Falling in and out of love the secret to Maroon 5's long spell at the top
Female fans are a major part of the megaband's global success, writes Kate Whitehead
Maroon 5 are one of the hottest bands on the planet. So hot, in fact, that when tickets for their Hong Kong gig went on sale in May, all tickets to the massive show at AsiaWorld-Arena on September 4 sold out in less than two hours.
The Hong Kong appearance is part of the band's 13-month world tour which has also taken in London's Wembley Arena in May and will visit Las Vegas at the end of the year before wrapping up next March in South America.
The story of the band, led by frontman Adam Levine, is a classic high school to high life one. Their first incarnation was in 1994 as a grunge band named Kara's Flowers. The group broke up, but came back in 2001 and renamed themselves Maroon 5. In 2002, they released Songs About Jane and everything changed.
"It opened us up to so many experiences. I remember waking up every day and feeling totally stoked. I think it resonated with people because it did reflect the times. It combined stuff no one was putting together," guitarist James Valentine said in a recent interview.
Songs About Jane was a slow-burning success. Five singles ended up hitting the charts, including Harder to Breathe, This Love and She Will Be Loved. It was re-released in 2003 and by the end of the following year the album, packed with relatable break-up lyrics, was in the top 10 of the US Billboard charts.
"Lyrics have been a big part of why people have stuck around, but it's also that Adam is super cute," guitarist Jesse Carmichael told Mashable.
Levine is without doubt a huge part of the band's success and not just because he can sing. People magazine crowned him the "sexiest man alive" in 2013 and he has a hardcore base of young female fans who want to know everything imaginable about the Los Angeles-born rocker. Yes, everything - even that he credits yoga and spinning classes for his hot bod. Especially that.
"As a musician you have fantasies that you want to win Grammys, but I didn't really think that this was on the table," Levine told People on hearing of the sexiest-man title.
While the band continued to pump out the hits, Levine came to even wider attention when he took up a spot as a mentor and judge on the hit TV singing competition The Voice. He has proved to be quite comfortable in front of the camera - in 2013, he made his big-screen acting debut staring alongside Keira Knightley in the romcom Begin Again. And all this exposure has broadened the band's fan base.
"We have had some hardcore fans from the very beginning, since the club dates. Then there's a new generation since Adam has been on TV that have come along, you could call them more casual fans, and it's great to play for them too. It's more fun to play for lots of people," Valentine said in another interview.
While 36-year-old Levine's good looks have certainly helped the band's popularity, their real success has come from their ability to stay relevant for more than 10 years and continuing to clock up No 1 hits. "We do feel old. We're not old, but we are in the context of pop music. I always feel proud when we get to have more success the older we get," Levine has said.
Their current world tour is to promote their fifth album, V, which was released in September last year and went straight to the No 1 spot on the US charts in its first week. The band's key influences - Prince, Sting and Stevie Wonder - are front and centre, and the album doesn't stray far from Maroon 5's tried-and-tested formula of singing about falling in and out of love.
And this is something the band members know a fair bit about. Levine declared that his playboy days were over and he was finally ready for commitment when he married Victoria's Secret model Behati Prinsloo in July 2014. Prinsloo had a wedding ring tattooed on her finger to prove her devotion. But a year on, the cracks are already showing and the tabloids are already predicting a split. Perhaps material for a sixth album?
So what's the Maroon 5 secret to staying relevant after more than a decade in the spotlight? Constantly reinventing themselves, they say.
"For us, we like to try new things. We like collaborating with these younger new producers. It seems to be more interesting to be part of the dialogue of what's going on today, rather than being stuck in the past," Valentine said.
V lists some of the industry's hottest names as producers - Australian singer, songwriter and video producer Sia; American songwriter and OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder; and fun.'s Nate Ruess. Even Gwen Stefani features on one track, My Heart is Open, one of the band's few collaborations. "We don't like to go with the current 'feature artist' and prefer to pick someone a bit more out of the box," Levine said of the Stefani collaboration.
Still, the brooding and yearning about love and relationships that made the first four albums such a success are also present on the fifth, and will ensure that their Hong Kong gig doesn't disappoint fans.
Maroon 5, Sept 4, 8pm, AsiaWorld-Arena, Lantau, sold out. Inquiries: 2629 6240