Adam Levine Will Be Loved

8.14.2011

By Shana Naomi Krochmal

The breakout star of NBC’s 'The Voice' wasn't a contestant -- it was its judge and Maroon 5's front man. Here, the singer opens up about his natural exhibitionism, why his show trumps 'Idol', and how parents should react when a kid is queer.

Levine’s self-assured, heart-on-his-sleeve rocker style translated well to the small screen, even if he was skeptical about signing up. “As a musician, being on a television show can often read as This person needed to do this for their career -- which clearly was not the case for any of us.”

With only three full-length studio albums in a decade, Maroon 5 is really more of a descendant of nomadic jam bands—since their 2002 debut, Songs About Jane, they’ve played hundreds of shows -- with a funkadelic, souped-up sound that relies as much on R&B hooks and hip-hop beats as extended guitar solos. They’ve sold more than 15 million albums and racked up three Grammys (including 2005’s Best New Artist some 10 years after they first began playing together).

At times in the last few years, Levine has sounded ambivalent about committing to a long-term future as a front man of a globe-trotting band. But The Voice has obviously touched him deeply, rekindling his passion for performing and bringing to the forefront his crunchy, hippie attitude. He earnestly talks about the “energy” of the show and how “beautiful” it is that people have embraced music more than ever.

“I talk about it in a very heavy way, but it’s definitely had a pretty profound impact on my life,” he says. “That show’s become a part of me. Being in a position where you can help these people out and -- of course I get paid, and of course it’s good for my career as well. But there’s a lot of real talent, and it makes me excited to know I’m part of that.”

Still wiping sleep out of his eyes at a lunchtime interview at his sleek, modest home on the edge of Los Angeles’ Griffith Park, Levine folds himself into the corner of a long purple couch and eats a bowl of Cracklin’ Oat Bran. “The band has come to a point where we can just do everything the way we’ve done it, and that would probably be OK,” he says, “or we could take a couple of risks.” Risk No. 1: canceling a European tour so Levine could tape The Voice. Risk No. 2: releasing a summer single, the dancy disco-rock “Moves Like Jagger,” featuring Aguilera, which hit number 1 on iTunes. “It’s a bold statement,” he says. “Do I think Mick Jagger is hot? I wouldn’t say that personally. But he had something that was uniquely his own and that people gravitated towards.”

Levine has a high, nimble voice and a light, loose-limbed step, but other than a brief kilt-wearing, John Mayer–kissing phase (they go way back -- Mayer took Maroon 5 on one of their first big tours), he’s hardly the queerest performer in mainstream music today. “There’s no way to hide my straightness,” he says, “but if people didn’t think there was a small chance I was gay, then I wouldn’t be doing my job very well. Look at the best ones, guys whose sexuality was always questioned. Bowie. Jagger. Freddie Mercury. I wouldn’t be the front man of a band if that question hadn’t come up at some point.”

A happily self-identified exhibitionist -- see his all-but-nude ad for testicular cancer awareness, or almost any of the band’s videos, especially the one for “Never Gonna Leave This Bed,” featuring Levine and his model girlfriend, Anne Vyalitsyna, rolling around in a Plexiglass-walled truck -- he could teach a very casual, very California course on human sexuality:

1. “I just love being as naked as possible all the time -- it feels really natural to me.”

2. “I’m extremely comfortable in my sexuality, so I can think, Oh, that’s a good-looking dude. Acknowledging that someone’s attractive and wanting to fuck a dude are two different things.”

3. “With a lot of guys who are hypersexual, it comes from some sort of disdain or dislike -- they’re guys who love getting laid but don’t really respect women. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been totally promiscuous and slutty in my lifetime, because I have.”

Levine, 32, grew up in a liberal Los Angeles home -- his parents both went to Berkeley -- but it wasn’t his own sexuality that defined his open-minded beliefs. It was his younger brother’s. “I can single-handedly dispel any ideas that sexuality is acquired,” he says, laughing. “Trust me, you’re born with it. My brother is gay, and we knew when he was two. We all knew.”

Instead of a family freak-out, the Levines doubled down. “We all really wanted to provide some cushion for him and constantly let him know that it’s OK,” Levine says. “A lot of people don’t want their kid to be gay and will fight it at all costs. But I’ve got news for you—it’s a losing fucking battle. The more you fight it, the more fucked-up your kid’s gonna be. You’ve just gotta embrace it from the beginning. That’s the only way to deal with it as a family. Otherwise, you’re just screwing yourself over, and you’re gonna make your kid miserable.”

Although he doesn’t watch much TV, he was thrilled to see “Misery,” the lead single off his band’s most recent album, Hands All Over, used on Glee. It was sung by Kurt’s boyfriend, Blaine (Out cover boy Darren Criss), in an episode that also featured Kurt and Blaine’s first kiss. “It was just a cool moment,” he says, “and I love Ryan [Murphy]. I’m glad he used the tune.”

To view our Adam Levine slide show, click here.

Tags: Music
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