In the September issue of Esquire, I held forth on our current listless national mood, our inability to give our best in this post-but-not-really-Covid, post-yet-still-somehow-mid-Trump moment. It is our Great American Quarterassening; it finally has its first major scandal; that scandal is disappointing, and it’s not even the thing about people marinating chicken in NyQuil.
No, this week our phones buzzed with what we must now call shrug notifications, as Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine was repeatedly accused of sending flirty text messages to a series of women who are not his wife. First, Instagram model Sumner Stroh posted a video in which she claimed to have had a year-long affair with Levine, showing screenshotted DMs from his official IG account as proof. These DMs don’t necessarily prove an affair, but they sure are flirty, and then Levine asks whether he and his wife can name their son after her. What these messages—and their context within his marriage—show is that Adam Levine is incapable of taking anyone else’s wellbeing into consideration, which is a thing we already knew, because we have already heard the hook of “Moves Like Jagger.”
Inevitably, more women came forward, including one whose screenshot revealed this exchange:
Woman: I’m so weird too and only listen to metal lol
Adam: Said no hot chicks ever other than you
Woman: Lmaoooo I’m like a total weirdo
Adam: Love that. Witchy.
There is indeed much to laugh your ass off about: Metal as a thing that is “witchy”; metal as a genre that is not the property of “hot chicks”; saying “hot chicks.” But the killer is that he’s posting all of these messages from his verified account, surely the worst decision he’s made with his smartphone since he saved his tattoo artist’s number.
What these messages show more than anything is the total lack of effort this guy puts into both extramarital creeping and apologising for it. In his mea culpa—also posted to Instagram, but of course—Levine says, “I crossed the line during a regrettable period in my life,” which is just an amazing thing to say about something you did in June. He swears he did not have an actual affair, and if we take him at his word, he risked it all for a couple of private messages telling Instagram models they’re hot, which a) is so wholesome it’s almost kinky, and b) they already know.
The quarterassing is contagious, as it always is. Sumner Stroh claims she wasn’t going to come forward, except that she’d already shared a screenshot of these messages with a friend who then made a deal to sell them to a tabloid, which somehow left her with no choice but to post them herself and malign Maroon 5 as “elevator music.” (This is harsh, and also incorrect: as I have made clear before, Maroon 5’s music is “Satan’s girlfriend’s ringtone.”) Another of Levine’s accusers says she posted her DMs because “she feels really bad for Adam’s wife, model Behati Prinsloo, and encourages other girls to do the same.” See, she’s adding to her humiliation because she cares.
This is the sex-adjacent scandal our culture deserves. This is worse than when I got dragged to a Maroon 5 show and realised that the one song of theirs from the last ten years that I recognise is actually four completely different songs. I would not turn my chair around for a scandal like this. Lazy work all the way around.
This article was first published on Esquire.