It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since Maroon 5’s debut LP, Songs About Jane, hit record stores. And I’m not kidding: the album came out in the summer of 2002, while lead single “Harder to Breathe” was serviced to radio in the fall of 2003. By the time the album completed its impressive run toward the top of the Billboard charts, with hit singles in “This Love,” “She Will Be Loved” and “Sunday Morning,” 2004 was almost over.
Add to that the generally uneasy feeling about 10th anniversary reissues (what’s next, Coldplay deluxe editions?), not to mention the unusual timing of the release (Maroon 5’s fourth album, Overexposed, is out just three weeks after this package hits stores), and an expanded edition of Songs About Jane seems like a tough sell. That’s a shame, because it’s worth revisiting what may be one of the most shamelessly enjoyable mainstream pop albums of the past decade.
You see, before Adam Levine took starring roles on The Voice and dozens of tabloid pages, before the band added a worrisome revolving door (original drummer Ryan Dusick bowed out due to injury and original keyboardist Jesse Carmichael is currently on hiatus from the group), before frickin’ “Moves Like Jagger,” Maroon 5 were actually a hell of a band. Their brand of strutting white-bread funk, coupled with a cadre of hook-filled, self-penned pop tunes, makes Jane worth another few spins. Those four singles haven’t aged much at all, and while there are a far greater amount of boy-band tics on the album than previously remembered (Levine’s “unh”s at the beginning of album closer “Sweetest Goodbye” is arguably the worst offense), those tunes have just the right blend of sugar and spice to keep your fingers off the skip buttons. “The Sun” and “Secret” are fun secret weapons, with the latter featuring a slinky chorus with background vocals by, of all people, future Parks and Recreation cast member Rashida Jones!
This wouldn’t be an anniversary edition without some bonus content, and the deluxe Jane actually has a ridiculous amount: 17 tracks on a separate disc, including demos to all the original songs, one previously-released B-side, and a handful of unheard tunes from the sessions, too. Regrettably, some of this content errs a little too close to “for superfans only” status; these demos aren’t rough four-track recordings with scratch vocals and skeleton-like guitar figures. Instead, you get simplified versions of the hits – “Harder to Breathe” without developed verses, “This Love” without its scratchy guitar riff, “Sunday Morning” with a wailing saxophone. The two completely unreleased tunes, “Take What You Want” and “Chilly Winter,” aren’t half-bad, but couldn’t stand next to the dozen tunes that did make the cut. A smattering of unlockable vintage video content rounds out the package, providing a grin-inducing look into a younger, considerably geekier Levine and company working in studio.
The appeal of Songs About Jane: 10th Anniversary Edition might be relatively limited to the band’s most loyal listeners, but – especially with a wildly different new album almost here – if you’re in the mood for a pop-heavy blast from the past, it can’t hurt to give it a spin again and see if Maroon 5 will be loved as much as they were way back when.
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