Marooned by love

Heartbreak sounds good when doled out by Maroon 5, whose new album is deliciously upbeat and downcast all at the same time.

By DALIA WHEATT Times Staff Writer
Published May 26, 2007

Paris Hilton allegedly dumped him after her friends complained he wasn't fashionable enough. He has also been linked to tennis beauty Maria Sharapova and brainiac Natalie Portman, but those relationships didn't work out, either. And when he'd had enough of Jessica Simpson, he reportedly ended their romance by dashing off this text message: Really busy. Need space.

Woe is Adam Levine.

Thank goodness the Maroon 5 frontman has found constructive outlets for releasing his anguish.

In 2002, Levine's heartache gave us Songs About Jane, an album of funk-pop breakup tunes including the Grammy-winning This Love. This time around, Levine's messy love life has birthed It Won't Be Soon Before Long, which hit stores Tuesday.

Like a pint of Chunky Monkey after a bad breakup, Before Long hits the spot. Following Jane, which included song titles like Through With You and Not Coming Home, fans craved another round of upbeat melodies laced with vindictive lyrics, and Before Long delivers the goods.

The first single, the disco-flavored Makes Me Wonder, is a declaration of discontentment: "Give me something to believe in, 'cause I don't believe in you anymore, anymooore, " Levine sings in a deceptively cheery falsetto.

The singer-songwriter-guitarist told Rolling Stone that the lyrics are actually an allegory for his irritation with President Bush.

"This is not nearly as literal as the first record, " Levine told the mag. "But whether I'm talking about the state of the world or a family situation or my own romantic situation, I can always equate it to a relationship between two people."

That makes us curious about the story behind Track 4, Wake Up Call. Over bass-heavy, upbeat instrumentals, Levine trills about finding his lover in his bed with another man.

"Don't you care about me anymore? Don't you care about me? I don't think so, " he chirps, going on to say he shot his rival.

In song after infectious song, Levine tells of breakups, regret and unrequited passion, all while being backed by the optimistic funk-rock of his bandmates, keyboardist-guitarist Jesse Carmichael, guitarist James Valentine, bassist Mickey Madden and drummer Matt Flynn. If not for Levine's public spat with British pop tart Lily Allen, her acerbic ditties would've made an ideal opening act for the Before Long tour.

But all is not bitter.

More so than Jane, Before Long details Levine's appreciation for the fairer sex - no surprise, given his roster of gorgeous ex-girlfriends.

Over the disco guitar and '80s-style synthesizer of Kiwi, Levine begs the object of his affection to go home with him, let him run his fingers through her hair and, well, you know the rest. A shot of beat-boxing infuses Kiwi and makes it prime cover material for American Idol runner-up Blake Lewis.

Slowing things down, this album's She Will Be Loved is Won't Go Home Without You, a softer rock serenade that the band debuted on Saturday Night Live last weekend.

And the 12-song set closes with the ambitious ballad Back at Your Door, whose sweeping string arrangements soften Levine's brassy voice.

Only two songs miss the mark: hyperactive Can't Stop, which sounds like the band got high on Pixy Stix before hitting the studio, and the bland rock number Not Falling Apart, which feels like filler.

By and large, though, It Won't Be Soon Before Long is everything Maroon 5 fans loved about the first album, polished with help from producers Mike Elizondo 50 Cent, Eminem, Mark "Spike" Stent (Gwen Stefani, Bjork) and others with the Midas touch.

With its mix of love songs and diatribes, the always-passionate Before Long chronicles just about every aspect of a relationship, from the first-date box of chocolates to the post-split ice cream binge.

It all sounds sweet to us.

Dalia Wheatt can be reached at (727) 893-8717 or dwheatt@tampabay.com.




It Won't Be Soon Before Long

Maroon 5 (A&M/Octone)

Grade: A-