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Published: Monday, 7/2/2012

Maroon 5 focused on identity

Group wants to remain team players

BY RYAN PEARSON
AP ENTERTAINMENT WRITER
Adam Levine, right, and James Valentine of the band Maroon 5, which released the album "Overexposed" last week. Adam Levine, right, and James Valentine of the band Maroon 5, which released the album "Overexposed" last week.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

LOS ANGELES -- Adam Levine knows the game.

Seconds after sitting down for an on-camera interview and before any questions are asked, the Maroon 5 frontman playfully rattles off canned responses he's used in recent months while promoting The Voice and the band's fourth album.

"It is our poppiest record ever. We're really embracing the pop side. Christina [Aguilera] and I are all good. We don't fight," he says brightly. "I feel great about this record! Probably our best ever!"

He lets out a stagey, fake chuckle, and it's clear that the 33-year-old Los Angeles native both relishes the spotlight and has been around long enough to grow a smidge tired of its glare.

Thus the title of the album, "Overexposed," which finds the five-man group at its commercial peak 10 years after its debut "Songs About Jane." Last year's standalone single "Moves Like Jagger," featuring the aforementioned Aguilera, stayed at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 for a month. "Overexposed's" lead single "Payphone" is now in the top five.

Levine and guitarist James Valentine spoke about Maroon 5's "identity issues," educating young fans, and why Levine doesn't plan to go solo.

Q: Why "Overexposed" as an album title?

Levine: We thought we would just kind of say it before everybody else did. ... My face is on buses, which is a trip and it's weird. ... The "Jagger" tune propelled us into the stratosphere even more, combined with the show and a lot of things that are happening right now.

Q: And do the songs address that as well?

Levine: They're love songs and they're songs about dysfunction but also songs about having a good time. I used to have to be miserable to write a song. And that's kind of gone away.

Valentine: It's weird because when things are going well for him, he's just not inspired to write, because he's enjoying life and enjoying being in those moments. Then as soon as things get a little hairy, then all of (the) sudden songs come out, which is good for us.

Levine: But we also have the moments that I think are just speaking more universally. ... That kind of clarity is what's best about the record. ... It's not shrouded in too much metaphor and ambiguity and poetry. I used to think about it much more poetically but I don't anymore. I'm much more concerned with making everyone understand what I mean and what I'm feeling.

Q: Your 14-year-old fans likely don't understand what a pay phone is, though.

Levine: Payphones and Mick Jagger could be considered things that some kids don't know about. I think that actually if you did some sort of poll, you'd say: "What's a pay phone? Who is Mick Jagger?" I think you'd be shocked by how similar the responses were from that particular demographic.

Valentine: We're like history teachers!

Q: Do you feel there was a pre-"Jagger" Maroon 5 and a post-"Jagger" Maroon 5?

Valentine: Definitely. "Jagger" sort of laid down a blueprint for what we're going to do next. We were definitely due for a change, and I think we were definitely going to go in some new directions, but [with] the success of "Jagger," of course we're going to try doing some more stuff like that.

Levine: Also if "Jagger" was us dipping our toe into the water, we launched into the river on this record, which was cool because I think that our band has had some identity issues over the past few years and we've been wrestling between trying to stick to being a band in a traditional sense and that clearly wasn't really working. ... Maybe going a bit poppier or kind of like embracing the pop music side of our band on this record makes who we are much more clear.

Q: Adam, could you see yourself going solo and then coming back to the band?

Levine: No. And I know I say this and "famous last words," but being a solo artist is so painfully uncool. I always loved playing music with my friends and being in a bit of a fraternity with my best friends and playing and traveling the world. To be a solo artist, I'm just not interested. I never have been. I'd sooner start another band. And why would I want to start over as myself? I have enough ego satisfaction being on The Voice and having my own shtick and all that stuff.



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