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10 Years, 100 Songs: #32. “I Was So High I Did Not Recognize…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 7, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

As people, Maroon 5 were not necessarily an easy band to like–and by Maroon 5, of course, I mean lead singer Adam Levine, appearing to be the only Maroon 5 member of any real sort of consequence. He was extraordinarily good-looking, he cast himself in cheesy soap opera-ish plots with fairly attractive women that he may or may not have been dating in his music videos, he sang with mock-affectation and with the kind of hilt in his voice that has connoted “douche” for centuries, and he just generally seemed like the kind of guy that would fill you with an equal mixture of disgust and envy as you passed him hitting on college girls in the quad (or he would have if my college had a quad, anyway). Largely for this reason, Maroon 5 songs were occasionally deplorable. But somehow, just as often, they were fairly close to divine, for one simple reason–for all their fratty obnoxiousness, them white boys had the funk.

Relatively speaking, anyway. Nobody would ever confuse Maroon 5 with Earth, Wind and Fire, and no one would ever claim that such a comparison was a fair one to either outfit. But there’s no denying that Maroon 5 had a firmer grasp of pop-soul songcraft than any band had in years, possibly even going back to the days of Hall & Oates. M5 didn’t quite have the emotional range of H&O–they were always a little too smug to be believable as genuine balladeers, which is why their straight-faced love songs always sucked–but when it came to feelings like spite, jealousy, betrayal, and occasional unbridled lust, Maroon 5 certainly would have made Darryl and John proud. They were most sympathetic when they were being straight up sum-bitches, not trying to mask their narcissism and discontent, and putting all that testy energy into their hit songs, giving them that tiny bit of nervy edge that was so often missing in 00s radio pop.

“This Love” was the band’s real breakout song, and despite being eclipsed chart-wise by future singles, probably the one the band is still best known for. It’s the first of theris that I heard, certainly–around when I was just starting to come out of my indie snobbery, when I caught the video once or twice on MTV and was snapped to attention. The thing pounded in a way I certainly wouldn’t have anticipated from such a bland-seeming group. Not heavy by any means, and certainly highly polished, but it had an almost angular sound to it, with the chopped-up guitar line and discordantly low piano hook making for a hook agressive and funky enough that it was only a “Paid in Full”-sampling drumbeat away from sounding like an early-90s indie-dance single. For many this may or may not have been considerable as a positive, but for someone with an unnaturally fond recollection for the era of Jesus Jones and EMF, this was damn near close to being an ideal.

The lyrics…were not great. “This Love” was about Levine’s heartbreak over being left by his girlfriend, but the most sentimental sections of the song are the worst, resorting to mediocre cliches like “I’ll repair your broken wings” and “Kept playing love like it was just a game”–icky. Better are the parts where Levine reveals that the failing in the relationship was largely a sexual one–“I tried my best to feed her appetite / Keep her coming (sic) every night / So hard to keep her satisfied”–at which point the lyrics start to hit with the same kind of friction and bite as the music. Levine even gets downright lewd in the bridge, mentioning “sinking my fingertips / into every inch of you / ‘coz I know that’s what you want me to do.” Unsurprisingly, this fingerbang description marks the musical and emotional climax of the song–preferable to it being some line about crying a thousand tears or wishing he could kiss her fears away or some such, no doubt.

And at the very least, Maroon 5 could always just hang back on the verses and let the chrous do most of the work for them. Their grasp of melody was as strong as just about anyone’s in the Naughty Oughties, and the way the relentlessly minor and sinister-sounding tune of the verse gives away to the feel-good jam of the chorus guaranteed the song as a smash hit no matter what else happened. For a breakup song, and a supposedly lovelorn one at that, the chorus is surprisingly anthemic–not a mere lament about this love having taking its toll on Adam Levine, but rather a chant: “THIS! LOVE! HAS! TAKEN ITS TOLL! ON ME!” Said Levine about recording the song, “I was in a relationship that was ending, but I was really excited on the other end because the band was about to go make the record and I was ecstatic to go in the studio.” And it makes sense–Adam sounds like he was having so much fun writing and playing “This Love” that he forgot he was supposed to be, y’know, sad or something about the fact that his girlfriend broke up with him. Maroon 5 were simply not meant to be a mopey bunch.

“This Love” parent album Songs About Jane sold nearly five million copies and stayed on the charts for about half the decade, one of the last legit blockbusters of the CD era, and spawned a couple more smashes, one good (“Sunday Morning,” the best song Adam Duritz never wrote unless maybe he did) and one terrible (“She Will Be Loved,” a worthy candidate for bottom ten of the decade). Follow-up It Won’t Be Soon Before Long saw the boys getting leaner and meaner, with a thankfully nasty pair of fuck-off singles in “Makes Me Wonder” and “Wake Up Call,” although they still couldn’t quite escape the lure of the treacly ballad (“I Won’t Go Home Without You,” arguably even worse than “Loved,” but at least not used in as many previews). Overall, they did an impressive job of seeming like a constant force in 00s pop, despite the fact that they only released two albums this decade–just further proof that if your lust for stardom conflicts with your general laziness, the Adult Contemporary market is the one you want to corner.

It’ll be interesting to see if M5 can survive into the 2010s–how far into his 30s and 40s are we prepared to follow Adam Levine, as he continues to spurn chicks in falsetto and make out with his hot model girlfriends in his videos? I feel like I could stand it for a couple more years, anyway.

(Have any thoughts or remembrances of this song? Want to correct our lyrics or call us out for relying too much on Wikipedia? Please feel free to leave a comment here, or (gulp) Tweet us about it at twitter.com/intensities. Your input is lusted after and appreciated.)

The List So Far (Now With Links!):

100. Green Day – “Jesus of Suburbia
99. The Ying Yang Twins – “Wait (The Whisper Song)
98. Crazytown – “Butterfly
97. Taylor Swift – “Teardrops on My Guitar
96. The Fray – “Over My Head (Cable Car)
95. Fergie – “Fergalicious
94. Lidstrom – “I Feel Space
93. Chevelle – “Send the Pain Below
92. T-Pain f/ Yung Joc – “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)
91. The Arctic Monkeys – “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor
90. Cassie – “Me & U
89. Nelly Furtado – “Maneater
88. Mike Jones f/ Slim Thug & Paul Wall – “Still Tippin’
87. Bat for Lashes – “Daniel
86. The Darkness – “I Believe in a Thing Called Love
85. Dynamite Hack – “Boyz n the Hood
84. DJ Khaled f/ T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman, Lil’ Wayne & Akon – “We Takin’ Over
83. Matchbox20 – “Bent
82. The Game f/ 50 Cent – “Hate It or Love It
81. 311 – “Amber
80. 3 Doors Down – “Krptonite
79. Nas – “Made You Look
78. Royksopp – “Eple
77. The Pussycat Dolls – “Don’t Cha
76. DMX – “Party Up (Up in Here)
75. Junior Senior – “Move Your Feet
74. Twista f/ Kanye West & Jamie Foxx – “Slow Jamz
73. The Streets – “Weak Become Heroes
72. Jimmy Eat World – “The Middle
71. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps
70. Snoop Dogg f/ Pharrell – “Drop It Like It’s Hot
69. Alice DeeJay – “Better Off Alone
68. Xiu Xiu – “I Luv the Valley OH!
67. Incubus – “Stellar
66. Mariah Carey – “We Belong Together
65. Andrew W.K. – “Party Hard
64. Jurgen Paape – “So Weit Wie Noch Nie
63. Taking Back Sunday – “MakeDamnSure
62. Kid Cudi – “Day n Nite
61. Paramore – “That’s What You Get
60. System of a Down – “Toxicity
59. dNTEL f/ Ben Gibbard – “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan
58. Three 6 Mafia f/ 8Ball & MJG – “Stay Fly
57. Good Charlotte – “The Anthem
56. The Lonely Island – “Lazy Sunday
55. Darude – “Sandstorm
54. Yellowcard – “Ocean Avenue
53. The Killers – “Mr. Brightside
52. Luomo – “Tessio
51. Blink-182 – “Stay Together For the Kids
50. My Chemical Romance – “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)
49. Freelance Hellraiser – “A Stroke of Genius
48. Daft Punk – “Digital Love
47. Snow Patrol – “Chasing Cars
46. Sean Paul – “Like Glue
45. Ludacris – “Stand Up
44. Britney Spears – “Toxic
43. Kings of Leon – “Sex on Fire
42. Jennifer Lopez f/ Ja Rule – “I’m Real (Remix)
41. Lifehouse – “Hanging By a Moment
40. Plain White T’s – “Hey There Delilah
39. MGMT – “Kids
38. Gym Class Heroes f/ Patrick Stump – “Cupid’s Chokehold
37. Franz Ferdinand – “Do You Want To
36. Kylie Minogue – “Can’t Get You Out of My Head
35. Vertical Horizon – “Everything You Want
34. The White Stripes – “Fell in Love With a Girl
33. Jay-Z – “Takeover
32. Maroon 5 – “This Love”

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5 Responses to “10 Years, 100 Songs: #32. “I Was So High I Did Not Recognize…””

  1. Brent said

    No mention of “Harder to Breathe”? Much better fuck-off single than “Wake Up Call” for my money, and I’m pretty sure it was at least as big as “This Love” was based on how often it replays on the in store radio at work to this day.

  2. ZD said

    FWIW, I happen to think Soap Disco by Kara’s Flowers is an acceptable, if pre-2000, ditty.

    It’s fun that you mentioned Adam Duritz up there, as I saw CC and M5 at the same show during the one “big” concert in all of Albuquerque last summer. The contrast was staggering. CC had seven guys on-stage but sounded like they were just a duo, so small was the music. The best part of their set was Duritz imploring the crowd to get out and vote during a peculiar jam/hectoring session. CC seemed to me to be a band that should’ve been some sort of regional act that somehow got waaaaaay too big — much more than any of them ever imagined — and didn’t have the ganas to keep it going.

    Adam Levine, OTOH, seemed to be exactly where he wanted to be. They played huge (if not “well”) and he lapped up all that attention as the would-be star of the show. Tattoos, extreme close-ups on the 200′ video screen, screaming adoration by the three ABQ 20-something females w/o kids…he had it working. It makes the guilty pleasure I derive from some of their songs more palatable.

  3. MBI said

    I don’t see what’s wrong with “She Will Be Loved,” especially when this band has committed far more unpleasant atrocities like “Harder to Breathe,” “Wake Up Call,” and of course “This Love.” Yeah, I really don’t get this band — they’re too sour and unpleasant to be catchy but they’re far too wimpy (especially Levine) to rock. There’s just no muscle behind their sound, they’re much more at ease with stuff like “She Will Be Loved” and especially “Harder to Breathe” (their only legitimately good song) than “Harder to Breathe.”

  4. Garret said

    “She Will Be Loved” bottom ten? Pretty inexplicable hatred there, Utz.

    Every song on their remix album is ace.

  5. Leslie said

    “This Love”? Seriously?

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