Between Magic!’s “Rude” and Nico & Vinz’s “Am I Wrong,” reggae has been in vogue this summer. So, naturally, the new Maroon 5 album, V, opens with a reggae number that plots a perfect middle point between those two hits. Since singer Adam Levine parlayed his gig on The Voice into renewed stardom, Maroon 5 has reinvented itself as the country’s most opportunistic band, spiritedly appropriating Top 40 trends with a cold, calculated precision usually reserved for political consultants and SEO analysts. The band has stayed hip, but in the way that Pespi commercials are hip, furnishing a too-perfect, soundstage ideal of whatever the kids are into these days.
Picking up where 2012’s pop makeover Overexposed left off, the band’s fifth album outsources much of its songwriting and production to proven studio fixers like Max Martin, Benny Blanco, Ryan Tedder, and Shellback, all of whom stick to their familiar playbooks. “It Was Always You” crackles with brittle, programmed synthesizers, an ’80s homage in theory that in execution is more of an homage to the way ’80s homages sound in 2014. “Leaving California” is a spot-on imitation of Fun.’s cheer-along power anthems—no coincidence, since it was co-written by Fun.’s Nate Ruess. And for the closing Gwen Stefani duet, “My Heart Is Open,” the band employs songwriter Sia Furler, who has replaced Skylar Grey as Top 40’s go-to source for brooding, high-drama ballads. Every song clocks right in that radio sweet spot between three and four minutes, and nearly all of them go down like candy, but collectively the final product is an album with all the surprise and individuality of a Now That’s What I Call Music compilation.