Songs About Jane: Sex, Drugs and Pop n’ Roll Circa 2002

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“Hey, Lucas.”

“What?”

“I’m trying to choose between reviewing Rod Stewart or Maroon 5, which d’you think I should go for first?”

“I mean, which album by Maroon 5 are you reviewing?”

“The only one that mattered.”

The only album that mattered.

No, seriously. I’ve heard It Won’t Be Soon Before Long, Hands All Over, Overexposed and parts of V. I acknowledge their existence. None of them will matter like Songs About Jane mattered.

Before we even discuss whether or not this album is good, shit or a little bit of both, we have to acknowledge that it is probably the most ubiquitous listening experience to any young adult with ears between 2002 to 2004.

This was before Adam Levine had a fashion line, a show or an ego. This was before Kanye redefined rap, before people thought Christina Aguilerra was an artist and before Rihanna needed that damn umbrella. So listening to this album after seeing just how far this band has come since is a bit of a time trip.

Maroon 5 have not lived this album down and as the future goes on, I don’t know if they ever will. I may sound dire, but seriously, it’s one hell of an album. Between screwing and getting screwed, the band frequently mixes the two with some of the slickest songwriting this side of the millennium.

From “Harder to Breath” to “Sweetest Goodbye” this album is like the sexiest greasy-haired car salesman between my ears. Each track he’s selling me a different broken car for four times the price.

And I would be lyin’ if I said I wasn’t buyin’.

The track listing may sound similar in substance and style, but they don’t fall into Mumforditis: a damning flaw of sameness and routine. Nah, this album knows the difference between coherence and sameness. Thus, Songs About Jane will rock your world in all the different ways that Jane rocked Maroon 5’s.

This band fucks.

Sorry, not sorry.

That’s exactly what this album is for: fucking. Whether for romance or therapy, this, along with Let’s Get It On, is an album made for the creaking bed, the rocking van and wherever the hell else people want to get freaky with it.

This album knows what any 25 year-old likes. It knows they like to be romantic, risqué, raunchy and wrathful. It can be a killer during “This Love” and kinky during “Shiver”. It will ooze sweat during “Harder to Breathe” and then play under the covers during “Sunday Morning.”

The latter in particular is the real highlight of the album, solidifying the band’s erstwhile funky, hip-hop pop-rock style into 4 minutes and 5 seconds of rising intensity.

Play “Sunday Morning” and not a soul would ever want to leave that bed. From the kick drum strokes, to the throbbing piano riff and all the way through the fading cymbal clashes, the track is like a low heat brand, slowly burning the image of tossed sheets and slow heartbeats right into the memory of the listener.

The lyrical picture is just so sweet:

“Fingers trace your every outline/ Paint a picture with my hands/ Back and forth we sway like branches in a storm/ Change the weather, still together when it ends.”

It hits all the bases for the pop’n’roll style of Maroon 5: singable, relatable and sensible, the band creates the perfect storm of sex and games. It’s just a goddamn shame that Maroon 5 ignored it on their latest compilation, Singles.

“Shiver” is another highlight, a seductive rocker timed at 3 minutes flat. Levine may be singing, but it’s the listener who’s shivering from his suggestive lyrics and Valentine’s jittery guitar.

However, the album will always be remembered for the power couple of “This Love” and “She Will Be Loved.” The former being the aggressive, “fuck you, I’m done” power rocker of disillusioned youths from the early 2000’s and the latter being the power ballad of unnoticed and unrequited love.

The band rocks on both, but it showcases the power of Adam Levine. He’s that boy who can’t stay away from trouble despite good intentions. He’s that boy who will suffer for no good reason unless he thinks it is a damn good reason: the right girl.

For better or for worse, this album introduces us to the cult of Levine.

More please?

Honestly, I thought it would be worse. I thought the album would smack me across my baby-faced cheeks, break my rose-tinted glasses and then stab me right through the nostalgic heart. Fucking hell, I’m glad it didn’t.

The only weak song on the first half of the album is “The Sun” but the album does peter out after “Sunday Morning.”

The last four tracks have some bark, but they don’t bite as hard as the earlier cuts. This doesn’t make the album drastically weaker — “The Sun” and “Secret” are the only two songs that feel legitimately weak and slow. It does however mean that someone could leave the album at “Sunday Morning” with a feeling of damn good value.

Funnily enough though, all the cuts still sound fresh because the band barely went back down this route. A sad conclusion for such a brilliant album.

However, would this album stay as fresh and fun if Maroon 5 hadn’t flipped the script with It Won’t Be Soon Before Long?

The closest return was Hands All Over, a criminally underrated album even if it doesn’t have the same punch as Songs. It also feels like the album that should have come after Songs. This is important because it means instead of five years passing between the two albums, there was eight. It’s really hard to return to a specific style and sentiment after eight years of separation, which makes Songs About Jane intensify in strength where Hands All Over falters.

If Songs had been followed up by Hands, Maroon 5 would have been cemented as the pop-rock-funk band of the mid 2000’s. At the very least, Songs About Jane should still ring fresh to listeners. It places 2002-2004 in a standstill and drags us to it.

So when an album can do that, it deserves classic status.

Grade: B

Producers: Matt Wallace and Mark Endert

Track Listing:

  1. Harder to Breathe (sweat inducer #1)
  2. This Love (“fuck this, I’m done” rocker)
  3. Shiver (sweat inducer #2)
  4. She Will Be Loved (power ballad)
  5. Tangled
  6. The Sun
  7. Must Get Out
  8. Sunday Morning (personal favourite)
  9. Secret
  10. Through With You
  11. Not Coming Home (stay for this one)
  12. Sweetest Goodbye

All tracks written by Adam Levine and Jesse Carmichael except “She Will Be Loved” (Levine, James Valentine), “Tangled”, “The Sun” and “Sweetest Goodbye” (Levine) and “Not Coming Home” (Carmichael, Levine, Ryan Dusick).

 

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