In the latest issue of GQ, Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine confronts a question that's plagued him relentlessly over the past year (and possibly throughout his entire career): Is Adam Levine a douchebag? Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Yesssssssssssssssss.
The profile, written by New York Magazine's Jessica Pressler, confronts the media's obsession with Levine's douchebaggery straight off the bat. Not to be a Levine-level braggart here, but Jezebel really spearheaded this movement — although it seems necessary to point out that we tend to be a little more creative with our similes and metaphors around these parts and rarely resort to straight up calling him a douchebag.
Even GQ notices this, quoting my line from the article "Adam Levine Is Not the Sexiest Man Alive. Adam Levine Is the Worst" where I said that Levine was "the human equivalent of testing positive for chlamydia."
Here's some HOT behind-the-scenes gossip: Since writing that piece, I have had THREE nightmares where Adam Levine has confronted me about being so mean. In one, he approached me — dressed in patchwork pants, but that's neither here nor there — and said, "That was super uncool. I'm a really nice person and you don't even know me."
I awoke in a cold sweat after that and am considering having the lyrics to "This Love" tattooed across my face in penance. It really has taken its toll on me.
When Pressler mentions in her article that Levine in person is "quick and witty and unfailingly polite," I start to fear that Dream Adam was right to confront me, but my guilt doesn't last long. In spite of his wit and politeness, the singer quickly falls back on his "douchebag" persona, showing how, if anything, he embraces and profits off of it.
When asked to grapple with the possibility that he might indeed be (or at least come off as) a douchebag, Pressler writes that:
...[Levine had] come up with three indicators of douchiness. A lack of self-awareness. "That's big," he said. Levine is definitely self-aware. Arrogance. "I'm not arrogant," he protested. "I'm cocky. It's different. Cocky is playful." The third was insecurity. "Or masking deep insecurity with too much security," he said. Arguably, posing naked on the cover of a Russian magazine with his last Victoria's Secret model girlfriend could fit the bill. But it doesn't really. "I'm confident," he said. "Some people don't like confidence. They resent confidence." This is true, and it may be the main reason Levine is so often slapped with the douchebag label. Modern celebrities are supposed to be hiding cellulite and driving Priuses, not driving flamboyant Ferraris and dating models and exposing extremely enviable, well-toned abs. Even though all those things...are objectively awesome. It's not cool.
While Levine's love of "objectively awesome" things like flashy sports cars and Victoria's Secret models does make him come off like John Hughes movie villain (one whose rich dad lets him use the basement as band rehearsal space), it's not the heart of what makes him a "douche."
This, on the other hand, is:
Adam Levine is one of the biggest pop stars in the country, if not the world. Along with his band, Maroon 5, he's responsible for some of the most ubiquitous earworms of the past decade, songs like "This Love" and "Moves Like Jagger," one of which you're probably humming right now just by virtue of having read the words...He has his own microphone-shaped fragrance and a clothing line at Kmart selling faster than you can say "Coachella-inspired," and he has deployed his considerable personality to sell acne medication, smartphones, and of course, his own music.
Adam Levine can date all the pretty ladies and buy all the ostentatious cars that he wants and it's none of our business. What the Adam Levine-adverse are actually reacting to is his shitty and bland music, the cockiness that he's so proud of, the ridiculous things he says in interviews and the way he quite blatantly seeks success over artistic integrity:
When Maroon 5 debuted their new, funky, Stevie-inspired sound, their fans and friends in what Valentine calls "cool bands" were horrified. Not only was the music vaguely embarrassing in the way it always is when a skinny white guy imitates Michael Jackson; it was the kind of music you could imagine being played in a rock block with Britney Spears, not on KROQ. It sounded, suspiciously, like they were trying to be successful.
"That's the '90s in a nutshell," says Levine. "Oh, you can't, like, try. 'Oh, no, I could never pursue mass worldwide success! No, that wouldn't be cool.' "
(Interesting to note that Maroon 5's Stevie Wonder-inspired sound only came after they tried and failed to do grunge, indie, pop punk and brit pop. Had this not worked out for them, who knows what kind of music they'd be making now.)
The GQ article points out several times that Adam Levine's biggest offense is his refusal to subscribe to what's cool for cool people, instead choosing to embrace mainstream success. That's a fine choice and one that a lot of pop stars make, but at the same time, it's not exactly deserving of accolades. Choosing a frat boy douche persona over a hipster douche persona doesn't say anything good about you. All it says is that America is a land of opportunity where every subculture has the freedom to be awful. (U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!)
Let's end with some peak Levine quotes.
On dating models:
"Preference should never be looked down upon," he opines. "Unless it's based on something really shitty. I'm not saying I have a preference, but like, I want to date someone... Listen, there are a lot of women in this country, in many countries, who date men for their money. Okay? That's despicable. Right? That's not what we're talking about here. Whatever does it for you, man. I don't like feet. You know what I mean? But some people do. Some people have fucking foot fetishes. And it's weird to me. But I don't have to deal with it, because I don't have that. You know?"
On men and women:
"Men are not as sophisticated as women," he goes on. "They're not as mature as women. They're not as connected with their emotions as women. There's a very Neanderthal quality that still exists in a lot of men. There's the carnal shit you can't deny. And if you're in the public eye, to me, it's very boring to say what you have to say and be media trained to the extent that you don't ever reveal any truth. There was a time in my life when I lived probably a bit more on the primal level. And it was amazing."
In a previous interview given to Details, Levine stated, "There are two kinds of men. There are men who are fucking misogynist pigs, and then there are men who really love women, who think they're the most amazing people in the world. And that's me. Maybe the reason I was promiscuous, and wanted to sleep with a lot of them, is that I love them so much."
When Pressler amicably confronts him with the quote, the following happens:
"Um, all right," says Levine when presented with this evidence pointing toward douchehood. "All of a sudden, I had money in my bank account. I hadn't had a break in a long time. And I went a little fucking nuts. You know? And good," he adds defensively. "I deserved to go a little bit nuts. And I had the time of my life."
Um, first of all, that Details interview is only two years old and Levine, for better or worse, has been a major pop artist for over a decade now, so it's not like that quote was given when he was newly rich and unfamiliar with success. Secondly, I add defensively, he doesn't deserve anything — not wealth or admiration or any of the things he feels entitled to. Sure, he can go on acting however he likes and so he should — his persona has made him pretty damn successful and he's happy so there is no reason to give up on it now, but that doesn't mean we appreciate it.
The good news for everybody: Adam Levine claims not to care what anybody thinks and the world goes on spinning.
Image via Getty.