'Moves Like Jagger': The Making Of Maroon 5's Megahit

Nov 28, 2011
Originally published on November 28, 2011 8:21 pm

The song "Moves Like Jagger" has been on the Billboard Hot 100 for five months — it peaked at No. 1 and is still holding on at No. 5. The band behind the song is Maroon 5, led by singer and songwriter Adam Levine, who is also a coach on the TV singing competition The Voice.

Maroon 5 has cranked out a number of hit singles in the past decade, but Levine says this one is different: It marks one of the first times he's turned to songwriters outside of the band for help.

"What I've learned from the recent few months is that it's OK to collaborate with other songwriters," Levine tells NPR's Guy Raz. "I was always kind of staunchly opposed to it in the past, I think almost to a fault. I think I've got a lot to offer as a songwriter, but everybody hits a wall.

"I love pop music, and every once in a while you kind of need to check in with what's happening," Levine adds. "I don't like to listen to the radio obsessively or anything like that — but there's nothing wrong with looking to other people to see what they're doing, and kind of getting involved with what's happening currently, so that you can kind of offer your twist on things."

The "Jagger" in the song is, obviously, Mick Jagger. Levine says that what's appealing about the Rolling Stones frontman is that his onstage moves, while impressive, are also attainable.

"Only Jagger has the moves like Jagger. That being said, if there was ever someone to aspire to ... I don't think anyone could claim to have the moves like James Brown, or the moves like Michael Jackson, or the moves like Prince," Levine says. "There's something about the way [Jagger] moves that is uniquely his own and hard to imitate, but also accessible and silly and fun, and not taking itself too seriously."

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

For five months now, this song has been in the Top 10 on the Billboard charts.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOVES LIKE JAGGER")

ADAM LEVINE: (Singing) Oh, yeah.

RAZ: It's called "Moves Like Jagger," and the band is Maroon 5. And if you haven't already guessed, the song is an homage of sorts to Mick Jagger. It is far and away the biggest hit from Maroon 5 and its front man, Adam Levine. He told us the whole process was a departure for him. He normally writes his own songs but this time, he went looking for help.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOVES LIKE JAGGER")

LEVINE: (Singing) And it goes like this: Take me by the tongue, and I'll know you. Kiss me till you're drunk, and I'll show you all the moves like Jagger. I've got the moves like Jagger. I've got the moves like Jagger.

I was kind of interested in the idea of collaboration. And I was having, to be totally honest, some trouble producing hits, just me and the band. And I wanted to venture outward and see what it would be like to write songs with other people.

RAZ: It's a great premise, "Moves Like Jagger," because Mick Jagger, of course, has these iconic moves - certainly in his prime, in his heyday. How did you come up with the idea to write a song about Mick Jagger and the way he moves?

LEVINE: Well, it's interesting. I actually didn't come up with that main hook. That was the only thing that was there when we started hitting the song. And I will say, though I didn't write it, it seemed as though I would wind up being the only one who was courageous enough to have the audacity to sing that line because it's definitely a bit cocky.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOVES LIKE JAGGER")

LEVINE: (Singing) Look into my eyes and I'll own you with them moves like Jagger. I've got the moves like Jagger. I've got the moves like Jagger. Maybe it's hard...

The minute we sunk our teeth into it, we started writing lyrics and the verses and bridges, and all the stuff started coming together, and it just was kind of magical. And that's another thing, too. Sometimes great songwriting can be really effortless and silly and fun, and I think it was such a good vibe in the studio when we did it. We felt like it would be - for a lack of a better cliched term - a pop culture moment.

RAZ: Why Jagger? I mean, is he, in your view, like, sort of the ultimate rock star? I mean, because you could have said, you know, moves like Jackson or he's got the moves like Daltrey or - I guess it wouldn't work as well. But why did you settle on Jagger?

LEVINE: Well, I think what's cool about Jagger always - what struck me as really cool is the attainability. You know, I don't think, really, anyone can claim to have the moves like James Brown, or the moves like Michael Jackson, or the moves like Prince. With Jagger, it was almost as if there's something about the way he moves that is uniquely his own and hard to imitate, but also accessible and silly and fun, and not taking itself too seriously. It's not dancing. It's not exactly dancing. It's not exactly flailing. It's just this really interesting movement, and it's doable, you know? It's - to analyze it, this heavily is actually pretty funny and ridiculous, but it's also fun to talk about it.

RAZ: Toward the end of the song, "Moves Like Jagger," Christina Aguilera bursts out with this amazing bridge.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOVES LIKE JAGGER")

CHRISTINA AGUILERA: (Singing) You want to know how to make me smile? Take control, own me just for the night.

LEVINE: Yeah. She's crazy singer, and she's such a good singer.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOVES LIKE JAGGER")

AGUILERA: (Singing) You're going to have to keep it. Nobody else can see this. So watch and learn. I won't show you twice. Head to toe, oh, baby, rub me right.

RAZ: Did you want to write a song that would include her voice, specifically? Were you thinking about her when you guys were working on this song?

LEVINE: You know, I think when we were doing the song, we thought to ourselves, well, this is a very - there's a lot of bravado in this song. Our whole idea was if we could share this vocal with a female, I guess it would kind of curb the cockiness a little bit in a way that was more welcoming, I think, to a large audience. And Christina is an incredible singer. There aren't many people out there that can sing like she can. And that was definitely like, well, let's just - let's have her really knock this out. And she did it in two seconds.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOVES LIKE JAGGER")

AGUILERA: (Singing) ...rub me right. But if I share my secret, you're going to have to keep it. Nobody else can see this.

LEVINE: (Singing) And it goes like this.

RAZ: What does Mick Jagger think of this song, by the way?

LEVINE: Yeah. I don't know. I mean, he seemed pretty cool. I haven't talked to him about it at all. We haven't seen each other or discussed it at all. But I'm sure I will cross paths at some point with him, and that might be a funny, you know, conversation.

RAZ: Wouldn't it be cool if he would sing it with you one day?

LEVINE: Yeah. That would be fantastic. I wonder if he ever would. I'm sure he would. He's Mick Jagger. You know, I don't think he has a problem handling a cocky content, lyrically, in a song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOVES LIKE JAGGER")

LEVINE: (Singing) Maybe it's hard when you feel like you're broken and scarred. Nothing feels right. But when you're with me, I'll make you believe that I've got the key.

RAZ: That's Adam Levine. He's front man for Maroon 5. He's got two songs in the Billboard Top 10 at this very moment, including the very catchy "Moves Like Jagger." Adam, thanks.

LEVINE: Thank you very much, sir.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOVES LIKE JAGGER")

LEVINE: (Singing) ...I'm shifting gears. I'll take it from here. Oh, yeah, yeah. And it goes like this, uh, take me by the tongue, and I'll know you, uh, kiss me till you're drunk, and I'll show you all the moves like Jagger. I've got the moves like Jagger. I've got the moves like Jagger. Ooh, uh. I don't need to try to control you. Oh, yeah. Look into my eyes...

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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