Capturing their first of two Grammys as Best New Artist of 2005, and going on to sell more than ten million albums worldwide, Maroon 5 won plaudits with the hybrid rock/R&B sound they introduced on their debut album Songs About Jane. On May 22nd, after four years and live shows alongside the likes of The Rolling Stones and Stevie Wonder, the quintet is set to release their much-anticipated second album, It Won’t Be Soon Before Long (A&M/Octone Records). Listeners can expect this sophomore outing to be “sexier,” “stronger” and even “lyrically darker” than Jane, according to vocalist/guitarist Adam Levine, who affirms that “it’s rooted in what we’ve always been, which is different.”
The album, recorded in their home town of Los Angeles, was guided by producers Mike Elizondo (Fiona Apple, Eminem), Mark “Spike” Stent (Gwen Stefani, Bjork, Keane, Marilyn Manson), Mark Endert (Madonna, Fiona Apple) and Eric Valentine (Queens of the Stone Age, Nickel Creek). It also reflects the contributions of new drummer Matt Flynn, whose harder beats complement the evolved sound of Levine, guitarist James Valentine, bassist Mickey Madden and keyboardist Jesse Carmichael. “We’re all really happy with the finished product,” says Levine, crediting the label for welcoming new sounds and textures. “With Jane you could pick out our influences pretty easily, but now it sounds more like Maroon 5,” says Levine. “We’re becoming our own band, and I think this album will help change perceptions of who we really are.”
From first single, “Makes Me Wonder,” it is clear that Maroon 5 has once again captured all of the elements that create a universally popular pop rock song. The song segues from a bass heavy intro to an infectiously catchy melody that soon belies the sentiment, “Give me something to believe in because I don’t believe in you anymore.” Beneath the surface, it also incorporates what Adam Levine calls “an increasing dissatisfaction with the direction of the world” and its leaders, imparting a new layer of meaning to an otherwise upbeat breakup song. “If I Never See Your Face” offers brash honesty in the wake of a fling, its spare guitar over a steady beat tipping its hat to Quincy Jones. A burst of electronica opens “Wake Up Call,” whose hip-hop sensibility guides a dark story exploring the depths of betrayal and rage.
It Won’t Be Soon Before Long mines its share of hopefulness as well. In the hyperkinetic rock meets hip-hop of “A Little of Your Time” (which Levine calls “the most unique track on this album, with some of the best lyrics we’ve ever written”), a relationship must overcome the challenge of distrust and miscommunication to persevere, and the bass-pulsing “Won’t Go Home Without You” asks plaintively for “one more chance to make it right.”
High school mates in West L.A., Levine, Carmichael and Madden, first achieved recognition under the moniker Kara’s Flowers. Although the world seemed to open oyster-like for them – recording their first album with legendary producer Rob Cavallo (Green Day, Goo Goo Dolls) – their debut, The Fourth World, proved a commercial disappointment. Kara’s Flowers was given a release from the label, and its members mulled their collective future. College became the intermediate answer, and while Madden stayed in Los Angeles to study at UCLA, Levine and Carmichael headed east to State University of New York.
The SUNY dorms yielded an epiphany. “The halls were blasting gospel music and people were listening to stuff we’d never actually listened to, like Biggie Smalls, Missy Elliot and Jay-Z,” recalls Levine. “The Aaliyah record had come out around then, and we were just blown away.” Until then, his songwriting influences had been The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel and other artists he’d grown up with. But now his musical landscape had experienced a tectonic shift. Levine began to actively listen to Stevie Wonder and embraced a new singing style. Carmichael started playing keyboards. And the future suddenly looked bright again, in a very different light.
When the duo hooked back up with Madden in L.A., they were reinvigorated by adding an R&B, groove-based tint to their explosive rock & roll. With the new musical frame of mind came a new name, Maroon 5, and a fifth member, guitarist James Valentine. “James came along right as we were deciding on the name,” says Levine. “We clearly weren’t Kara’s Flowers anymore, with the addition of James and an entirely new approach to music.”
Fortified with a new attitude, a new sound and a new name, Maroon 5 quickly attracted attention from labels. Octone Records, then a new indie label based in New York, signed the group, and in 2001 Maroon 5 entered the studio with producer Matt Wallace (The Replacements, Faith No More). Melding their rock roots with their newfound love of R&B, the result was Songs About Jane. Released in June 2002, it featured pop rhythms and classic soul melodies co-habiting with searing guitars and a powerful rock undercurrent. On top of it all, Levine’s expressive voice belted out tale after tale of an ex-girlfriend.
The album yielded a four chart-topping singles. One of them, “This Love,” earned Maroon 5 a Best New Artist Moon Man at the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards; went #1 at Top 40, VH1 and MTV simultaneously; and became the first song certified as a platinum download. The other, “She Will Be Loved,” scored a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal. The other two singles from Jane, “Harder to Breathe” and “Sunday Morning,” reached the Billboard Top 20 and Top 40 respectively. The band also snagged a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist, which it went on to win. Between singles, Maroon 5 held serve for ten weeks in 2004, dominating the Modern Adult Contemporary, Hot AC and Adult Top 40 charts. To date Jane, has been certified quadruple platinum in the U.S. and has reached gold or platinum status in over 35 countries.
Maroon 5 toured alongside scores of artists, from The Rolling Stones to Stevie Wonder (at the close of Live 8 in Philadelphia). They performed on virtually every TV show that features musical guests, including “Saturday Night Live,” “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “The Today Show” and many others.
Following up with Acoustic (2004), a collection of unplugged songs, and Live – Friday, the 13th (2005), Maroon 5 earned a second Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for the 2006 live recording of their international hit single “This Love.”
Also known for their commitment to the environment, Maroon 5 was honored at the 2006 Environmental Media Awards and recently pledged their time and energy toward Global Cool, a newly launched initiative to fight global warming by motivating a billion people worldwide to reduce their personal energy use.