By Hayden Wright
Maroon 5 has held its enduring position on the pop music landscape since Songs About Jane debuted in 2002. Frontman Adam Levine’s ascendant celebrity (and star turn on The Voice) remains the public face of the band but the seven-piece ensemble has explored many genres and styles through the years. With “This Love” and “Sunday Morning” Maroon 5 positioned itself as a brassy 20th-century throwback act but with time, they’ve leaned into dance, R&B and EDM-tinged sounds with a consistent pop appeal.
On their sixth studio album Red Pill Blues, the guys recruit collaborators like SZA, Kendrick Lamar, Julia Michaels, A$AP Rocky and Future. Their ruminations on finding and losing love remain as danceable as ever and Levine’s voice is the through-line connecting past and present instrumental styles.
Here are our five favorite songs on Maroon 5’s Red Pill Blues:
“Best 4 U”
On the album’s opening track, the band dabbles in the style of buoyantly melancholic R&B that The Weeknd perfected on Starboy. Bolstered by synths, lyrics about a breakup “I just want the best for you / But I’m just not the best for you” makes an unusually self-aware parting line.
Red Pill Blues involves breakup songs and hookup songs, and “Closure” falls in the former category. The simple melody and Levine’s slightly detached vocals share the spotlight with some excellent rhythm guitar.
“What Lovers Do” featuring SZA
This cool electro song puts a modern twist on Maroon 5’s early material with a SZA appearance that really pops. The groovy melody took “What Lovers Do” to number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and built upon SZA’s breakout year.
“Don’t Wanna Know” featuring Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar’s guest spot on this track lays down the law with a former flame: “No more hashtag boo’d up screenshots / No more tryin’ make me jealous on your birthday.” Levine and company make it clear that they’re not interested in what their exes are up to either.
“Help Me Out” featuring Julia Michaels
This track was released as promotional single and struck listeners with its sparse, practically experimental soundscape. The wonky synths and Michaels’ warm guest vocals set the “help-me-help-you” message delightfully off-kilter.