Hands All Over is ¬Maroon 5’s third studio album, and it is their most pop sound yet. Following 2007’s It Won’t Be Soon before Longr, the group deviates from their heavier rock ‘n’ roll sound to a rock-flavored pop for this album. Entirely produced by four-time Grammy winner Robert John “Mutt” Lange, the album’s polished, delicately finished sound stands out.
Hands All Over is a large step away from the group pervious musical styling. While It Won’t Be Soon before Longr and Songs about Jane had obvious funk, R&B and rock ‘n’ roll roots, Hands All Over nearly completely eschews them for a very pure pop perspective, which appeals to a wide audience and incorporates just a touch of flavor. Hands All Over is cups of sugar with a pinch of spice. When the spice becomes the main flavor, it grooves with a passion not found elsewhere on the album.
Adam Levine’s voice, while professional and capable, has yet to gain any emotional weight. The background singers, who are supposed to complement him, are light, easily ignorable and boring. The songs are not relatable and just sound like words without any personal meaning. However, his voice matches the material brilliantly, perhaps on purpose. The group’s previous albums have a heavier, more hard-hitting sound juxtaposed with Levine’s airy tenor. Hands All Over features matching accompaniment and vocal style: weightless and easily digested.
The majority of the album has very simple musical arrangements. Nothing about the instrumentations or melodies sounds complex to play. Hands All Over breaks no new ground and presents no new musical surprises. All of the tracks, with the possible exception of the title track, offer succinctly little to no complication. The listener will easily understand what is going on, what he or she is hearing and what comes next.
The whole album is very repetitive. From track to track, little changes. Most of the songs run together and do not leave a distinct memory or impression as individual ideas. More exploration would have been appreciated. Anyone who has an opinion of the lead single, “Misery,” therefore has an opinion of the album as a whole. Imagine an album of “Misery”-clones, and that is Hands All Over.
There are a few interesting dark spots in an otherwise sugary bright sonic landscape. “No Curtain Call,” a bonus track, musters all of Maroon 5’s urgency. The bass drum marches through Levine’s countdown to the end of the song. It cannot stand up to much analysis, but the minor key attitude and tonality are refreshing.
“Hands All Over” is the spiciest track on the album, but still comes off contrived. It sounds like a more grown up Jonas Brothers track, or a slap from Julia Roberts: attitude for the sake of attitude from an otherwise wholesome source.
“Stutter” could have been a track from It Won’t Be Soon before Longr, decidedly pop with a rock twist, corporate-sponsored rock, not too offensive, but overtly appealing with a dash of spice.
What the album lacks in inspiration and edge it makes up in polish and persistence. Every track sounds combed with a fine tooth, picked apart to its core, pondered and put back together, losing some soul in the process, but replacing it with a calm confidence from knowing the music well. The album could be played entirely live because it is simple and does not rely on any trickery or fanciness; it is just some guys playing instruments, a simplicity both refreshing and disappointing.
While most fans are mostly pleased, most everyone else will find Hands All Over frankly boring and lacking. There is just not enough of anything to make more fans with this offering. However, it is easy listening and easily fades into the background. It does not demand attention and will not be catching any ears, which can be nice sometimes.