by Joshua B. Hoe Usually, I try not to be too snarky, especially when a band actually plays real instruments.
But, Maroon 5 stands for virtually everything I dislike about contemporary music (yes, I am sure they have zero opinion of me or an unfavorable one, but it is my blog).
First, the snarky part:
Maroon 5 is like 'One Direction' but with Instruments.
Maroon 5 is to Rock what Michael Buble is to Sinatra.
Maroon 5 is the Air Supply of this decade.
As you can tell, not a big fan.
When singing hair muppet Adam Levine yaps (on his talent show) about how much he loves One Republic, that should tell you about all you need to know about his ambitions.
Maroon 5 has somehow made elevator music popular and called it "rock."
To me, that is not a good thing.
Two things made me write about this:
1. It was part of a Twitter discussion earlier today
2. I just watched the movie Whiplash again and it got me to thinking (always a dangerous thing).
So, in Whiplash you have a talented drummer who is driven to excellence by a cruel and dictatorial mentor who justifies his behavior by explaining that it is a gift to humanity (if he pushes someone hard enough they might be the next super-genius of music and pressure makes diamonds).
Does Pressure Make Diamonds?
This movie resonates with me on many levels because I was a national champion in debate. In other words, I was pushed by myself and by a dictatorial mentor (who I also loved, so it is not all bad).
It also resonates because I am also a drummer.
I gave up my drumming to pursue debate because I felt debate gave me the best chance to be nationally successful (turned out to be accurate).
But, here is something I learned from being uber competitive at something, it is not just about practice (this is also demonstrated in Whiplash), it is never just about practice.
Don't believe that 10,000 hours crap.
Yes, if you practice your ass off you will be good, maybe even really good.
But "GREAT" is about much more than practice, it is about the strange alchemy that makes something special.
Something that cannot be learned and something that cannot be taught.
And, yes, that something special benefits from practicing a lot, but no amount of practice will make someone without that divine spark GREAT.
It's just like Amadeus and Salieri.
Greatness is Pain
Being great at something eats you up.
For most people it is not sustainable.
In Whiplash, you constantly see things coming apart at the seams. It is about being remembered as the once in a lifetime comet that burns out, not about being popular or good.
Yes, stupid "bands" like Maroon 5 will sell a billion albums, but nobody and I mean nobody will ever put them in a time capsule.
They are too sanitized and pre-packaged to be comets.
You cannot make great music without pain, without suffering, without dying every day for greatness.
What makes it great is the pain, Adam Levine has people who handle his pain for him.
Don't get me wrong, he may have all kinds of personal pain that I don't know and I might never understand, but it sure doesn't get exposed in his music.
They are a slick, seamless, souless mix of slick marketing and good times.
None of Joe Strummer's depression and self-doubt.
None of Johnny Rotten's sneering superiority and loathing.
None of Ian Curtis's slow descent into madness.
I am not wishing pain on Maroon 5, I am explaining why, to me, they can never be great - there is no pain in them.
When they sing about pain, it sounds at best mildly unpleasant.
Putting Your Open Wounds on Vinyl For All To Hear
Elliot Smith put it all out there, every painful wart.
Someone once asked me what I thought of Carrie Underwood and I said something like this:
"Talent is different than soul."
"I would rather listen to Loretta Lynn's more limited voice sing one song than hear Carrie Underwood's unquestionably more talented voice blast out ten songs."
Pain, experience, laying it out for people to see.
What your Adam Levine's and your Blake Shelton's of the world will never get is that it's not about genre.
And talent is not just about notes, it is about how you communicate notes.
It's about soul.
It's about telling an honest story from an open place, usually a place that still hurts.
Having people pretend to feel other people's words is a fun parlor game for talented singers, but when someone is demanding to be heard - it blows you away.
Billie Holiday, Loretta Lynn, Ian Curtis, Elliot Smith
Sure these were people with talent, but they had the spark, and they had soul, and they were really emotionally honest (often to their own detriment).
Whiplash and Maroon 5
The last scene in Whiplash is so damn powerful.
The cruel mentor, who has just tricked him and tried to ruin him, is also the only person in the world who truly knows how good he is at the moment when everything finally comes together.
Everything else no longer matters.
Everything on both sides becomes irrelevant, the moment transcends everything.
There is only the pain, the soul, and the moment of appreciation.
In the moment where the main character becomes a true music God.
Not because he will sell a million records or become a household name. Because he reached the true intersection where talent, practice, soul, and spark coalesce to make genius.
Not everyone gets genius in it's time.
In truth most genius is laughed at or ignored, meanwhile the Maroon 5's of the world will get rich and famous.
You may have never heard of Charlie Bird Parker, but, to those that understand, he has been the alpha and omega.
Parker died a drug addict.
I guess that's why I have so much disdain for Maroon 5. I don't think they know why they suck.
In fact, I think they believe their own hype.
Which to me is just sad.
Probably unfair of me, and I am sure I am just that dude who always hates the kids music (except that I like tons of new bands).
How unfair am I being? I hope this is not a depressing rant that all of you totally disagree with. Either way, would love to hear your opinions, leave a comment!