MAROON 5 - Hands All Over
By Glenn Gamboa
Is there a band more maddening than Maroon 5?
Yes, Adam Levine has a distinctive, soulful voice. Yes, the band, especially guitarist James Valentine, knows how to lay down a great groove. That's what makes the haphazard, half-finished results they turn out on Hands All Over (A&M/Octone) all the more exasperating.
One minute, Maroon 5 is firing on all cylinders, with the '80s throwback "Give a Little More" and its undeniable dance hook. The next minute, Levine is whining as he counts down from five and rhymes "zero" with "hero" in "Curtain Call."
The whole stylish, positive pop package sounds so effective on "I Can't Lie," which plays like a cross between Billy Joel's "River of Dreams" and Lauryn Hill's "Doo Wop (That Thing)." The lovely country-tinged ballad "Out of Goodbyes," with Lady Antebellum, sounds achingly adult, as does the potent "How."
But those high points are weighed down by the clunky, unpolished moments of other songs. The ridiculous title track sounds like a reworking of "Rock On" that was meant as a joke for the David Hasselhoff roast. The jittery soul of "Last Chance" contains groaners like "I provide something that you almost have _ hot flesh that you yearn to grab."
Sure, we live in an a la carte music world, where these missteps will likely fly under the radar of even Maroon 5 fans. But until Levine and friends focus for an entire album, it will remain hard to take them seriously.
JOHN LEGEND & THE ROOTS - Wake Up!
With Wake Up! (Columbia), John Legend and The Roots bring back the very specific era of '70s soul that was both political and inspirational, realistic and still uplifting. They don't tamper too much with the originals from the legendary Donny Hathaway ("Little Ghetto Boy") and Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes ("Wake Up Everybody") and the shoulda-been legendary Baby Huey ("Hard Times"). But they don't really need to. Legend's rich soul vocals and The Roots' equally lush soul arrangements succeed in updating these classics subtly, making them fit admirably both in the past and the present.
If Willow Smith's debut single, "Whip My Hair" (Roc Nation), was one of her dad Will's blockbusters, it would require a whole lot of suspension of disbelief. Can a 9-year-old really possess the vocal chops displayed on this hip slice of dance-pop? Of course, not. Does it matter? Not really. It's catchy, and we all know the video will be super-cute.
ALSO NEW IN STORES
Zac Brown Band's "You Get What You Give" (Atlantic)
Selena Gomez and The Scene's "A Year Without Rain" (Hollywood)
Billy Currington's "Enjoy Yourself" (Mercury Nashville)
Michael Franti and Spearhead's "The Sound of Sunshine" (Capitol)
Shontelle's "No Gravity" (Universal Motown)
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