Profile of Maroon 5, Pop-Soul Superstar Band

Led by Singer Adam Levine

Maroon 5
Photo by Jason Kempin / Getty Images

Maroon 5 (formed 2001) has its roots in the high school friendship of four of the group members. The band earned a Best New Artist Grammy Award on the strength of their first album. They became pop superstars with a string of eight consecutive top 10 pop hit singles from 2011 through 2015.

Early Days and Formation of Kara's Flowers

Future Maroon 5 members Adam Levine, Jesse Carmichael, Mickey Madden and Ryan Dusick all were high school students at Brentwood School in Los Angeles. They put together a band called Kara's Flowers and played their first public show at the legendary Whisky a Go Go in 1995. Their grunge style caught the attention of Reprise Records, and, despite production from Green Day producer Rob Cavallo, the album The Fourth World, released in 1997 during Adam Levine's senior year in high school, was a commercial flop. It sold approximately 5,000 copies, and Reprise dropped the band in early 1998. All four group members abandoned the project and headed to various colleges across the country.

Evolution Into Maroon 5

Adam Levine and Jesse Carmichael enrolled in the State University of New York. There the pair were exposed to a wider range of music, particularly R&B and hip-hop. Upon returning to Los Angeles in 2001, they re-connected with the other former Kara's Flowers members, added guitarist James Valentine. The band received rejections from multiple labels, but a successful Viper Room performance led to signing with the independent label Octone Records who had a distribution deal with BMG. The label insisted on a name change for the group, and Kara's Flowers became Maroon 5. The name change represented the group's movement from mainstream pop sounds to an alternative approach to soul music.

Pop Success

Maroon 5 headed into the studio with Matt Wallace, veteran of work with the Replacements and Faith No More, producing. The result was the album Songs About Jane first released in June 2002. The inspiration for much of the music on the album is Adam Levine's rough relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Jane. The album was not an instant commercial success, but constant touring generated eventual radio support. John Mayer, an acquaintance of James Valentine at the Berklee College of Music, was impressed by Maroon 5's music and invited them to open on his 2003 concert tour.  Songs About Jane peaked at #6 on the album chart in August 2004, over two years after initial release. The first single "Harder To Breathe" reached the pop top 20. The second single "This Love" hit the top 10 and won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance By a Duo or Group With Vocals. Maroon 5 also picked up a Best New Artist Grammy Award. Songs About Jane generated one more major hit, the top 5 smash "She Will Be Loved."

The much-awaited second album by Maroon 5, titled It Won't Be Soon Before Long, appeared on May 22, 2007. It featured new drummer Matt Flynn, who replaced founding member Ryan Dusick in September 2006. The band said that the album was "sexier, stronger," and "lyrically darker" than Songs About Jane. The first single "Makes Me Wonder" hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album opened at #1 on the charts selling over 400,000 copies in its first week. It ultimately received a double platinum certification for sales. The second single "Wake Up Call" also reached the pop top 20. "Makes Me Wonder" won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance By a Duo or Group With Vocal. It Won't Be Soon Before Long earned a nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album.

Maroon 5 headed to Switzerland in 2009 to record their third studio album, Hands All Over, with producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange, who is responsible for seminal albums by the Cars, Def Leppard, his ex-wife Shania Twain, and many others. While it was a critical success, the album was a commercial disappointment. It only reached #2 on the album chart and failed to generate a top 10 pop single. However, the band wasn't down for long. Following the surprise success of the TV show The Voice with Adam Levine as a coach, the band recorded the single "Moves Like Jagger" with Christina Aguilera, and it went to #1 and became the biggest hit of their career. "Moves Like Jagger" was included on a re-release of Hands All Over that returned the album to the top 10 and ultimately earned a platinum certification for sales.

Pop Superstars

In the wake of the success of "Moves Like Jagger," Maroon 5 embarked on a phenomenal streak of eight consecutive top 10 pop hit singles spanning material from their next two studio albums. The success helped bump the group into the upper reaches of top pop artists around the world.

Buoyed by the success of "Moves Like Jagger," Maroon 5 worked with a variety of pop producers and songwriters on their fourth studio album Overexposed including Max Martin, Ryan Tedder, and Benny Blanco. The result was a #2 charting album with a platinum certification and a string of four top 10 pop hits. They included "One More Night," the band's longest reigning #1 hit spending nine weeks at the top. It was produced and co-written by Max Martin's pop production team. Celebrated film director Peter Berg created the music video which features lead vocalist Adam Levine as a down-on-his-luck boxer.  The lead single "Payphone" hit #2 on the pop chart and includes a featured appearance from rapper Wiz Khalifa. Samuel Bayer, known for his work with Green Day, directed the music video.

Maroon 5 titled their fifth studio album V for the Roman numeral that represents the number five. It was the first Maroon 5 album released on Interscope after A&M Octone ceased operations and transferred Maroon 5 to the Interscope label. V became the band's second #1 hit album opening at the top of the chart. It generated three consecutive top 10 pop hit singles. The third single "Sugar" went to #2 on the pop singles chart and included a distinctive music video that featured Maroon 5 as wedding crashers. Mike Posner originally wrote the song for his album Pages, but he sent the song to Maroon 5 after his label canceled his album release. "Sugar" earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Duo or Group Performance.

In October 2016 Maroon 5 released the single "Don't Wanna Know" with a featured vocal from rapper Kendrick Lamar. It was co-written and co-produced by Benny Blanco. "Don't Wanna Know" quickly became Maroon 5's twelfth top 10 pop hit single, and it made 2016 their sixth consecutive year with at least one top 10 pop hit. "Don't Wanna Know" also hit the top 10 on the adult pop and mainstream pop radio charts.

The sixth studio album Red Pill Blues did not appear until November 2017. It reached #2 on the album chart and earned a platinum certification. The single "What Lovers Do" preceded the album in August and reached #9 on the pop singles chart. It was Maroon 5's thirteenth top 10 pop hit in the U.S.

Adam Levine Solo Projects

In addition to his work as lead vocalist for Maroon 5, Adam Levine has cultivated celebrity status on his own with a variety of solo projects. He has collaborated with other recording artists, appeared as an actor and coach on TV, and modeled naked in Cosmopolitan UK magazine.

Adam Levine sings on Kanye West's single "Heard 'Em Say" from 2005's Late Registration album. He also appears on the 2011 Gym Class Heroes single "Stereo Hearts." In 2015, he was the featured vocalist on the top 10 pop smash "Locked Away" by the duo R. City.

In 2011, Adam Levine became a household name as one of the first coaches on the hit TV series The Voice. Along with country singer Blake Shelton, he has taken part in all fourteen seasons of the show. The Voice is given credit in many quarters for helping revive the commercial fortunes of Maroon 5. His other TV appearances include an acting role in 2012's second season of American Horror Story and hosting Saturday Night Live in 2013.

In November 2013, People magazine named Adam Levine "Sexiest Man Alive" making him the first singer to earn the title. He appeared naked in Cosmopolitan UK magazine in 2011 to raise awareness of testicular cancer.

Legacy

Many of Maroon 5's influences are soul artists or soul-inflected music by significant pop artists of the 1970s. These include the work of Stevie Wonder, the Bee Gees, Billy Joel, and Marvin Gaye. The band also have mentioned the music of Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, and Prince as essential reference points.

Maroon 5 are known for making significant shifts in their musical style from record to record. It Won't Be Soon Before Long makes use of electronic music more than most of the group's work, and the album Overexposed is their most pop-oriented release. Multiple critics cited the album Red Pill Blues as the group's most cohesive and self-assured work yet.

Awards

  • MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist (2004)
  • Grammy Award for Best New Artist (2005)
  • Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal (2006): "This Love"
  • Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal (2008): "Makes Me Wonder"

Maroon 5 Fast Facts

Formed: 1994 as Kara's Flowers (changed name to Maroon 5 in 2001)

Members: Adam Levine, Jesse Carmichael, Mickey Madden, James Valentine, Matt Flynn, PJ Morton, Sam Farrar

Memorable Songs: "This Love," "Makes Me Wonder," "Moves Like Jagger," "One More Night," "Sugar"

Key Accomplishment: Winners of three Grammy Awards

Famous Quote from Adam Levine: "Nobody has it all, but for me to even come close is amazing."