Roundtable Talk: “Cold”

“Never thought that you were like this
I took the tag off, and made you priceless.”

Artist: Maroon 5
“Cold” (feat. Future)

Song Meaning

Breaking up with someone – nothing groundbreaking.

When is a Band No Longer a Band?

After Maroon 5’s two recent singles, I had to look up if they still had band members other than Adam Levine. I’ve been a fan from the OG days of Jesse Carmichael, James Valentine, Mickey Madden and Ryan Dusick. You many know this as the classic Songs About Jane era. But I don’t know what I’m listening to anymore.

First off, all but one of those members are still with the band. Secondly, there are now six members in Maroon 5. Why then do you need guest artists on every single (we’re two for two on this new album)? And why do you waste the talent of six musicians to craft generic tropical house music – the Tony Danza of pop trends?

As a non-musician, I legitimately do not know. Maybe this is what they all want to pursue. But if I were in a band, I would hope that each member would improve upon his or her craft and apply it appropriately to the band so that we could all vault past the sum of our parts. Has James Valentine improved as a guitar player? Buried beneath the rubble of what used to be a perfectly good pop/rock band, we may never know. I blame The Voice.

Maroon 5 are a case study of what some would consider “selling out,” or adapting their music for the sole purpose of commercial consumption. I don’t hate much music, but I hate that song with Kendrick Lamar. No true band would resort to tropical house. That’s madness. When you are recording a song like this in the studio as a featured guitarist, is your role fulfilling? If there is a keyboardist to lay down beats, do you even need a drummer? Tropical house is anti-musicianship and must be stopped.

To contrast the distinct eras, here’s a classic song that builds upon crafty instrumentation before delivering the goods:

This song is dripping with sensuality, made possible by each band member’s perfect execution of subtle tension. And Maroon 5 was always classy about it. Now here’s a live version of “Cold,” which uses vocals to build:

These two songs are night and day. I feel more on a recording than I do a live performance! And what was the band doing in the live version? They were reduced to mannequins. Someone, please free James Valentine.

Maroon 5’s first few albums were gold and then they let the industry dictate their craft. I’ve read interviews with Adam Levine about it, and if he can justify the direction of the band, I can argue that they shouldn’t have tampered with a beautiful thing. From the splendid GQ profile three years ago:

When Maroon 5 debuted their new, funky, Stevie-inspired sound, their fans and friends in what Valentine calls “cool bands” were horrified. Not only was the music vaguely embarrassing in the way it always is when a skinny white guy imitates Michael Jackson; it was the kind of music you could imagine being played in a rock block with Britney Spears, not on KROQ. It sounded, suspiciously, like they were trying to be successful.

Use instruments like bands. Or sell out like brands. Whatever. Enjoy the paycheck.

Random Notes

  • Not all of these Roundtable Talks are going to be for good songs. Nor will they all have answers or profound insight. This entry exemplifies this.
  • I understand that Maroon 5 is far from the only band to divert to such watered down measures. But they used to hold the coveted “No. 2” spot on my list of favorite bands, hence why I care.
  • If you aren’t familiar with tropical house, educate yourself so that we may put an end to the pollution in the airwaves.

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