Why is “nobody’s favorite band” breaking all these records?

(January 9, 2020).  If your “Memories” of Maroon 5 aren’t always pleasant ones, it’s probably by your own doing at this point.

Okay, maybe the band has something to do with it as well.

The seven-man lineup of Maroon 5

But, as quiet as it’s kept, the hit-making, seven-man (yes, seven) band from L.A. has been the most consistently high-charting group for nearly two decades…this, despite being a band that few people like to admit they love, or, at the very least, like.

Maroon 5 has been the most enduring, most successful band or group (i.e., non-solo artist) on the charts this entire millennium – which we’re defining as January 1, 2000 to now.  In their past 17 years of charting, Maroon 5 has accumulated 22 top-40 singles, of which 15 have made the top 10 and four have reached the No. 1 spot. 

That’s more top tens and No. 1s than any other group in that period (and more than most solo artists as well).

And there doesn’t appear to be an end anywhere in sight for the group whose lineup includes original members Adam Levine (lead vocals), Jesse Carmichael (keyboards, guitar), Mickey Madden (bass), and James Valentine (guitar), plus newer members Matt Flynn (drums), PJ Morton (keyboards) and Sam Farrar (journeyman instrumentalist).

This week, Maroon 5’s status as the biggest pop group of the millennium was further solidified when it tied yet another longstanding chart record with its current hit.

On the latest Billboard Hot 100 chart (dated January 11), the worldwide top-10 single “Memories” took advantage of the post-Christmas exodus of holiday songs by leaping from No. 9 up to a new peak of No. 2.

That strong move puts Maroon 5 in a tie with the legendary Rolling Stones as the only groups to have songs rank in the top two of the Hot 100 in three distinct decades.  The Stones did it in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.  Maroon 5 now has had top-2 singles in the ‘00s, ‘10s, and the ‘20s.

Just how long is long?

Maroon 5’s total chart career spans from the group’s first top 20 single, 2003’s “Harder to Breathe,” which made its first Hot 100 appearance on August 23 of that year, to 2019’s “Memories,” which has extended its chart life into 2020. That’s 16 years, four months and three weeks of having Hot 100 hits.

If you don’t think that’s some serious longevity, consider the following: with the exception of legendary rocker Ozzy Osbourne (who appears only as a guest artist on a Post Malone song), no other artist on this week’s Hot 100 has been charting longer than Maroon 5.  

Or consider that the band’s early contemporaries – pop/rock groups from the ‘00s like Nickelback, The Fray, Evanescence, The All-American Rejects, Fall Out Boy, Staind, Trapt, and OneRepublic – all seem like dinosaurs now. 

Well, at least on the charts.  Some of those groups obviously still have respectable followings.  Fall Out Boy, for example, can likely still sell out a tour in 2020.

But none of those groups have had a top-40 single (as lead artists) since 2015.  

Maroon 5, on the other hand, was at No. 1 as recently as late 2018 with a remixed version of “Girls Like You” featuring Cardi B.  And they’re knocking on the door again with “Memories.”  

If “Memories” does climb that final step to No. 1, it will make Maroon 5 the ONLY group to have a No. 1 hit in three different decades.  They’d be joining only a handful of solo artists who’ve pulled it off (Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Usher, Mariah Carey).

To further put Maroon 5’s longevity into perspective, their span of hits from 2003’s “Harder to Breathe” to this year’s “Memories” is roughly the equivalent of say, the Rolling Stones’ span from 1964’s “Not Fade Away” to 1981’s “Start Me Up.”

Remember how old you thought the Stones were when you first heard that last song? (Well, those of you old enough to remember when the Stones were charting, that is).

When they were five; Maroon 5 members (from left): James Valentine, Adam Levine, Mickey Madden, Jesse Carmichael, and Matt Flynn in 2007.

So what is it that keeps keeps Maroon 5 ticking after so long?  What is it they have that the other bands that were around fifteen years ago don’t?

Like the Stones in their prime, Maroon 5 have withstood criticism and have been able to reinvent themselves and keep things interesting as their members have matured, which has no doubt contributed to the group’s continued relevancy with younger fans – a phenomenon that has been reflected both on the charts and on the touring circuit.

And, like the Stones, Maroon 5 have a high-profile frontman in Adam Levine, one who’s become a pop cultural icon by being named People Magazine’s “sexiest man alive,” and being one of the long-standing coaches on the ever popular reality singing competition TV show “The Voice.”

His own celebrity status was recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2017.

Adam Levine is shown receiving his star with his wife Behati Prinsloo and daughter Dusty Rose in 2017.

The band’s career zenith occurred just a year ago when Maroon 5 did the Super Bowl LIII halftime show (something the Stones did 13 years earlier at SB XL).

Soul Influence

In the past ten years, Maroon 5 has gradually adapted a more R&B style and the group has comfortably teamed with several hip-hop acts for hit singles over that span, including Wiz Khalifa, Kendrick Lamar, Future, SZA, and Cardi B.

It’s not unlike the Stones who also changed with the times by incorporating more disco and dance-oriented tunes into their later repertoire with songs like “Miss You,” “Emotional Rescue,” “Start Me Up,” and “Undercover of the Night” in the late 1970s/ early ‘80s.

While Maroon 5’s R&B/hip-hop metamorphosis may seem contrived to some – in the past they’ve been accused of appropriation by critics and haters – the band has come by its current style naturally.  Its music has always had a funky backbeat dating to the first album (2002’s Songs About Jane) and it has always been received well by diverse audiences.  

Chart watchers may recall that when the band’s first top-10 single, “This Love,” was at its No. 5 peak in April 2004, Maroon 5 was the only white lead act in the top ten.  All nine of the other top-10 occupants were black hip-hop and R&B artists.

Here’s a chart reflection of Maroon 5’s first top-ten hit, “This Love,” from April 24, 2004:

1.“Yeah!”Usher
2.“I Don’t Wanna Know”Mario Winans
3.“Tipsy”J-Kwon 
4.“Burn”Usher
5.“This Love”Maroon 5
6.“Naughty Girl”Beyoncé 
7.“One Call Away”Chingy 
8.“If I Ain’t Got You”Alicia Keys 
9.“Dirt off Your Shoulder”Jay-Z 
10.“My Band”D12

They’re no Nickelback. 

Even with all of their chart success over such a long period, and even with the group’s ability to adapt styles with the times, and even with a Super Bowl halftime show added to its credentials, Maroon 5 still gets lumped into Nickelback status as kings of millennial pop mediocrity.

They’re often derided as a band no fans like to include among their favorites, even while Maroon 5’s songs are secretly being pumped on playlists all over the USA (and in many other countries as well), by all kinds of fans.  

They’ve been called everything from auto-tuned sellouts to over-commercialized hit-seeking missiles whose current songs don’t have nearly the soul and edginess of the ones from their debut album.  

Levine himself has been criticized for his quotes, his choice of women, and, most recently, his controversial statements around the band’s decision to do the Super Bowl at a time other artists were boycotting the NFL due to its stance on player protests against racial injustice.  

But Maroon 5 remains undaunted.  And certainly somebody is still playing them.  Lots of people, in fact.

Because, as the 2020s begin, “Memories” is the second-most popular song in the country – and it’s within striking distance of taking the band to No. 1…again.

And that three-decade No. 1 distinction would be an achievement no other group has attained – not even The Rolling Stones.

Or to drive home the point with a Maroon 5-related pun, those would be moves so unlike Jagger.

DJRob

Maroon 5’s Adam Levine at Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta on February 2, 2019.

DJRob is a freelance blogger who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.

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