An Open Letter to Maroon 5: ‘Cold’ Review, and the Inevitability of Changing Artistry

Oh, Maroon 5 – it doesn’t usually matter when a band or artist changes – you’ve proved that plenty of times yourselves since your days as Kara’s Flowers – but it does when you move into the blandest, most derivative direction possible, so much so that this ‘change’ is best described as a devolution rather than the positive alternative.

One of the many problems with ‘Cold’, just like its predecessor ‘Don’t Wanna Know’, is that it follows very much the 2016 vogue of sparse repetitive beats with hardly any verse/chorus distinction beside a few extra sounds thrown in the mix, with the inevitable (usually rap) featured artist towards the end of the song. And while the previous release could just about get away with it (it was a 2016 release, after all, and the music was slightly more… interesting), there is no excuse to release this garbage now.

Yes, many artists who had hardly before dabbled in urban genres such as hip-hop and dancehall have been producing their own more pop influenced songs for the genre recently, but if you’re looking to see how non-urban artists can create urban songs whilst still retaining a shred of originality, check out Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’ (or better yet our review of it) or, more recently, James Blunt’s ‘Love Me Better’ – both still ‘feeling’ like their respective artists, and listenable in their own rights, but also club-and dance-ready.

Maroon 5, as long-term musicians, you should know the difference between what quickly goes out of vogue (all of those generic, half-hearted, straight-to-the-club singles) and what has to potential to become an instant classic (Songs About Jane). You should also know that to create a classic in a fast-changing genre, you must write a song which transcends that genre’s limitations and actually stands out – that’s why people will be singing ‘Shape of You’ long after ‘Cold’ has been discarded from Ink’s DJ set.

Unless if ‘Don’t Wanna Know’ and ‘Cold’ happen to both be the most heartless stop-gap singles ever, simply unashamed cash-grabs (and maybe, at this point, it will be better if this is what they are), it’s safe to say that Maroon 5’s upcoming record isn’t going to be the back-to-basics stripped-down album we’ve previously been promised. And considering that this is the second single release from the record, I dread to think what the album tracks will sound like – unless, of course, Maroon 5 have realised that singles only sell for parties nowadays, and are hiding away musical genius on the record itself, though admittedly this seems unlikey.

Because at the end of the day, ‘Cold’ is not a Maroon 5 song. It could be by [insert name of short-spanning-career rapper here] or [another forgettable artist influenced by Drake here]. And while I usually have a problem when critics (quite dismissively) label a song as ‘not a [insert artist here] song’, I have more of a problem with when artists – especially those with pre-existing distinctive styles of their own – condescends to imitate another’s style so closely that the phrase ‘it’s not a X song it’s a Y song’ can actually be used.

Capitalised by the success of Drake’s Views and all of its many, many imitators which somehow managed to achieve mainstream success in clubs and bars all over the land themselves, Maroon 5 have forgotten to make anything with a shred of originality or replay-ability.

Since the days of ‘Payphone’, which compared to these recent releases seems like it can match the standards of the timeless ‘This Love’ or ‘Never Gonna Leave This Bed’, the obligatory tacked-on rap verse at the end of Maroon 5’s hits have often been their weakest points, consistently contradicting the musical and lyrical content of what had been established in the previous two-and-a-half minutes of the song, providing a jarring and uncomfortable listening experience.

But the chorus and verse of ‘Cold’ are so nondescript and flat-out boring (and this is coming from a Maroon 5 fan) that Future’s contribution is actually welcomed – though this is not a comment on the quality of his verse, which is mediocre at best, but the sheer heartlessness of the musicianship, or lack thereof, of the rest of the track.

Go back to being Kara’s Flowers, Maroon 5. Maybe some anonymity and lack of expectation will help you find some shred of originality in this carbon-copy world you have recently become a harbinger of, though you were once a welcome oasis from it. And that’s my main problem – Maroon 5 were once one of the most promising, original and easily accessible bands in the industry, creating earworm music which nevertheless had some semblance of musicianship.

But what is Maroon 5 now? ‘Cold’ is not a good song – in fact, this critic can hardly even call it a ‘song’ without a snigger – and if it were fashioned by any other band it would get no airplay at all. And though it will definitely get a good reception at a club, with people no doubt raising the roof and screaming ‘Oh my god I love Maroon 5!’, it should be remembered that this ‘love’ is due to of fond memories from hearing ‘She Will Be Loved’ on the radio, and not anything post-Overexposed. Oh, and, these people are drunk.

Matteo Everett

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One Comment
  • Avinash
    21 February 2017 at 07:11
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    The art of songwriting has been long lost.

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