center on this track, the woahs and ohhhs make yet another generous contribution to the fabric of this track.  It’s too bad that the Edge-esque guitar riffs aren’t more prominently featured.

Lady Killer feels like some strange byproduct of Songs About Jane and It Won’t Be Soon Before Too Long.  It is definitely one of the few tracks on the album that offers a very heavy helping of their earlier sound. The problem with the song lies in the fact that it contains elements from two albums that had nothing to do with each other.  It’s not a terrible song, but it’s trying very hard to be something that absolutely does not vibe with the rest of the album, and seems to just cut off at the end.  And just in case you might miss it, do not let the strange funk riff in the middle distract you from the underlying ‘ooooh’s.

Fortune Teller is heavy with the trance influences, from the beat, the oddly rhythmic way that the melody bends, and the percussive way that Adam delivers the lyrics.  The chorus breaks up the monotony of the track, though, and gives it just enough dynamic content to keep the listener interested.  It’s worth mentioning that this song is killer when listened to through a good pair of headphones (it’s also the only way that you can pick up on the layered ‘woaahhhs’ in the background).

The album then takes another turn and goes down a more mellow path for the next track.  Sad opens with Adam showcasing his lower register, reminding us that he does, in fact, have remarkable tone in his voice.  It then opens up into a soaring, heart wrenching chorus, and for those of us that have felt marginally assaulted by the last 8 overproduced, highly percussive tracks, this one is a welcomed reprieve.  The track is nothing more than Adam belting out his feelings with the accompaniment of a simple yet melodious piano, and that’s all that is required to remember just what it is that is loved about this band; overexposed or not, they’re capable of songs like this that ooze raw musicianship.  Take note: ABSOLUTELY ZERO OOOHS OR WOAHHS.

Tickets and Doin Dirt both feel very familiar, sort of along the same vein as Lady Killer, but less like Frankensteined byproducts of past albums, and more like organically evolved cousins of songs from the past.  There’s a little bit of funk guitar, and lots of that Adam Levine sass that one can’t help but grin to when listening to it.  Both songs have a very sexy feel to them, but Doin Dirt takes the cake for most blatantly sexual track on the album, and that probably has the most to do with the actual lyrical content (‘I light you up when I get inside…’) and less to do with the highly disco-infused nature of the track.  The lack of ooohs and woaaahs also makes it pretty sexy.

The standard release of the album closes with a very radio friendly track called Beautiful Goodbye.  It’s a bit more on the organic side of things than the rest of the album, and it’s very clear that the time that Maroon 5 spent on the road with Train last year left a lasting impact.  I even checked the writing credits for Pat Monaghan’s name, but no dice.  It’s a nice song though, and the delicate use of harmonies make my inner vocal nerd very happy.

There are 3 bonus track if you purchase the deluxe edition of the album; Kiss, Wipe Your Eyes, and Wasted Years.  Kiss is exactly what you’re probably assuming it is; an ass-kicking cover of the well known Prince track.  If anyone was going to cover Prince, it would definitely be Mr. Levine with that pitch perfect falsetto of his.  Wipe Your Eyes is probably one of my favorite tracks on the album, and one that should definitely have been on the standard release.  creepy numa numa-esque intro be damned, the rhythm and melody of this track are extremely well suited, and it’s one of two tracks that I actually needed to listen to twice in a row in order to get the full impact of it.  And if you listen to this and feel like you just hand picked a Ryan Tedder track out of the list… you didn’t.  Don’t worry, I thought it was one of his songs, too.

The gem of this entire album, however, lies in the third bonus track, and if you’re a hardcore Maroon 5 fan, this song alone is hands down worth the extra few bucks.  The eternity-awaited release of Wasted Years can be found in the bonus tracks; a song that has been in the Maroon 5 repertoire for over 7 years.  It’s clear that it’s been given a bit of a face lift for its release on this album, but it’s extremely evident that it was written in the same climate of Songs About Jane.  It surprisingly doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb amongst all of its younger siblings, however, which just goes on to prove that despite the elaborate attempts that have been made on this album to blend in with the current state of pop music, the underlying thread that makes Maroon 5 such a stellar band is still in there… it’s just a little hard to hear under all of the oohs and woahs.

Overall I would consider this to be an impeccably well produced album, if not a bit oversaturated at times.  However, I think that’s the sound that was being reached for, given its oh-so-subtle title, and am confident that this album will be a surefire success for Adam, James, and the rest of the gang, no matter how earnest or how tongue-in-cheek it may be.  Regardless, it’s an entertaining album, and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.

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