Maroon 5 are a huge “rock” band but aren’t popular where it counts for non-post-grunge rock bands: the blognoscenti, who can make Fleet Foxes into the second coming of Jesus Christ himself. That disconnect between the “hip” cache Maroon 5 are obviously reaching for (check the Rapture-ripping cover) and their fame among the post-Hannah Montana set explains the existence of Call And Response: The Remix Album, which features remixes of Maroon 5 songs by the likes of cool hip-hop stars like Cool Kids and ?uestlove and indie-rock heroes like Cut Copy, Of Montreal and Deerhoof.
At first (and second and third) blush, Call And Response appears as an obvious cash-grab on the part of Maroon 5’s label in order to make some bank in a down year and in between studio albums. The band’s big hits are here (“This Love,” Harder to Breathe,” “Makes Me Wonder”) as are lesser tracks. But in the end, it’s the naked courting of non-Maroon 5 fans proves to be Call And Response’s worst quality.
At times, the new remixes remove some of the obvious deficiencies of Maroon 5’s songbook, namely the trite lyrics, the bleacher-reaching choruses, and the lack of any musical identity that doesn’t involve cribbing yacht rock or early-2000s dance rock. The Cool Kids remix of “Harder to Breathe” gives the song added muscle, and removes half of the song in order to drop in verses from Mikey and Chuck. Just Blaze lops off the Rapture-pilfering groove of “Makes Me Wonder” and turns the song into an Elton John-esque ballad, granting the song a previously unrealized emotional depth. Cut Copy’s remix of “This Love” is far and away this set’s highlight. The Australian band morphs the song into a New Order-lite exposition (essentially a Cut Copy song sung by someone else) and is one of only two of 18 remixes that messes with Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine’s buttery vocals.
Call And Response is an interesting (and by “interesting” I mean “awful”) remix album due to the fact that no one seems to want to mess with the originals for fear of alienating anyone or veering off from the song’s original composition (likely for the sake of the commercial prospects of the album). Most of the remixes (like ?uestlove’s “Sunday Morning,” Deerhoof’s “Goodnight Goodnight,” Paul Oakenfold and Swizz Beatz’s versions of “If I Never See Your Face Again,” and Mark Ronson’s “Wake Up Call”) are notable for their minute differences from the originals, which seem to indicate that most of the remixers here felt that these songs were perfect as they were. Which then indicates that most remixers really love Maroon 5 or just did the minimal amount of work to get their paychecks (with the exception of Bloodshy and Avant, who completely deconstruct “Little of Your Time” and reconstruct it into an audio nightmare).
But in the end, you have to call Call And Response a resounding success. The obvious purpose was to court potential coverage and interest from sources not likely to buy or cover a Maroon 5 album, none the less listen to or mention them at all. Yes, it’s incredibly cynical, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more inessential album than Call And Response. That naked, self-absorbed willingness to bankrupt themselves of any earned (or bought) artistic credibility is what will always separate Maroon 5 from most of the remixers here. And no remix album is going to change that.
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