At the end of September, news broke on the gossip websites that Adam Levine had sent inappropriate messages to at least five women on Instagram. This caused an uproar, and not only because his wife is pregnant with their third child. The 43-year-old lead singer of the pop band Maroon 5 has what many would consider to be a peculiar way of flirting.
Levine was only 15 when he founded the band - known then as Kara’s Flowers - with a few friends from his private school in Los Angeles. After marginal success in Southern California, the bandmates moved to New York, where they began collaborating with more seasoned musicians.
After a decade of hitting a wall, the band was reborn as Maroon 5. In 2002, their first album, Songs about Jane, sold 10 million copies. With songs like This love or She will be loved - catchy, repetitive, predictable melodies - Levine’s voice became ubiquitous.
Levine, quite simply, loved being a rock star. He moved to the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, where he held toga and pirate parties. He went out with a different model every night and, in an interview in Details magazine, he explained that he had such a way with women because he had grown up in a house full of them. As he crudely put it: “It was my mother, my aunt, my cousin and my brother… we later discovered that he was gay. Maybe the reason I was promiscuous and wanted to sleep with a lot of them [women] is because I love them too much.”
Levine’s promiscuity became so tied to his public image that the feminist website Jezebel once called him “the human equivalent of testing positive for chlamydia.”
In 2011, after his musical prime, his performance as a coach on the American version of The Voice pleased television audiences so much that The Hollywood Reporter declared that he had gone from “rock star in decline to the savior of NBC.”
Levine knew how to adapt to the new media ecosystem, just as record sales began to plummet. He made an effort to come off as likeable during each broadcast of The Voice, gaining millions of followers on Twitter and, according to The Hollywood Reporter, earning at least $10 million per season. As Levine himself summed it up: “The Voice ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me. Me and the band.”
In 2010, Maroon 5′s album Hands all over flopped. But Levine’s group went on to release a handful of songs - including Moves like Jagger, Payphone and One more night - that transitioned them completely away from rock into pure dance pop, while keeping them on people’s playlists.
Levine continued his diversification in the mid-2010s, when he made his acting debut in the movie Begin Again, about an indie musician who gives up his principles to become a pop star - and a jerk. He’s since been part of dozens of other television and film productions, often playing the role of what is popularly known as a “douchebag.” He once pointed out that, given his easy success, that it’s not easy to side with him.
Levine is a living contradiction. He has criticized the romanticization of “sex, drugs and rock and roll,” but has also admitted to writing the best songs of his career while high. Before joining The Voice, he criticized reality television because it was full of “fucking assholes.” He called for the death penalty for celebrities who had their own perfume lines… until he launched his own. In 2009, he declared that “monogamy is not in our genetic makeup.” He married model Behati Prinsloo five years later.
Levine has also been at the center of controversy that goes beyond making absurd statements. In 2019, Maroon 5 performed at the Super Bowl halftime show - largely because all other big names had refused the gig. After quarterback Colin Kaepernick and several other black NFL players were either sanctioned or criticized for kneeling during the national anthem in protest against police brutality, several respected artists such as Rihanna, Jay-Z and Cardi B turned down the offer to perform. As journalist Alex Abada-Santos said at the time: “Maroon 5 is a safe and apolitical choice.”
The most memorable thing about the performance was how Levine managed, in the space of 13 minutes, to start the show in a trench coat and finish it without a shirt.
“Adam Levine’s torso couldn’t save a tedious performance,” read one review in The Guardian. Buzzfeed described the opportunistic singer as “the whitest white man in America.”
Another more recent snap at Levine came not from a music critic, but from Summer Stroh, a 23-year-old Instagram model: “Maroon 5 is elevator music.”
Three weeks ago, Stroh claimed to have conducted an affair with Levine for almost a year. She revealed the details on her TikTok profile only five days after the singer announced that his wife was pregnant with their third child. Levine has denied infidelity, but has admitted to “crossing the line” by sending some “inappropriate flirtatious texts.” Over the following week, four more women shared private messages that Levine had sent them on Instagram.
Levine’s alleged infidelities have raised eyebrows for two reasons: his lack of morality and his overall cringiness.
Journalist Scaachi Koul expressed her disgust at his unfaithfulness and hypocrisy, branding him an “Instagram wife guy.”
“[Levine] is a man whose brand is focused on how in love he is with his wife,” she explains, like John Legend or Ryan Reynolds.
On top of disregard for his spouse is the mediocre (and disturbing) nature of his DMs. Some of the clichéd messages he sent to women about half his age include: “You look 50 times hotter in person – and me too,” or “It’s unreal how hot you are, it blows my mind.” Some are more troubling: “Ok, serious question. I’m having a baby and if it’s a boy I want to name him Summer. Do you think it’s OK?”
These messages have been described by Buzzfeed as “the Maroon 5 of sexual DMs” - whatever that means. Levine, meanwhile, has remained silent about his online affairs, but has announced a new set of concerts in Las Vegas next year.