The conversation about Maroon 5’s music has become one of the most predictable discourses in recent memory. Expect to see some variation of “they peaked with Songs About Jane and should return to that sound” or “Maroon 5 is basically just Adam Levine at this point.” These takes aren’t incorrect. In fact, these takes are probably the most agreed-upon point of view for any act in mainstream pop music. Here’s the thing: if Maroon 5 wants to settle in this lane of mostly dreadful attempts at Top 40 radio hits, that’s fine. At the very least, the music should be enjoyable and good. JORDI, the band’s latest album, is absolutely nothing of the sort. The album is better described as a complete waste of time and a project that tries its hardest to conceal the strengths and talents of the artists behind it. Titled after the nickname of the band’s late manager, JORDI is a haphazard hodgepodge of utterly forgettable songs that say nothing. Featuring appearances from Megan Thee Stallion, Juice WRLD, Nipsey Hussle, YG, blackbear, Anuel AA, Tainy, H.E.R., Stevie Nicks, Jason Derulo, and Bantu, this is less of an album and more of an experiment to see just how far the streaming power of the guest artists and pre-album singles can carry an LP that is dead on arrival.
The journey to JORDI began a year and a half ago when Maroon 5 dropped “Memories,” a generic mid-tempo that peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Memories” may have been generic, but it’s still better than a sizable chunk of JORDI. On the standard edition of JORDI, “Memories” is replaced by a remix featuring YG and Nipsey Hussle. In the face of hip-hop’s ever-increasing dominance, Maroon 5 smartly pivoted to collaborating with rappers and R&B artists more frequently. Their last album featured hit collaborations with Kendrick Lamar (“Don’t Wanna Know”), SZA (“What Lovers Do”), and Cardi B (“Girls Like You”), as well as songs with A$AP Rocky and Future. The band continued this pattern with JORDI, but the attempts feel even more desperate, disingenuous, and nonsensical here. The “Memories” remix features a posthumous verse from Nipsey Hussle and an additional verse from YG, but both verses are so awkwardly short that they feel like a bad copy-paste job. Another late rapper, Juice WRLD, features on “Can’t Leave You Alone,” yet another track that doesn’t bother to keep your attention past the first 30 seconds. When rappers feature posthumously on new music, it always feels a bit awkward and odd because it’s often not clear if the collaborations were in the works before the rapper passed or not. In Maroon 5’s case, these posthumous collaborations are disgusting because 1) in the context of the band’s new approach to commercial success, it’s clear that they’re using certain rappers to up their streaming numbers, 2) the songs don’t showcase the talent of the rappers in any way, shape, or form, and 3) the songs suck.
Outside of the posthumous collaborations, the other collaborations (which comprise over 60% of the deluxe album) aren’t much better. The band’s latest single, the Megan Thee Stallion-featuring “Beautiful Mistakes,” opens the record. A few months removed from its initial release, the song is still painfully boring and below average. Megan gets a nice opportunity to show off her versatility, but listening to Adam Levine snore his way through an opening track doesn’t encourage anyone to continue with the rest of the album. The best word to describe JORDI is “forgettable.” The Bantu collaboration? Derivative, repetitive, and forgettable. The Anuel AA & Tainy collaboration? Forgettable. Nobody is looking to Maroon 5 to deliver the most innovative or avant-garde pop music, but if the lead vocalist doesn’t sound particularly interested in any of the songs, why should we give them the time of day? Adam Levine is a gifted vocalist, but on JORDI he opts for a terrible attempt at a rap/sung cadence that sounds more like a mockery than a successful display of versatility. “Seasons” is the worst attempt at this, it’s just awful. On “Echo,” which features blackbear, Adam Levine & Co. seem dedicated to delivering a bastardized version of emo-rap. The best emo-rap artists delivered vocals and lyrics that intricately examined the different types of pain they were feeling. With elementary lyrics like “I got this echo/where my heart used to be,” “Echo” feels like a bad parody. There is no type of conviction or emotion in Adam’s voice so even if the lyrics could be spun into something of value, he actively chooses not to do that. From the horrible pre-chorus to the corny echo effects in the chorus, everything about this track is bad. In fact, “Echo” is fairly representative of JORDI as a whole; everything is phoned in and none of this music has any life or passion behind it.
On the relatively bright side, there are some songs that are more listenable than others. “Lost,” the second track on the album, is a solid number that pulls from new wave and dream-pop. The atmospheric vocal production is a nice contrast to the sparse and percussive instrumental. Unfortunately, the song constantly teases a peak that never fully arrives; even the final chorus, which should be the climax, falls flat. The reason for this is that the band refuses to infuse any of their own identity into these songs. Like the rest of JORDI, “Lost” sounds like it could be sung the exact same way by a number of different artists. The track would sound right at home on Justin Bieber’s Justice or on the poppier side of a project by Post Malone or The Weekend. “Convince Me Otherwise,” a duet with H.E.R., is the closest JORDI gets to what made people initially fall in love with Maroon 5. In fact, the track sounds closer to Hands All Over than anything after that album. From the guitar and drums to the strings in the background, this is a song that instantly captures your attention and actually keeps it for more than 15 seconds. Although the mix is a bit loud, this is one of H.E.R.’s best pop features. H.E.R. and Adam have solid vocal chemistry which instantly elevates the track above most of the album because these other collaborations feel stunted and uncomfortable. “Convince Me Otherwise” is a step in the right direction, but it still doesn’t excuse the band from turning the legendary Stevie Nicks into a glorified background singer for a dreadful song.
Maroon 5 functions as a blank slate on JORDI. They rely on scores of guest artists, songwriters like Jon Bellion, and producers like Boi-1da to infuse the album with life, color, character, and identity. The truth is: that’s not how this works. The band seems to be too concerned with chasing commercial success and it’s causing them to reach a breaking point for the quality of their music. JORDI isn’t just bad, it’s not even fun to listen to. If Adam Levine wants to go solo as a pop star, then he just go ahead and do that. JORDI is the final piece of proof that Maroon 5 needs to decide exactly what they want to be. If the answer to that question is “a solo artist masquerading as a band that sings empty lyrics over derivative trap-influenced beats,” then maybe they’ve reached the end of the road.
Key Tracks: “Convince Me Otherwise (with H.E.R.)” | “Lost”