Songs About Jane
June 25, 2002
J Records/ Octone/ A&M/ UMG
1. Harder to Breathe // 2. This Love // 3. Shiver // 4. She Will Be Loved // 5. Tangled // 6. The Sun // 7. Must Get Out // 8. Sunday Morning // 9. Secret // 10. Through With You // 11. Not Coming Home // 12. Sweetest Goodbye
Kara’s Flowers, an L.A. based alternative rock band consisting of Jesse Carmichael, Mickey Madden, Ryan Dusick and Adam Levine, released their debut album on Reprise Records, to the sounds of crickets in the summer of ’97. The only single off the album Soap Disco failed to make a splash on the charts and the guys gave up those silly rockstar dreams and went to college never to be heard from again.
Well that’s what should have happened, but in stead the guys added guitar player James Valentine to their line up so that Adam who had been the main guitar player up until then had his hands free to engage in frontman antics better, and became a rockier version of Jamiroquai, racking up the hits and selling boatloads of albums while being hated on by music critics and Noel Gallagher.
A lot of people claim to hate the everliving shit out of M5, but as Adam put it:
“People hated Creed. They don’t hate us. At worst, they just don’t really like us. Creed … had that attitude, they pontificated about how great they were, they had a horribly generic band. They were easy to hate and we’re just, you know, easy to disregard.”
Before you start dumping on Adam for having a horrible sense of humour (he does) realise that this is pretty accurate actually. It’s going to be quite difficult pissing somebody off with an M5 song. Bar MooOOooOOoo00ves Like Jagger none of their material has enough personality to put much of a dent in one’s conscience. Most people won’t even notice they’re on unless they’re specifically listening for them. You try distinguishing This Love from …Baby One More Time in an overcrouded mall (still the place you are most likely to hear any Songs About Jane) while trying to find that one wintercoat that is both comfortable, hip for the season and good looking on you, or sipping on a semi-skimmed soymilk latte with a dash of nutmeg (Seriously, whose goddamn idea was the fucking nutmeg on a fucking coffee, name names motherfucker).
It is for the exact same reason that there isn’t much to hate that they never became critical darlings and did become very wealthy off their music, they’re an MOR band albeit with just a little bit of a hazy alt rock atmoshere around them (that would evaporate as well by the time they recorded their sophomore album).
I love Maroon 5, so apparently none of this stuff matters much to me (a recurring feature in fans of easy listening music) but it needs to be explained in a critical review of an album why and how something was succesful and in what aspects it wasn’t.
Usually a review of a Maroon 5 album begs the question who would go out and purchase a spit-polished mash-up of the Police and Prince. While a quick look at the soundscan doesn’t exactly provide a straightforward answer, it does that that yes, in fact quite a lot of people did. It also shows that it took the boys two years to actually sell some records. A look at their singles discography shows that their first single Harder to Breathe was a relative flop in 2002, that they released zero singles, hit- or otherwise, in 2003 and that the double fisted attack on the charts, This Love and She Will Be Loved occured in 2004. What the blazers happened in the mean time? John Mayer copped to liking the album after which his fanbase ran out to buy it? That’s about as good an explanation as any. The fact that Songs About Jane is a terrific album can’t actually have helped matters. That’s not how the music industry does things.
How one appreciates Songs About Jane is a matter of perspective. As a “rock” album it is found awfully vanilla by those who indulge themselves in rock music, and truth be told it is. While never boring musically M5 is very groove-centered leaving little space for things such as guitar solos and the like. Unlike Kara’s Flowers however Maroon 5 isn’t a rock band, it’s an R&B group wherein its members actually play instruments rather than dance in sync behind the lead singer. Putting this album toe-to-toe with your favourite obscure indie group is therefore pretty damn senseless. This album is actually in the Justin Timberlake ballpark. In this light one can say that Songs About Jane slaughters Justified and then fornicates with its skull. This has mostly to do with Adam being a far superior, more credible blue-eyed soul singer and Maroon 5 writing far superior songs than JT will ever be able to do, being in their own way relatively more classy and more subtle.
Off course M5 does have originality issues. One could literally slip Sunday Morning into a Jamiroquai playlist without anyone noticing that it’s not Jay Kay and company that’s on. But it should be noted that it’s a good Jarmiroquai song, and sometimes leaving pushing the envelope on a shelf in favour of making something that only entertains is the right thing to do.
This Love‘s instrumental is beyond shadow of a doubt a Britney Spears re-write what with its percussive piano’s, with some filthy guitar-accents throw in for edge’s sake, but again I’ll be damned if it doesn’t sound terrific coupled with Levine’s nasal falsetto that is in equal parts soulful and aloof.
She Will Be Loved is the song you love the shit out of, which you can’t admit to your boys because it’s so delicate and sentimental. You’re far from the only one. It’s guilty pleasures like these that helped Jane sell close to five million copies in the USA alone without having Timbaland or Pharrell on board and without M5 having a prior boyband fanbase, and that‘s justified (no pun intended).
Album tracks and minor hits like Secret, Shiver, Not Coming Home and Must Get Out are very nearly as good as the heavy hitters, with tight grooves, catchy refrains, lyrics that may or may not be meaningful (this truly lies in the ear of the beholder) but always manage to sound cool.
So there you have it. Songs About Jane is pretty much completely free of experimentation, radiates with professionalism and could therefore be considered dull by those looking for innovation for innovation’s sake. Those simply content with well written, expertly performed songs about love, heartbreak and every day life need look no further than Songs About Jane.
She Will Be Loved
Not Coming Home
Must Get Out
Pick this one up. You can opt for the regular edition or the 10th year anniversary deluxe edition which contains a second disc with the demo version of every song present on the normal edition and some previously unreleased songs from the Jane recording sessions. (only for the die hards)