What you didn't know about Maroon 5

Back in the 1990s, teenager Adam Levine got together with some high school buddies to form a band. Fifty-six million albums sold, 13 Grammy nominations, including three wins, and five No. 1 singles later, Maroon 5 has become one of the world's biggest acts, a musical force to be reckoned with while remaining elusively tough to pigeonhole.

After an early start under a different moniker, the band emerged in 2002 with the breakout album Songs About Jane. The album had a slow build — as Billboard reported, the single Harder to Breathe didn't break through on radio until 2003 — but when it finally did, the band's career exploded. After winning the 2004 Grammy for Best New Artist, Maroon 5 released followup album It Won't Be Soon Before Long in 2007, heralding a decade-plus string of success that's included more than 16 billion YouTube views of the band's videos. In 2011, Levine joined NBC singing competition series The Voice, with his 16-season, eight-year stint on the show boosting the the band's popularity even further.

In June 2020, however, the unexpected arrest of one of the band's members sent shockwaves through the group, leading fans to realize there was a lot they may not know about Levine and company. Read on to find out what you didn't know about Maroon 5. 

Maroon 5 isn't the band's original name

When Adam Levine and his fellow musicians formed their band, the name they chose was not Maroon 5, but Kara's Flowers, even releasing two albums under that moniker. As Billboard pointed out, the second Kara's Flowers album,1996's The Fourth World, was their first to be professionally produced, and is considered to be Maroon 5's de facto debut. 

With a "post-grunge" sound described by Billboard as "fuzzy" and "Weezer-esque," Kara's Flowers attracted enough attention to land a television cameo in 1997, appearing on Beverly Hills, 90210. Levine — who was just 18 at the time — and the band performed their track "Soap Disco" at the Beverly Hills hangout the Peach Pit (screenshot above). 

In a 2007 interview with Rolling Stone, Levine admitted he was already a big fan of the hit teen drama when Kara's Flowers performed on the show. "So when we were on it, I was a bit star-struck," he explained. "Tiffani-Amber Thiessen thought we were all on cocaine. Tori Spelling was really nice. And there was Brian Austin Green — he wanted to talk to me about music. I remember him telling me that his new album was coming out. I was enthralled," Levine said with a laugh.

Why Maroon 5 was rumored to be barred from China

Maroon 5 was booked to perform in Beijing and Shanghai in 2015 as part of the band's Asian tour, until both concerts were cancelled with no explanation. Live Nation, which had organized the tour, didn't elaborate, but indicated in a statement that there was "a reason" behind the cancellations.

The Guardian, however, offered a possible answer. Prior to the cancellation announcement, Maroon 5 keyboard player Jesse Carmichael tweeted a birthday greeting to the Dalai Lama, linking to an Instagram post (both those social media missives were subsequently deleted). According to The Guardian, Carmichael was reported to have been at a party celebrating the 80th birthday of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, who has long been vilified by the Chinese government

According to NME, the Beijing edition of Time Out reported: "We hear musings about Maroon 5 being prevented from performing by our political friends up above. Meeting the Dalai Lama is all an artist needs to get a big X on their visa application." While there was no official confirmation, there was precedent; in 2009, NME reported that British rockers Oasis were barred from performing in China because band member Noel Gallagher performed at a Free Tibet concert in 1997. 

Adam Levine thinks Maroon 5 occupies 'a weird space'

Maroon 5 may have legions of loyal fans, but the band has never been a critics' darling. A think piece about the band on Stereogum derided Maroon 5 as "the funky, jazzy, heavily sanitized late-night-TV-style live band that tours with every pop star," except in Maroon 5's case it's the band itself that's positioned as the star. Maroon 5, the piece continued, are "hard to get excited about, but just as difficult to hate with any severe conviction," given that their songs are "musical wallpaper, annoying at worst and pleasingly inconsequential at best."

Adam Levine is not unaware of those types of opinions, telling Independent that they've "been around forever" and "been criticized by everybody.Meanwhile, the band's sound has drifted all over the musical map, weaving through an array of musical genres. "I don't even know what the f**k Maroon 5 are anymore," Levine said, admitting, "we occupy a weird space." 

However, he insisted he "wouldn't have it any other way." By refusing to be locked into one sound or genre, "[Maroon 5] will never be associated with a time," Levine said, adding, "I don't think people say we remind them of, like, 2003 or whatever. That doesn't happen."

Why did Slipknot's singer to call Adam Levine a 'schmuck?'

Bouncing from genre to genre, Maroon 5's style can indeed be tough to pin down. In an interview with Variety, frontman Adam Levine was asked to define whether the band is "pop, rock, urban?" Explaining that the band has always been influenced by "hip-hop, R&B, all rhythmic forms of music," he declared, "Rock music is nowhere, really. I don't know where it is. If it's around, no one's invited me to the party."

As one might expect, Levine's comments did not go down well with rock fans — nor rock musicians. That was certainly the case with Corey Taylor, singer with hard-driving rock band Slipknot. Taylor took to social media to slam Levine with a scathing tweet that mocked both of Levine's career paths.

"Just because you claim to have 'Moves Like Jagger' doesn't mean you come anywhere CLOSE to ROCKING like Jagger," Taylor wrote, addressing Levine directly. "Tell that schmuck to go back to The f**king Voice."

What Mick Jagger thought about Moves Like Jagger

Speaking of "Moves Like Jagger," Maroon 5's 2011 hit featuring Adam Levine's fellow Voice coach Christina Aguilera, what did the frontman of The Rolling Stones think about having his iconoclastic dancing referenced in a pop song?

Mick Jagger answered that question in an interview with The Sun. "It's very catchy. It's funny. Only thing is, it puts pressure on me when I go out dancing!" Jagger told the newspaper. "I wish I had written it. But wouldn't that be weird? It's not really like a Maroon 5 song, so they're probably as surprised by the success of it as I am."

Jagger also joked about "Moves Like Jagger" in a 2012 appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman while delivering one of the show's famed top 10 lists, the top 10 "Things I, Mick Jagger, have learned after 50 years of rock 'n' roll." One thing that Sir Mick had learned: "You don't earn a cent when someone does a song about having moves like Jagger."

Maroon 5 once created a new song in 24 hours

Back in 2011, Coca-Cola partnered with Maroon 5 for an ambitious project that tasked the band with writing and recording a new song, based on ideas from fans — all within 24 hours while the whole thing was filmed and live-streamed. As Campaign reported, the interactive event encouraged fans to send "words, pictures and comments" to provide inspiration. "The band all remembers when we were younger and making music in our bedrooms, trying to imitate our heroes," Maroon 5 leader Adam Levine said in a statement. "To be part of something global like this that gives an insight into what happens behind closed doors is really exciting."

The brainchild of advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy, the event aimed to connect the band with fans via social media in what would feel like "part video game, part pop video and part reality TV show." 

In a highlight reel posted on YouTube, the band is seen at various stages of the creative process while writing and recording the song. According to a Music News report, the live-stream was viewed by more 350,000 fans, 25,000 of whom tweeted ideas to the band. The end result was the 2011 single "Anybody Out There," which could be downloaded for free.

Rihanna thinks Maroon 5 is 'dope'

Maroon 5 can claim some celebrity fans, including Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown (who shared a video on Instagram of herself rapping with the band onstage), but perhaps the biggest is Rihanna. Not only is the "Umbrella" singer an aficionado of Maroon 5's music, but she also collaborated with the band on the 2008 single "If I Never See Your Face Again" (screenshot above). 

As Rihanna told GMTV's Carla Romano (via People), when the opportunity arose to work with one of her favorite groups, she jumped on it. "I was like, 'Any song — I don't care if it's a song that I don't like — I want to do it because Maroon 5 is dope," she said. 

In an interview with E! News, Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine explained that the band wanted to add "a female touch" to the song. Rihanna, he said, "was our first choice and we made it happen, and we love her." Working with the Barbadian superstar, Levine added, "was amazing. She's incredible, you know? She's so talented, so beautiful, so sweet. She's the complete package, the whole package."

Billy Joel holds Maroon 5's biggest secret

Adam Levine and the rest of the band have never publicly revealed what Maroon 5 actually means. Outside the confines of the band, in fact, only one person knows that secret: Billy Joel.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Levine revealed he was dining at Nobu in New York City when he ran into rapper Jay-Z, who then introduced him to the "Piano Man" singer. "I'm a huge Billy Joel fan," admitted Levine, who asked Joel a deep-dive question to find out what words he said during the saxophone solo in "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me." Levine had always thought Joel declared "All right, Rico!" during the song, and told him his theory. Joel, said Levine, "was astonished. He took a second and said [deadpan], "All right, Rico." Later, he came over and asked, 'Where'd you get the name?' It's the stupidest, s**ttiest story you've ever heard, but I had to tell him." 

As Levine later told CBS Sunday Morning, the origin of the band's name is "depressing," and admitted the story behind it is "so bad that we had to shroud it in the mystique of just never telling anybody."

The death of Maroon 5's manager hit the band hard

From the band's earliest days, Maroon 5's career was guided by Jordan Feldstein. Feldstein, older brother of sibling actors Jonah Hill and Beanie Feldstein, had known band frontman Adam Levine since they were kids, and managed Maroon 5 since the beginning. In 2017, tragedy struck when Feldstein passed away at age 40, with People reporting that the coroner's report cited a pulmonary thromboembolism as the cause of death.

Finding themselves adrift after the death of their longtime manager and friend, Maroon 5 brought legendary music impresario Irving Azoff into the fold, reported Variety. In addition, Feldstein's associate, Adam "Ash" Harrison, who had long held a behind-the-scenes role with the band, became co-manager alongside Azoff.

Speaking with Variety, Levine described Feldstein's death as "a tragedy foisted upon us and far and away one of the saddest moments of our lives," admitting that picking up the pieces and moving forward "was brutal." As Rolling Stone reported, the band later honored Feldstein with a new song, "Memories," which was accompanied by a somber music video (screenshot above). 

People once thought Maroon 5 was a boy band

Early in the band's career, when music fans were trying to figure out exactly which category Maroon 5 fit into, there was some confusion as to who and what they were. "People didn't know what to make of us, so they thought we were a boy band," Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine explained in an interview with BBC News. As he explained, "I think people mistook our R&B and soul influences as pop."

Levine admitted he found that "weird," because "the thing that made a boy band a boy band was they didn't play any instruments and they choreographed their dance moves. If you don't do that, you're not a boy band... A boy band is the headsets and the sparkly stuff and all those things."

In a 2010 interview with Billboard, Levine chalked up that mistaken perception to the band's look. "I do feel like if I had long, shaggy hair and wore a hat with a feather in it and refused to do interviews I'd probably have a different reputation," he explained, adding, "But I look kind of like an architect, so people get confused."

Maroon 5's Super Bowl halftime show was not a TD

Maroon 5 played to its biggest audience ever when the band took to the stage at the Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga. to headline the halftime show at the 2019 Super Bowl. For a band that had always steered clear of controversy, both the decision to play the show and the actual performance were hit with backlash, albeit for different reasons. 

That year, the NFL had been criticized over the league's response to players taking a knee during the national anthem to protest racial inequality, inspired by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. According to Billboard, before Maroon 5 took the gig, several acts had reportedly turned down the halftime show in solidarity with Kaepernick, including Rihanna, Jay-Z, Adele, Cardi B, and P!nk

Setting aside that controversy, the halftime performance was panned by critics, including The Guardian which lambasted the band's set as a "tedious affair." Independent termed it "lacklustre" and "a disappointment," declaring an appearance by SpongeBob SquarePants to be one of the few memorable moments. Speaking for the band, Adam Levine seemingly responded to the criticism in an Instagram post, writing, "We thank our fans for making our dreams possible. And we thank our critics for always pushing us to do better."

Maroon 5 accused The 1975 of ripping them off – and it did not go well

In early 2020, British rock band The 1975 unveiled the cover artwork for its new single "Me & You Together Song." According to iHeartRadio, a since-deleted tweet from Maroon 5's Twitter account compared The 1975's cover — in which each band member's visage is set in a different-colored box — to the 1997 album The Fourth World from Kara's Flowers, the name used by the band before switching to Maroon 5. "Hey @the1975, you guys big 'Kara's Flowers' fans?" the tweet read.

Matty Healy, frontman of The 1975, issued a dismissive response. "I don't know what the f**k that is but I love that song about being in a phone box or whatever it is," he wrote in a tweet (which was later deleted), jokingly referencing Maroon 5 single "Payphone."

Meanwhile, rock band Hot Chelle Rae entered the fray, responding with a tweet that added the very-similar cover artwork for their album Whatever"Well, this is awkward... one of us is going to have to change," stated the tweet. In the ensuing Twitter thread, fans posted images of various other near-identical album artwork, from artists ranging from The Beastie Boys to West End Kids to children's entertainers The Wiggles

The time Adam Levine got held back 'sonically'

Maroon 5's February 2020 performance at the Viña del Mar festival in Chile has become legendary — for being so bad that the band actually apologized for being awful. Fans in attendance quickly took to social media to blast Maroon 5, with one declaring it to be "the s**ttiest show ever," claiming, "They were late and Adam Levine not only did sing off-key and reluctantly but also stormed out cussing everyone out..." Another fan complained that Levine "did a horrible show without caring that his audience had spent money to see him."

USA Today reported that Levine shared a video on Instagram Stories to apologize for the performance. "There were some things holding me back sonically last night, and I let them get to me, and it impacted how I was behaving onstage which was unprofessional, and I apologize for that," he said.

A rep for Levine also issued a statement to USA Today, claiming he was having some technical issues with the in-ear headphones that allow him to hear himself sing. "I struggled a lot and sometimes it's really hard for me to mask the struggle," Levine said in the statement, adding, "And for that I did let you guys down, and I apologize."

Behind bassist Mickey Madden's leave of absence

In late June of 2020, Maroon 5 bass player Mickey Madden was arrested by LAPD officers on a felony charge. Pitchfork confirmed with police that Madden's arrest related to California's 273.5(a) penal code, targeting someone "who inflicts an injury that leaves a spouse or cohabitant 'in a traumatic condition.'" Madden was subsequently released on $50,000 bail.

The band responded to Madden's arrest in a statement to Page Six. "We are deeply devastated by this disappointing news," declared the statement. "As we learn more, we are looking at this very seriously. For now, we are allowing all of the individuals involved the space to work things through."

According to Variety, Madden later issued a statement of his own, announcing he'd be "taking a leave of absence from Maroon 5 for the foreseeable future" because he has "some things that [he] need[s] to deal with and address right now." He arrived at that decision, he explained, because he did "not want to be a distraction to [his] bandmates."