In The Ones of the ’10s, I’m reviewing every single that hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the 2010s and working my way up into the present.
Maroon 5- “Moves Like Jagger” (feat. Christina Aguilera)
HIT #1: September 10, 2011
STAYED AT #1: 4 weeks
Here’s a question: Does anyone really think that dancing like Mick Jagger makes you look like the coolest guy in the world? Well, Adam Levine of Maroon 5 thinks so and that’s how we got a stupid #1 song where Levine brags about how he can dance like Mick Jagger just so he can have sex with a girl. This move helped to revive both Maroon 5’s career and Christina Aguilera, the artist featured on “Moves Like Jagger.”
When Maroon 5 hit #1 with “Moves Like Jagger” in late 2011, it looked as if the band was on its way out on the charts. (The #1 single in the US when Levine was born: Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”) After breaking out with their debut album, 2002’s Songs About Jane, Maroon 5 became an instant hit machine landing in the Top 40 a bunch of times including their first #1 hit with “Makes Me Wonder” in 2007. (It’s a 9.) This success also translated to their albums with Songs About Jane and their follow-up, 2007’s It Won’t Be Soon Before Long, selling at platinum levels. For a while, their brand of funk-infused pop-rock sold until it didn’t.
After “Makes Me Wonder,” the rest of the singles from It Won’t Be Soon Before Long peaked lower and lower on the Hot 100. And by the time of their third album, 2010’s Hands All Over, it seemed like they couldn’t keep up with the club driven electropop dominating pop music by this point. The album’s lead single “Misery” wound up underperforming peaking at #14 with the next two singles peaking much lower on the Hot 100. The album sales didn’t help either. Something had to change and so something did change.
In 2011, Adam Levine became a judge on NBC’s new singing competition show The Voice heightening his profile and also sang the chorus on Gym Class Heroes’ #4 peaking hit “Stereo Hearts.” (“Stereo Hearts” is a 6.) And to prop up Hands All Over, Levine wrote a new pop-centric song outside the band with pop songwriters and producers Benny Blanco and Shellback and fellow songwriter Ammar Malik. Levine described “Moves Like Jagger” as a big risk, “It was one of those songs that was definitely a risk; it’s a bold statement. We’ve never really released a song like that. But it’s exciting to do something different, do something new. I’m just happy everyone likes it.” He further described being scared to release the song thinking it was almost a mistake.
Risk and a bold statement are not terms I would use to describe “Moves Like Jagger.” Instead, it’s very clearly a band realizing their relevance slipping away and in a desperate attempt to remain on the charts cuts a blatant pop-infused track that sounds nothing like they’ve done before and being rewarded for it giving in to the pop machine.
Listening to “Moves Like Jagger,” you’d be forgiven for thinking Maroon 5 was ever a group. For all intense and purposes, this is basically an Adam Levine solo song. While musically, “Moves Like Jagger” isn’t all that different from the dancy pop-rock they had made their name on in the ‘00s, the production here is the most mechanical they’ve ever sound complete with annoying whistle sounds. I will say that the funky guitar work lends the song a fun catchiness so there’s that.
Lyrically, the song does not have much of anything to do with Mick Jagger outside the title which is probably the only interesting thing about the song. Instead, Adam Levine sings about dancing with a girl who he wants to have sex with. To turn her on, Levine brags to this girl about how he can dance like Mick Jagger. Right away, that is a stupid way of picking up a girl. Mick Jagger isn’t a man known for good dance moves and he’s also not known at least in recent times as a good looking man. So comparing yourself, as a young man, to Mick Jagger just to have sex with a girl is probably not going to get you very far. Your girl will probably think of you as a wrinkly old man who dances in an embarrassing fashion.
And in terms of the music, it doesn’t sound much like what the Rolling Stones made in their prime. Sure, the Stones had made dance/disco type songs with their last #1 single, 1978’s “Miss You,” showing how well they could adapt their signature blues-rock sound to the disco era. (It’s a 9.) But I doubt people think of the Rolling Stones as a dance-pop act even with the dance songs they made. It’s not what the entire Rolling Stones legacy is. My best guess is that Levine and company were capitalizing on the increased popularity Mick Jagger was having around the early ‘10s with his name popping up on various pop hits including Kesha’s “TiK ToK” where they rhymed his name with swagger. That has to be the most stupidest trend to capitalize on.
To ensure this comeback, Levine recruited his fellow Voice judge Christina Aguilera on the song where she comes in during the bridge and final chorus. Both Levine and Aguilera wound up premiering the song on a June 2011 episode of The Voice right as it was moving up the charts. “Moves Like Jagger” brought Aguilera back to the charts as it gave her her first #1 single in a decade since 2001’s cover of Labelle’s 1975 #1 “Lady Marmalade” with Mya, P!nk, and Lil Kim. (It’s a 7. The Labelle original is a 9.)
Since then, Aguilera remained a Hot 100 presence for much of the 2000s landing in the Top 40 several times most of which came from her 2002 album Stripped which launched three Top 20 singles with its highest-charting single, “Beautiful,” peaking at #2. (It’s an 8.) By the time of “Moves Like Jagger,” Aguilera hadn’t had a Top 10 hit since 2008’s “Keeps Gettin’ Better.” (“Keeps Gettin’ Better” peaked at #6. It’s a 6.) Aguilera’s popularity had begun to wane. Her attempt at a film career in 2010’s Burlesque with Cher underperformed and her album that was released that year Bionic also underperformed. So “Moves Like Jagger” was a much needed shot in the arm but that doesn’t mean the part she’s given is any good.
On her bridge, Aguilera is singing a come on to Levine letting him in on her secret to turn her on to sex before joining with Levine on the final chorus. While there’s nothing bad per se about her performance, it’s hard not to think of it as tacked on at the last minute, a feeling that applies to the whole song. It’s a song that feels tacked on at the last minute to save a less than stellar album performance and extend a band’s shelf life right when it looked like it was going to expire.
Christina Aguilera never got back to #1 after “Moves Like Jagger.” She’d land in the Top 10 two more times both times as a featured artist, the 2013 Pitbull collaboration “Feel This Moment” and the 2013 A Great Big World collaboration “Say Something.” (“Feel This Moment” peaked at #8. It’s a 4. “Say Something” peaked at #4. It’s a 6.) Aguilera continued judging on The Voice until 2016 and has continued to release music including a song for the upcoming live-action remake of Mulan. But Aguilera has mainly become a nostalgia act these days.
Maroon 5 ended up benefitting the most from “Moves Like Jagger.” The song’s success did everything the band hoped it would do for them in reviving their chart success. From this point on, Maroon 5 would become a reliable hit machine for the rest of the 2010s. They’ll be back in this column again.
BONUS BEATS: Here’s Maroon 5 performing “Moves Like Jagger” during their terrible 2019 Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show: