A gleaming slice of romantic agony, Maroon 5 continues to excel at making pain irresistible.
The first track to hit radio from the forthcoming Hands All Over, due in September, “Misery” wastes little time (32 seconds, in fact) getting to its infectious chorus.
This mercenary approach indicates the band paid close attention during its time in Switzerland with legendary producer Robert “Mutt” Lange, who oversaw Hands. It’s the L.A.-based quintet’s first album in three years, following 2007’s It Won’t Be Soon Before Long.
Not that Adam Levine and company needed much tutelage in the art of turning heartbreak into hit singles; as early as 2004’s “This Love,” from the band’s multi-platinum major label debut Songs About Jane, Maroon 5 was mining fractious relationships for heavy rotation-ready tracks.
That a mainstream pop-rock band could address the male-female dynamic so frankly and achieve such success is slightly mystifying. Take Eminem, who treads similar ground—albeit more bluntly and often in gruesome fashion—and yet his work, at least initially, was vilified for its content.
Of course, Maroon 5 has occasionally run afoul of censors for its output; the videos for “This Love” and “Wake Up Call,” for instance, raised a few eyebrows – just as the brutal clip for “Misery” might also antagonize those of a more timid sensibility.
That dichotomy—achingly sentimental, bad boy posturing—is on full display here, as contradiction abounds in “Misery.” The funky, swaggering bass line stands in stark contrast to Levine’s wounded lyrics (“I am in misery/There ain’t nobody who can’t comfort me/Why won’t you answer me/The silence is slowly killin’ me”), while the sparkling guitars and Levine’s soulful performance suggest something resembling defiance—someone ready to move on, rather than linger over a lost lover.
It’s one of the year’s great pop singles, a concise, immaculate piece of song craft which suggests Maroon 5’s new album will be a world-beater, comprised of similarly polished gems. “Misery” all but insists upon multiple listens—first to appreciate the addictive melodies and then to wonder just how this miserable lothario has hung on for so long.