Maroon 5: Hands All Over

RIYL: Stevie Wonder, Jamiroquai, Train

Maroon-5-Hands-All-Over-album-cover-art[1] Just when you thought there wasn’t an errant molecule left to be polished off Maroon 5’s squeaky-clean pop-funk sound, along comes legendary producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange to add his layers of platinum gloss. Lange’s antiseptic stacks o’ tracks approach helped Def Leppard own the late ’80s (and made it acceptable for a snare drum to sound like a wet sack of potatoes being hit with a two-by-four in reverse), so when word got out that he was producing Hands All Over, eyebrows were raised in anticipation. What do you get when you cross Maroon 5 with the guy who produced world-beating hits for AC/DC, Bryan Adams, Shania Twain, and Nickelback?

The answer, as it turns out, isn’t appreciably different from previous Maroon 5 records – not in terms of sound, anyway. Hands All Over is a little more arid than the band’s earlier material, and the nipping and tucking applied to lead singer Adam Levine’s voice is more obvious than usual, but they’ve never been anyone’s idea of a gritty band; Lange’s production style is unmistakably slick, but he’s also smart enough to know there are only so many layers of gloss you can add before the underlying material disappears.

And it’s on that underlying material that Lange seems to have had the biggest influence. Though the band’s songwriting has never really been an issue, Hands All Over presents Maroon 5 at their most radio-ready; even the filler tracks, of which there are a few, sound as sleek and lean as obvious singles fodder like “Misery” and “Never Gonna Leave This Bed.” Much as he’s been guilty of fattening up the sounds of the bands he’s worked with, Lange is a remarkably savvy songwriter with a sharp ear for a song’s inessential bits, and it sounds like he took a judicious scalpel to each of Hands All Over‘s dozen cuts. The end result is as slick as it is hummable.

Of course, it’s also sheer product, but unapologetically so, and at least the product in question is one worth selling. If you’re the type of listener who looks for raw power in your music, Hands All Over is absolutely not for you, but if you’re just looking for a fresh batch of safe, hip-shaking pop to get you through your day – or if you have any kind of appreciation for that elusive sweet spot where airtight pop songcraft and unabashed commerce meet – this is one guilty pleasure you may not need to feel guilty about. (A&M/Octone 2010)

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