The story of Maroon 5 in 10 songs, from 'Sugar' to 'Moves Like Jagger'

We chart the US group’s rise as they mark the 20th anniversary of their debut single, ‘Harder to Breathe’

Maroon 5 have been releasing hits for 20 years. AP
Powered by automated translation

One of the biggest music tours doing the rounds this year is Maroon 5's. The big-selling pop group had been playing their hits throughout the US and Latin America before they arrived in the Middle East this week.

Led by singer and former The Voice US mentor Adam Levine, Maroon 5 took to the Etihad Arena stage in Abu Dhabi on Friday as part of their tour, which also included a breathtaking show at the Giza Pyramids in Egypt on Tuesday.

Speaking to The National before their Abu Dhabi gig, keyboardist PJ Morton said the band aimed to please with a set list packed with back-to-back hits.

"We were able to work out a new set list post-pandemic that is very joyful and about having a good time," he said. "I think this is what is needed after being shut down for so long. We all need it.”

With Maroon 5 celebrating the 20th anniversary of their debut single, Harder to Breathe, this year, here are 10 songs that encapsulate their journey from unsuccessful musicians to one of the world’s biggest pop acts.

1. ‘Soap Disco’ (1994)

Maroon 5 formed out of the ashes of former group Kara’s Flowers.

Featuring Levine, guitarist Jesse Carmichael, former bassist and drummer Mickey Madden and drummer Ryan Dusick, the group had a bolder and rockier sound more comparable to bands such as Oasis and Weezer.

Soap Disco was one of their earlier singles and despite not registering in the charts, the ebullient melodies and catchy chorus boded well for the band's next incarnation.

2. ‘Harder to Breathe’ (2002)

In 2002, now called Maroon 5, the band released their debut single. It turns 20 years old in July and it remains timeless.

The strident guitar riffs carrying the track also point to the fact that the new outfit didn't totally ditch the sound of Kara's Flowers.

The new feature here is the lighter touch in Levine's voice, which led to the group being compared to successful pop-funk acts Jamiroquai and Stevie Wonder.

3. 'This Love' (2004)

This was the era in which albums had a longer shelf life, meaning singles from the collection could be released as far as two years after the album.

Such was the case with This Love, which was riding high on the back of Maroon 5's 2002 debut album, Songs About Jane, and the group's relentless touring schedule.

The swooning mid-tempo ballad was pure ear candy and became a mainstay on the radio, landing the group with their first US No 1 single.

4. 'Makes Me Wonder' (2007)

The band got their funk on for the lead single from their second album, It Won't be Before Long.

With Maroon 5 branded pop music's newest stars, the group used that success to fund this pristinely produced track full of zippy keyboards and danceable basslines, which is all carried by another dynamic vocal performance by Levine.

The song landed them a Grammy Award the following year for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

5. ‘Hands All Over’ (2010)

Three albums in, and Maroon 5 have, for better and worse, established their sound of commercial radio-friendly pop and RnB.

Hands All Over gave fans what they wanted and shot straight to the top of the US charts.

6. ‘Moves like Jagger’ (2011)

Songs referencing other singers can succumb to cringe — the awful Do it with Madonna by The Androids — but Maroon 5 pulled it off with this blistering summer jam.

Such is Levine's vocal command, from the lascivious crooning in the verses and irresistible falsetto in the chorus, that you almost forget Christina Aguilera’s solid contribution towards the end.

The man referenced, The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger, approved the track.

In an interview with BBC Radio in 2011, he described Moves like Jagger as "very flattering."

7. ‘One More Night’ (2012)

The band freshened things up by adding a looping reggae bassline to this silky pop tune.

This also the year the group's newest member, keyboardist PJ Morton, joined. He demonstrated why he was a shrewd choice by adding some vibrant colour to the sonic mix.

One More Night became an international success and topped the charts in a number of territories in the US and Europe.

8. ‘Animals’ (2014)

By this stage, Maroon 5 were all about chart domination.

To achieve this, the band's chief songwriter Levine expanded his net of collaborators to include EDM DJ Benny Blanco and Swedish producer Shellback.

The trio cooked up this slinky track that came with a creepy music video inspired by the 2000 horror film American Psycho.

9. ‘Sugar’ (2014)

While Maroon 5 have been a mainstay in the upper echelons of the charts for two decades, it is with Sugar that they finally had a track that could be considered a timeless pop classic.

This breezy disco jam has an absolute bullseye of a chorus that will have you singing along immediately.

It is also aided by a brilliant and joyous video of the band cruising around Los Angeles and playing surprise slots at people's weddings.

10. ‘Memories’ (2019)

Despite the band's success, critics never really warmed to Maroon 5's hodgepodge of styles, but the dour reviews thrown at this track are unwarranted. Memories is a tender ballad about cherishing the people we love and the experiences shared.

The track, understandably, has taken on more resonance in the face of the pandemic and has now become a cornerstone of their latest world tour.

Updated: May 08, 2022, 3:12 PM