Thoughts After Hearing Adam Levine, Maroon 5 Sing “Animals” on SNL
Folks, for the past hour or so, I’ve been struggling with how I feel after hearing Adam Levine and his band, Maroon 5, sing their controversial song “Animals” while doing a guest musical performance on Saturday Night Live. As a woman, I suppose I should be appalled, as the video for “Animals” seems to glorify stalking — and excessively violent and bloody stalking at that. (In case you haven’t read anything at all about this controversy, please see this link from the LA Times as it’ll give you a heads-up.)
But when I listened to “Animals” as a song, I heard an entirely different narrative. One that deals with an obsessive love affair that’s run its course, where the couple in question has a tremendous amount of sexual chemistry and not much else, yet the male partner cannot let go quite yet and the female partner, for whatever reason, is allowing him to stick around so they can keep having great sex. Then she apparently kicks him out and pretends it didn’t happen afterward, only to repeat until she finally gets the stomach to tell him, “No more, buster.”
Or until he has the strength to tell himself that he deserves better than a woman who’s keeping him around just for sex.
So all the lyrics about “preying on you tonight” and “(I’ll) eat you alive, just like animals, animals, oh oh” take on an entirely different tone in that context. It actually sounded to me like the guy was trying to justify having kinky animal sex with this woman who otherwise despises him, and as such, that’s just sad. (And hardly objectionable.)
However, the narrative framing shifted once the video for “Animals” was released, and the shift isn’t pretty at all. The video (which I refuse to link to) stars Adam Levine and his wife, model Behati Prinsloo; Levine is a psychotic madman who can’t leave his ex-girlfriend alone. And when his ex lets him inside her apartment, the blood flows along with the sex. Sex is explicitly linked with death, and the obsessive ex-boyfriend of the song becomes a murderous stalker instead.
I’m not entirely sure why Levine and Maroon 5 chose to go in this direction for their video, mind you. But I’m guessing that it’s all about the free publicity. A controversial video gets noticed, so it usually gets downloaded more. That means, obviously, the music’s heard more, too. Maybe the hope was that after seeing this video, some people who’d never heard of Maroon 5 before — or hadn’t heard a Maroon 5 song in years — will go buy the new song (or better yet, their whole CD). Which will make Maroon 5 money in the short run, and possibly prolong their careers in the long run.
But all this controversy has actually worked to obscure Maroon 5’s music, much less Levine’s singing. And that’s a shame, because Maroon 5’s music is worth more than a few listens — and Levine’s live performance on “Saturday Night Live” showcased his impressive range and his pitch-perfect vocal control.
Maybe it’s all about the narrative framing as to whether the song “Animals” is actually offensive or not. Or maybe it’s in the ears of the beholder.
But the video of “Animals” will give most women nightmares, especially if they’ve ever had any run-ins with domestic violence in the past.
It’s a free country, and Maroon 5’s marketing people obviously have earned their money this year. But I’d rather have encountered the song “Animals” another way, so my own view of what the narrative is could more easily take hold over the extremely graphic, violent video.