Adam Levine is Overexposed — that’s the title of his last album with Maroon 5 — and we wouldn’t be mad if we could escape bland entreaties like “Payphone” for a while. He’s currently catching heat for an allegedly unpatriotic remark he made this week on The Voice, and his response has been predictably clueless. But the ol’ U.S. of A., God bless it, tends to let guys like Levine get away with a whole lot worse. And as much as it pains us to speak in Levine’s defense, if a song like “She Will Be Loved” being bland and corny wasn’t enough to stop Maroon 5’s merciless advance, this latest gaffe really shouldn’t hurt them, either.
Here’s what happened. On Tuesday night’s episode, after viewers voted off two of Levine’s three favored contestants on the shows, the Maroon 5 frontman could be heard off-camera muttering, “I hate this country” (it’s around the 1:14 mark of this video). He was obviously joking, never mind that he wasn’t funny: Did you see him hosting the Saturday Night Live episode with Kendrick Lamar? The predictable assortment of professional right-wing culture warriors — you stay classy, Michelle Malkin — have stirred up the torch-and-pitchfork crowd, who assailed Levine on Twitter with accusations of being anti-American and all the rest. Levine lamely and childishly tweeted dictionary definitions of words like “misunderstand,” “lighthearted,” “humorless,” and “joke.” Finally he spoke to Us Weekly, saying, “I obviously love my country very much and my comments last night were made purely out of frustration.”
Got it? But look, Levine has had a long history of saying crazy things, and neither his music nor his comments have hurt him before. For instance, as the Hollywood Reporter helpfully points out, he once said on Twitter that celebrity fragrances should be “punishable by death,” and he later told USA Today of the idea, “Vomit.” But he came out with a fragrance this year. He has also made insensitive statements about Koreans on Twitter and has questioned why men can’t call women “chicks,” tweeting, “Some girls get so uppity about that shit.” His latest comment, clearly a joke, isn’t worse than that. Why should it save us from Maroon 5’s drab music and Levine’s charmless personality?
When the Dixie Chicks spoke out against then-President George W. Bush, they weren’t joking. They were part of a country music establishment that was able to blacklist them. Levine just said something stupid. And he’s part of a pop music establishment that has proven time and again it’s willing to overlook just about anything as long as it doesn’t hurt the bottom line. Levine once called Fox News an “evil fucking channel.” His fans, though we might not share their musical tastes, probably aren’t going to desert the guy just because he failed to wear a big enough flag pin.
And that’s ultimately the bigger issue. Whether it’s Maroon 5, the Dixie Chicks, or, y’know, the Knife, musical acts should be able to get away with saying controversial things now and then. America has spoken, and it wants its Maroon 5. It’s almost enough to make a person say something unpatriotic, but we’ll leave that to guys like Levine.