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Album Review

Few rock groups this millennium have enjoyed the musical longevity and success that Maroon 5 has. And, you could argue, that's because they're not purely a rock group anymore. Over the last 20 years or so, Maroon 5's sound has ranged from pop, to rock, to R&B, a sonic evolution that continues on the band's sixth studio effort, Red Pill Blues.

Red Pill Blues features collaborations with artists as diverse as A$AP Rocky, Julia Michaels and SZA. Meanwhile, the album cover pictures each band member through a Snapchat filter, reinforcing Maroon 5's up-to-the-moment appeal. As for the album's title, it is—as astute sci-f fans might have surmised—a nod to a pivotal scene from 1999's mind-bending movie The Matrix, in which the mysterious Morpheus gives Neo the choice between taking a red pill or a blue one. The red pill, in the context of this album, helps you remember. And the blue one? It'll help you forget.

And depending upon the romance in question—relationships filled with sex, conflict, dysfunction and remorse—either choice might seem equally valid to famous frontman Adam Levine and his bandmates.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

On "Best 4 U," a man puts the needs of his beloved above his own: "I just want the best for you/But I'm not just the best for you." And on "Wait," we hear about someone who desires to "make up for all those times" when he's been "just another bad guy."

"Bet My Heart" features a man who vows faithfulness (which, he admits, hasn't always been his habit) to a woman who has enchanted his heart. "Who I Am" shares a similar theme of fidelity: "Don't ask me if I stay true/When you know you're the only one."

"Whiskey" delivers a melancholy confessional of sorts, in which a man looks back on a past love and realizes, "I never knew that love was blind/'Til I was hers/But she was never mine." Then he adds, "She was a lesson/I had to learn." Reminiscence and regret likewise mingle on "Denim Jacket." And on "Visions," a man says a prayer of sorts for deliverance from haunting memories about yet another failed relationship.

Objectionable Content

"Best 4 U" involves a guy openly admitting that his substance abuse leads to deception: "I get drunk, I get high/Then you call and I lie." The song seems to be a cautionary tale of sorts—which could be interpreted positively in that respect—about his out-of-control addictions. Still, those addictions clearly remain out of control, which obviously isn't a good thing: "Parties with shots and powder/ … 'Cause I can't turn this life around." More of the same can be heard in "Wait," as a man admits to relying too heavily upon liquid courage to say something important: "Wasn't tryna get wasted/I needed more than three or four to say this."

"What Lovers Do" portrays sex and love as a game where two people can never make up their minds on the status of their relationship: "Aren't we too grown for games?" Levine asks. "Aren't we too grown to play around?/ … Young enough to chase/But old enough to know better." Meanwhile, "Lips on You" narrates the effect of a passionate kiss ("When I put my lips on you/I feel the shivers go up and down") and suggestively hints at more physical intimacy too ("Just turn off the lights/and you could be my private dancer").

"Help Me Out" seems to deliver a thinly veiled request for sex: "Help me out/'Cause I don't wanna do this on my own/ … Distract me from thinking too much/Loose ends all tied up with a touch." Levine is joined by Julia Michaels in this duet, and together they describe a brief moment of sexual connection as a kind of salvation: "Ooh, I need some temporary saving/Ooh, I need some, some uncomplicating."

The band compares a woman's kiss to whiskey on the song by that name. Elsewhere on "Whiskey," guest contributor A$AP Rocky equates a woman's touch with a litany of other kinds of alcohol, including rum, tequila, vodka and Dom Pérignon. And "Who I Am" also mentions "champagne flutes" in reference to intoxicating love.

Sex is the topic of conversation in "Girls Like You" where a man and woman "spend the night making things right." But that, in fact, doesn't make their relationship right, as other lyrics imply that it's still pretty dysfunctional: "Maybe you've taken my s--- for the last time/Maybe I know that I'm drunk."

Sex is used to manipulate in "Closure": "If you want closure/Come on and close that door." Meanwhile, "Denim Jacket" finds a man clinging unhealthily to a lost relationship. That song also mentions a woman smoking ("You're standing there with your cigarette/Looking at me like we've never met") and includes an f-word.

Summary Advisory

In The Matrix, Morpheus tells Neo that he has two choices: to take the blue and "believe whatever you want to believe." Or to take the red pill and "stay in Wonderland."

Maroon 5 wrestles with its version of that dichotomy on Red Pill Blues: denial or honesty. To the band's credit, several songs do grapple with bad choices and feature men trying to take responsibility for their character faults.

That said, character faults are on nonetheless on display all over this album, from substance abuse to sex being used as an emotionally abusive chip in the game of love. And those disappointing flaws make the choice to pass on Red Pill Blues a pretty straightforward one.

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles



Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range







Debuted at No. 2.

Record Label





November 3, 2017

On Video

Year Published



Kristin Smith

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