Maroon 5 guitarist James Valentine is here to explain the group’s new album title.
When the band members announced in early October that their new studio release would be called “Red Pill Blues,” they had no idea the title could be misinterpreted as a men’s rights activism phrase.
For Maroon 5, “Red Pill Blues” stemmed from the 1999 movie “The Matrix.” There’s a scene in which Neo (Keanu Reeves) is offered the option to take either a red or blue pill. Blue means he would remain in computer simulation, while red would wake him up in the real world.
The phrase “red pill,” though, has also since been co-opted by the men’s rights movement to suggest their “re-awakening,” or the moment they have reached a conclusion about modern-day feminism ― with the thinking that women are basically evil.
Well, that anti-feminism connotation came as a shock to Valentine and his bandmates.
“We didn’t really understand the whole men’s rights thing,” Valentine told HuffPost.
After the announcement, some social media users jumped all over the title, questioning its meaning, which prompted the band’s publicist to release a statement, explaining, “The title references a term popularized in ‘The Matrix.’ It was never the band’s intention to reference anything else. The band is shocked that this has even come up.”
Valentine told HuffPost what went through their minds when they learned about the other usage of the term.
“We’re like, ‘Oh man, of course, like 2017 is the worst.’ We were talking about the scene in ‘The Matrix’ ― do you take the red pill or the blue pill? And the fact that seeing the world for what it is in 2017 can be kind of rough … We had no idea about the association with men’s rights,” Valentine said. “Hopefully, everyone knows from all of our pasts that from our statements on the issue and our actions in the past ― that we are all hardcore feminists in the band. So that’s a horrible association, ugh, to have. The internet trolls have to ruin everything.”
When asked whether they thought to change it, Valentine said, “It’s out there and I think it’s maybe too late.” However, he added, “I think maybe we can reclaim [it] for the good side.”
Although the band’s music doesn’t necessarily get political, Valentine said, it’s hard not to personally be affected by the current political and social climate these days.
“It seems to be a pervasive mood of what’s going on. Just general anxiety every morning waking up. For us on the West Coast, waking up and seeing that the president’s already been up for a few hours and he’s already tweeted out a few things by the time we wake up here in LA. I wake up and am like, ‘What possibly could it be today? Who hasn’t he alienated yet? What group hasn’t he insulted yet?’ And every morning it’s something else,” Valentine said. “It’s really just a shame. It’s a real bummer. I’m sure that crept into the music. There are some darker sort of songs.”
Valentine hopes Maroon 5′s music can offer an escape for fans, but didn’t rule out getting more political down the line.
“It’s more of a refuge from that sort of world,” he said. “I wonder if the future material will be more influenced by it. I don’t see how it can’t.”
But before that, we’ll see the release of “Red Pill Blues.” Due Friday, it marks Maroon 5′s sixth studio release and features guest appearances by SZA, Julia Michaels, A$AP Rocky and LunchMoney Lewis.
The recording process started even before 2017, but the band really hit a stride in the studio earlier this year.
“We don’t have as large of blocks of time as we used to. We used to go in the studio for months at a time and just be in there every day writing and stuff. But this record was made in more of a piecemeal fashion, he said. “A song here and working on a track here and then sneaking [frontman] Adam [Levine] away from ‘The Voice’ to come in and sing the vocals.”
And as with every album, they’re trying to push their sound forward and challenge themselves, even some 15 years after their debut album release.
“Our sound has definitely evolved over the years. There are certain sounds that are a through-line from ‘Songs About Jane’ to ‘Red Pill.’ The funky guitar being one of those things,” the guitarist said. “But much to the chagrin of some of our hardcore fans we sound much different than we did in 2002. A lot of our hardcore fans would like for us to return to that old sound, and who knows, maybe someday we will come full circle.”
“Red Pill Blues” will be released on Nov. 3.