The more I hear from you, Maroon 5, the less I like you. Yes, even you, Adam Levine. In fact, especially you, Adam Levine. There is, of course, the outrage over the video for the song "Animals," featuring Levine's real-life wife. As the article points out, the song already says some pretty disgusting things, like "I'm preyin' on you tonight." Not okay, Maroon 5! I'm not going to waste my time dissecting it; the linked HuffPost article already does a good job. This song has joined the ranks of "Blurred Lines" for me -- meaning I turn the station as soon as it comes on.
Instead, let's look at the "harmless" song "Sugar." And let us, for the time being, ignore that it is a rip off of Prince's "U Got the Look." Seriously. The first time I heard the song, I thought I was hearing a cover of a Prince song, just couldn't put my finger on which one.
Since that first hearing, I inevitably catch the song during its bridge of :
I want that red velvet
I want that sugar sweet
Don't let nobody touch it
Unless that somebody's me
I gotta be a man
There ain't no other way
So, before Leonard starts frothing at the mouth, let's take a look-see. "Sugar," of course, is a euphemism for specifically kisses, more generally loving actions/affection. Angela Landsbury even uses it in the 1961 Elvis Presley film Blue Hawaii -- in which she plays Elvis' mother. Let that sink in for a bit.
So Adam Levine1 wants our "sugar." Okay, fine. But our "red velvet"? He's not talking about the cake, ladies and gentlemen. "Velvet" is a euphemism for "vagina"; in fact, "tipping the velvet" means cunnilingus (see also: Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters). "Red velvet" is even more explicit as labia is generally pinkish colored.
So Adam Levine wants my vagina now. Alright, fine. BUT, here's the problem(s): "Don't let nobody touch it / Unless that somebody's me." Excuse me? You do not have agency over my body parts, Adam Levine; only I do. You do not get to say who gets to touch it. Saying "don't let nobody touch it" even excludes me from touching myself (and that's certainly not going to happen). IF I let someone else "touch it," that's my decision, whether it's the "you" (here Adam Levine) or someone else.
But wait, there's more!
"I gotta be a man / There ain't no other way"
So apparently Adam Levine's masculinity depends on his ability to touch and/or control my body? Don't look at me that way, readers. He said it! In fact, he just said that the ONLY way to "be a man" (whatever the fuck that means) is to have my body.
Masculinity is so many other things, and one person's ability to "feel" masculine (or feminine or whatever) is not up to some other person. Just as I have agency over my body, so do you have control over how you want to feel and/or explore your gender. Don't bring my red velvet labia into it.
In short, the song is gross, though possibly not as obviously offensive as "Animals." But to top it all off, the "official video" for the song shows Maroon 5 supposedly crashing wedding receptions and singing this song to newlyweds (straight newlyweds, I should add). Eww.
1In all fairness to Mr. Levine, a true rhetorical analysis would not confuse him, the singer, with the speaker of the song (thank you, New Criticism). We typically say "the speaker," just like when dealing with poetry. But it's funnier to say Adam Levine wants Leonard's vagina.