Maroon 5 – and more specifically front man Adam Levine – really hit their stride about eight years ago. Second to the coveted Super Bowl half-time performance, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show was the biggest slot an artist could book. In 2011, the annual underwear parade saw its highest ratings in nine years with over 10 million tuning in. And there, notorious model-dater Levine stood; a svelte silhouette jolting across the runway singing the band’s mega track Moves Like Jagger, his clean, sporadic flinches more a wannabe-Freddie Mercury vibe than the Stones rockstar.
Still, Levine’s performance captivated the audience and a young Miranda Kerr wearing – what was that? A giant sea-shell? An oyster? – as she mastered the angelic-yet-sexed-up, straight-out-of-heaven glide, her then-husband Orlando Bloom cheering her on from the star-lined sidelines. Maroon 5 had their moments like this one, but were they enough to become immortalised as the chosen Super Bowl headliner eight years later? Many say no.
But while the band’s worthiness is one thing – can you even name the other six members of Maroon 5? – it’s Levine’s apparent ignorance of what the band’s inclusion is saying of their social conscience that is the main gripe. Rihanna, Jay-Z and Pink all turned down cushy offers to perform in the same slot citing they stand in – or kneel in, rather – solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and will not perform for a global giant who blacklisted him. (The latter knelt instead of standing during the playing of the US National Anthem at several 49’ers pre-season games in 2016. In doing so, Kaepernick was protesting against racial injustice, police brutality and systematic oppression. Come the next season, he was shockingly dropped by the NFL.)
Cardi B confirmed last week she was also approached to do the half-time show and declined “a lot of money”. “You have to sacrifice that. You got to sacrifice a lot of money to perform,” she explained. “But there’s a man who sacrificed his job for us, so we got to stand behind him.” In lieu of the traditional pre-game press conference, Levine did give an interview with Entertainment Tonight where he said he “100 percent” considered the decision to perform. “No one thought about it more than I did,” he said. “No one put more thought and love into this than I did … I spoke to many people; most importantly though, I silenced all the noise and listened to myself, and made my decision about how I felt.”
Maroon 5 will perform with rapper Travis Scott and Outkast’s Big Boi with the band and Scott noting they accepted the offers to perform on the pretense the NFL would donate USD $500,000 (AUD $689,000) to charities of their choice. But does this pledge change our opinions of the band? How can a man who encourages his Instagram following to vote in the mid-terms support a global giant who crossed-out a star player for standing up for justice? How can Levine clear his conscience when so many other artists couldn’t?
“If you’re going to cross this ideological or intellectual picket line, then own it, and Adam Levine certainly isn’t owning it,” Kaepernick’s attorney, Mark Geragos, told Good Morning America on Friday morning. “It’s a cop-out when you start talking about, ‘I’m not a politician, I’m just doing the music.’ Most of the musicians who have any kind of consciousness whatsoever understand what’s going on here.”
Yes, Kaepernick’s simple act of kneeling has cost the NFL a lot of money. But performing today will cost an already dried-up Levine his career.
Unless of course, he shocks us all and takes a knee for a full 10 minutes.