Review: Adam Levine (and Company) Check All the Appropriate Boxes With Introspective 'Jordi'

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday June 16, 2021

Review: Adam Levine (and Company) Check All the Appropriate Boxes With Introspective 'Jordi'

Maroon 5's seventh album, and first in four years, "Jordi," initially sounds like a change in direction, veering toward introspection. It's named for the band's late manger, Jordan Feldstein, who passed away in 2017. And it's also the band's first album without original bassist Mickey Madden, who was arrested last year and faces domestic violence charges. But after a few listens, "Jordi" isn't so much a change in direction as it is a mere change in tempo.

Style, not substance, has primarily characterized Maroon 5's music since their 2011 smash hit single "Moves Like Jagger," released after their "Hands All Over" album failed to do much of anything the previous year. Capitalizing on the single's momentum, the band tacked the song onto a re-release and the album suddenly had an audience... et voila! Maroon 5's commercial prospects were looking pretty good.

To boot, Levine's turn as coach on the newly launched (at the time) reality TV singing competition "The Voice," a role he'd occupy for the first 16 seasons of the show, would significantly increase his — and, by extension, his band's — visibility. Levine has said that it was always the band's intention that he step forward as their frontman. Certainly, both "Moves Like Jagger" and "The Voice" catapulted the lean, handsome singer into superstardom.

For fans of the band (or, specifically, Levine) — and perhaps even fans of contemporary pop in general — there's nothing truly offensive on "Jordi." Levine and company check all the appropriate boxes:

  • Proficient but somewhat distant vocal performances — "Lost" and "Nobody's Love" showcase Levine's range, a singer who clearly loves modern R&B as a performative aesthetic but too often forgets to bring the soul; which leads to...

  • Pop melodies draped in auto-tune — "Can't Leave You Alone" and "Memories" are infectious, but the digitally perfected, robotic vocals find Levine checking his affect at the door, instead favoring...

  • Repetitive and catchy choruses — "Lost" ("I was lost, I was lost, I was lost, do you love me now I'm found, now I'm found, now I'm found?") and "One Light" are certainly infectious. For some of those hooks, Levine is aided by...

  • Relevant guest stars — H.E.R. on "Convince Me Otherwise," Megan Thee Stallion on album opener "Beautiful Mistakes," Juice WRLD on "Can't Leave You Alone," Bantu on "One Light," and rock legend Stevie Nicks on "Remedy."

    But it's telling that many of these performances feel built for a reality TV stage. For instance, it's easy to imagine Levine singing "Echo" on "The Voice," when suddenly the accompaniment subdues and a spotlight reveals blackbear in his mid-song rap. It's a performative moment designed for a rousing audience ovation.

    Stylistically, "Lost" and "Seasons" are so John Legend-esque, it's astounding he's neither a co-writer nor a guest on both. The neo-soul flavor of "Season," appearing midway through the album, provides respite from the relentlessly modern production. And album closer "Memories" recalls... Pachelbel's "Canon?" That might sound odd, but the harmonic progression of Pachelbel's piano recital hallmark is so commonplace in pop music that perhaps it wasn't even intentional on Maroon 5's part. Who knows.

    What works best about this collection is that the songs are succinct — they get in and get out without belaboring the point. But like the four Maroon 5 albums preceding it, "Jordi" plays like an Adam Levine record on which none of the official band members receive songwriting credit. Perhaps the band are content to back Levine on tour, and rake in a few more pop hits. And as long as they keep coming, why not?

    "Jordi" by Maroon 5 is currently available in physical and digital formats.

    Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.