Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine’s gig as a coach on “The Voice” has been the career equivalent of the adrenaline shot that Uma Thurman’s character got in “Pulp Fiction.” Without it, he never would have made “Moves Like Jagger,” his guiltiest-of-guilty-pleasures collaboration with co-worker Christina Aguilera, which sent the band’s moribund career into orbit.
Maroon 5’s previous album, 2010’s “Hands All Over,” was just a modest hit. With its latest, “Overexposed,” the band seems determined not to repeat the experience. With the help of a coven of high-priced producers (Wikipedia lists at least 18, including famed Britney Spears/Usher hitmaker Max Martin and someone nicknamed Mailbox), Maroon 5 has (d)evolved from a convincing simulacrum of a soul-pop band to a trend-chasing dance-pop outfit. What took it so long?
“Overexposed” is a hit-seeking missile that doesn’t just slaughter Maroon 5’s reputation for sincerity (which was pretty nonexistent anyway), it festoons its corpse with glitter, hairspray and Hello Kitty stickers. It seems more like a collaboration between Swedish hitmakers and AutoTune than between Levine and members of his band, who apparently exist, but it’s a small price to pay. There are forays into clubby reggae (“One More Night”) and retro funk (“Doin’ Dirt”), and a Wiz Khalifa collaboration (“Payphone”) that’s as implausible as it is addictive. It’s shiny and ridiculously pleasurable, which is different than saying it’s good.
If “Overexposed” suffers at all, it’s on the low end: Levine, who has the voice Justin Timberlake wishes he had, was once capable of feigning great emotion. But for these minor variations on themes such as “A supermodel broke my heart,” or “It’s just not working out, supermodel,” it’s all he can do to fake it.