By Joel MacKenzie, Staff Writer
First, I have to apologize for the lateness of my review. The album, Overexposed, was released in June 2012, and at the time, I, like many other listeners, did not understand the nature of the band behind it, Maroon 5. I hastily wrote it off as a cheap, uninteresting pop album; but 12 chance listens to the single “Payphone,” played roughly every seven minutes somewhere on the FM dial, revealed to me the album’s very clever satirical nature.
Overexposed slyly criticizes the pitfalls of pop music by using them excessively without definitively labelling them as such. The album gently invites the listener to laugh with the band at the ridiculousness of the repetition and lazy lyric-writing prevalent in today’s pop music, as well as the extreme egos of the genre’s front-persons. Songs blend in Overexposed. They all feature loud, unrelenting vocals over repetitive chord progressions. Song structures are predictable, hilariously repeating the typical pop organization of introduction, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge, etc. The instruments blur together in every song in a barrage of muddled chords, thus highlighting pop’s lack of emphasis on them. The drum patterns never deter far from typical beats predominantly using the high hat and snare. Of course, the sarcasm evident in the predictability of this production is not immediately apparent without careful listening; they act as a gentle set-up to the punch line that is the lyrics.
The seemingly lazy, predictable lyrics provide the real comedy in Overexposed. Lines appear to have involved very little thought, incorporating clichés, hilariously awful rhymes, and lines making no attempt to rhyme at all. Filler vocals are prevalent throughout: roughly 75 per cent of “The Man Who Never Lied,” for instance, is repeated lines and different variations of “oh.” Lyrics consistently avoid creating mental images, only evoking vague references to love, changing, touching, etc. The use of emotional singing to cover the terribleness of these vague words is constantly laughed at, particularly in the masterwork “Sad,” where the words “sad” and “scared” are shouted throughout.
Finally, the album analyzes the extreme egos of pop’s front-persons. The unchanging, smug, underachieving voice throughout proclaims “I don’t have to try very hard.” The lack of vocal silence on the album appears to be a testament to the singer’s engulfing ego: when the focus could easily be on the instruments, the voice dominates with “oh’s,” often apparently mocking the simple musical phrases.
Overexposed offers a hilarious satirical look into the cheapness of the pop genre, and gets a lot right. However, while the jokes appear obvious to experienced, professional music reviewers, they are perhaps not apparent enough to the lay-listener. With a slightly more blunt approach, Maroon 5 could reach the same calibre as other comedy acts like Flight of the Conchords or Garfunkel and Oates.
Joel MacKenzie is a very serious music critic and musician who takes music very seriously. He has spent three years writing predominantly negative reviews for several music journals, and currently performs as a solo musician, unable to find other musicians of his calibre.