The Problem With... "Payphone" by Maroon 5, featuring Wiz Khalifa

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Although I pride myself in finding patterns and themes in pop music, Maroon 5's recent nostalgic theme came at me like a curveball. I should have seen it before, with song titles such as "Moves Like Jagger" and singer Adam Levine's guest gig on "Stereo Hearts" with Gym Class Heroes. But Maroon 5's latest single, "Payphone," hit it home for me.

I get it now, Adam Levine has a thing for the past. Unfortunately, the theme clashes with his presence in the HD-shot NBC show The Voice. With kaleidoscopic stage lights, LCD screens and starship-captain seats, the nostalgic theme comes off as unnatural. We don't really hear Maroon 5's signature funk guitar chord in latest single "Payphone." The song sounds as if the band missed the recording session, and Levine, with producers Shellback and Benny Blanco, recorded it on their own.

The ounce of contrast that works for "Payphone" is Wiz Khalifa's contemporary verses about luxuries like push-button ignition on cars and switching the number on his (assumed) cell phone. We also get a wink at The Voice hidden behind a basketball allegory ("Had a really good game, but you missed your last shot.") The last line of the chorus fumes a bit about love songs ("One more fucking love song, I'll be sick"), but actually, I'd say the same thing about breakup songs like this. With "Payphone," Maroon 5 ends up sounding like the gloomy counterpart to Train.

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