Now that we’re all done vegetating after the dead day/finals one-two punch, a.k.a. the worst exam schedule known to mankind, we can get back to the important things in life, like waking up at the crack of dawn to jam to Maroon 5 performing on the Today Show (incredibly awkward if no one else did this…). The beginning of summer always brings a wave of album releases; here are a couple of the more memorable ones that Intermission missed over the break.
There’s a pretty clear shift in hip-hop/R&B from smooth subtlety toward maximum blatancy; for instance, compare “Baby Got Back” (1992) to “Ms. New Booty” (2006) to “Dance (A$$)” (2011), and things may become clear. Chris Brown is a more innocuous culprit–looking at Big Sean’s song titles at least gives you a certain expectation for the next four minutes. But Brown, on the other hand, throws in songs like “Sweet Love,” which might sound like it would be a romantic ballad but actually belies a track that literally begins, Baby, let’s get naked.
From a more objective standpoint, though, Brown became famous for his sexy crooning, and “Fortune” delivers more of the same. The album doesn’t contain many singles aside from “Turn Up the Music,” but maybe that represents Brown going in a more mature direction. Where his two previous albums, “Exclusive” and “F.A.M.E.,” were largely name-calling, now that Brown has everyone’s attention for all the right reasons, songs like “Strip” feat. Kevin McCall and “Bassline” show that he’s back to doing what he does best: making R&B more club-friendly than ever. Or maybe he just has better management.
Maroon 5 hasn’t, unfortunately, aged like a fine wine. This is not to say that their individual talents have dwindled, even considering the band’s recent personnel changes–in fact, judging by live performances, Adam Levine’s voice has almost certainly grown more powerful in the past few years. However, they put their best foot forward a decade ago with “Songs about Jane,” and every Maroon 5 fan over the age of 15 (which is to say, most of them) still awaits an equally high-quality compilation that will almost certainly never come.
“Overexposed” is the latest in the band’s tired rock-to-bubble-gum-pop transition. There are a couple gems; the two lead singles, which also kick off the album, are certainly not poignant but get the job done as far as catchiness is concerned. However, the effort must have expended all their creative genius, since the eargasms are few and far between throughout the other dozen songs. Some are great (which these days is synonymous with “reminiscent of ‘Songs About Jane’”), such as “Tickets” and, particularly, “Wasted Years.” Others are actually terrible (One in a million/My lucky strike? Seriously? Also, let’s not talk about the cover of Prince’s “Kiss.”)
“Overexposed” is worth a listen; the generous ear will hear an album with vague leanings towards universal appeal. But don’t be surprised if all you can make out is a passive-aggressive attempt at catering to the “new generation”–a move that wound up being swing and a miss, since they’re already way too busy listening to Justin Bieber’s new album.