How many ways do I hate Adam Levine?

First and foremost it’s the tattoos. Not so much that he’s got them, but that he has to constantly show them off, his sleeves are rolled up in every pic, even if the rest of his band are cuffed right down to the wrist. Hey, want to make a ton of money in the future? Run a tattoo removal or touch-up place, you’re gonna make millions!

And then he went on that show "The Voice". What a piece of shit that is. You want to know the defining characteristic? Not a single act from any of the worldwide shows has broken through. Hell, they even had to cancel the U.K. tour last week. I mean where’s your dignity man…

And you worked with Mutt Lange and ended up with a stiff album? I don’t quite know who to blame here, used to be Mutt wouldn’t let you out of the studio without a double platinum smash. Either he’s lost his touch or you didn’t bring the goods.

And then you come back with a mindless gutter ball called "Moves Like Jagger"? What comes next, "Emote like Bono"? Or "Dance Like Jackson"?

But no, Adam Levine and his bunch of pussies known as Maroon 5 didn’t continue on that tip. Instead, they abandoned the credibility ship entirely and threw in with the hitmakers, the usual suspects, and they’ve come up with a track so good I think I’m gonna give up the credible crap and only listen to Top Forty from now on, because that’s where all the good stuff is. The old farts may be self-satisfied, but the little girls understand.

In other words, "Payphone" is a stone cold smash.

Not that I’d even heard it until today. I’ve been avoiding this crap. Like so many in my age group, like so many holier-than-thou Gen-X’ers. But those with children… They’ve been inundated with this stuff. Like the TV agent I spoke with last week, his kids sing along in the car and ask him "Daddy, what’s a payphone?"

But it doesn’t really matter. Just like Wiz Khalifa’s rap in the middle, a blundering blast of posturing that doesn’t always make sense that fits not a whit the rest of the song… But his voice is like a musical instrument, it works that way.

And sure, the track’s got the groove of the rest of the Top Forty, but when the music breaks down and you hear Adam emote it will kill you…

You turned your back on tomorrow
‘Cause you forgot yesterday
I gave you my love to borrow
But you just gave it away
You can’t expect me to be fine
I don’t expect you to care
I know I’ve said it before
But all of our bridges burned down


"You turned your back on tomorrow"… I’ve never heard it said quite that way. What a great concept, I can even see it visually, this is where music triumphs, these short turns of words, these aphorisms that enter our hearts and brains and never leave.

"I gave you my love to borrow"… Ain’t that the way it always is. We live in a state of impermanence, but what we truly want is a guarantee…unfortunately those don’t exist in love.

"You can’t expect me to be fine"… Sung by a male! Fake macho posturing has infected not only the Top Forty but our entire culture. Sensitivity has gone out the window. But here it is, in this "mindless ditty"… Men hurt in breakups too. Oftentimes worse and far longer than women.

I’ve wasted my nights
You turned out the lights
Now I’m paralyzed
Still stuck in that time when we called it love
But even the sun sets in paradise

Don Henley asked the question best, was it all just wasted time? And why do we have to hurt so bad when it’s over. And the concept of the sun setting in paradise… Sounds so simple, but I’ve never ever heard it put that way before!

If happy ever after did exist
I would still be holding you like this
All those fairy tales are full of shit
One more fucking love song I’ll be sick

This is fantastic! The profanity and the concepts. The profanity adds an edge to the sappiness, adds some testosterone to the singer’s story, brings the narrative right into the real world, where we all talk like this. And when you’re down and depressed, paralyzed in a breakup, you can’t listen to music at all, you’re sick of upbeat optimism, all you want is to forget her…or get her back.

And the reason I’m focusing on the lyrics is I can’t delineate the magic of the music quite so easily. That’s the essence of music. You feel it, you can’t describe it. But this song is bouncy and catchy and it makes you feel good and you can’t wait to hear it all over again, which is why you buy it, the same way we bought 45s and played them until they turned gray.

Yes, we live in a singles world. The more we hear the old fogeys complain the more they fail to realize they’re being left behind. Today there’s a mainstream and everything else. And almost everything else is marginal. Sure, if you had success once upon a time, if you had traction in the classic rock era or the heyday of MTV, you can still do business. But if you’re a new act not making Top Forty music today, your ascension is going to go so slow you could do an endorsement deal with molasses.

And the reason I got hooked is because I heard Adam and the boys on Howard Stern this morning. Howard kept pressing Adam about his love life, which he’d cough up very little about. But Adam did say times were different. NBA hotels are filled with groupies. Their hotels are empty. Because the NBA players have all the money and to a great extent they’re more free than the musicians. This is canned music. But it’s done so well.

We’ve become unmoored. Everything you think you know is wrong. Just like Live Nation missed EDM adults don’t see we now live in a Top Forty world and what will come down the line is an outgrowth of it as opposed to the opposite. You see the outsiders are too often sour grapes. Hell, consider this a challenge. Make your music as catchy as "Payphone", then you’ll have a chance, then you’ll grow an audience.

So after a live rendition of the Beatles’ "Yesterday", which I wanted to hate but Maroon 5 did so well, Howard spun the single.

It only took one listen. "Payphone" is a hit!

One Response to Payphone


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  1. […] levine and all would be in tuxedo’s … well you get the point. Thanks to this remix and Bob Lefsetz’s unique write-up on this song, it’s growing on me (finally). […]

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  1. […] levine and all would be in tuxedo’s … well you get the point. Thanks to this remix and Bob Lefsetz’s unique write-up on this song, it’s growing on me (finally). […]

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