Inside Adam Levine's $35 Million-Plus a Year Empire
"A lot of bands that were following that trajectory probably wouldn't have made it back," says Tom Poleman, president of national programming platforms at Clear Channel Radio. "They've done what everybody wishes they could do." Looking to repeat the "Moves Like Jagger" formula, the band enlisted more pop hitmakers including Max Martin, Ryan Tedder and Benny Blanco for its fourth album. The move -- a departure for a group that pre-"Jagger" wrote all of its music -- began paying off immediately. Overexposed's first single, "Payphone," which the band relies on to kick off each concert, sold 496,000 singles during its first week, the most to date by a group. The album already has sold 1.2 million copies. Says Levine, "The Voice wound up being way beyond the best thing that's ever happened to me and to the band."
Meanwhile, he was approached by American Horror Story's Ryan Murphy, another longtime friend, and Can a Song Save Your Life? director Carney to try his hand at acting. "I'm not very good at it," he confesses, having shot three episodes of the former (he played a doomed newlywed) and a starring role in the latter (as a musician working through a relationship with Knightley's character). Still, it doesn't intimidate Levine the way performing with the band once did. "You get onstage and perform in front of 10,000 people, and if you f--- up, it's your ass," he says with a smile that suggests he has done so on more than one occasion. (He famously played his first professional gig at the Troubadour with his back to the audience because he was so nervous.) "How scary is it to go into an intimate setting that's totally comfortable and do something 500 times until you get it right? That's not pressure."
To Levine, the key to a successful transition has been to find directors who can tell him what to do and how to do it. "I'm the director's bitch," he says, acknowledging that he recently saw an early cut of Save Your Life and was surprised at how "not shitty" he was. "They'll probably say that I'm a better actor than I am a singer or something," he jokes of the critics who haven't always been kind to him. "They'll find some way to f--- me with something negative."
Murphy says he was impressed, even noting he'd like to bring Levine back to AHS in a bigger role, but Levine's schedule won't allow it. "If he got the right parts in film, I really feel like Adam could do a Justin Timberlake thing," adds Murphy, "because he has the chops, and, more than that, he has the ambition." (Although Levine is coy about future acting opportunities, Feldstein suggests it long has been a "personal passion" for him: "It's something that he's legitimately been talking to me about for 15 years.")
The decision to launch a fragrance line arguably was more perplexing, considering it was Levine who once tweeted to his nearly 4 million followers: "I also would like to put an official ban on celebrity fragrances. Punishable by death from this point forward." He defends the earlier comment by noting his isn't a typical celebrity vanity play but rather another product for which he has been intimately involved in the creative process. "I want it to do well," he says of the time he's put in, adding: "If you're going to get paid to do this ridiculous shit, you've got to put f---ing effort into it."
It's not hard to see Levine is having a ball with all of this. "I so appreciate you," he shouts to his fans, new and old, from the Izod Center stage, taking a few seconds to soak in the moment before adding, "And I love you." Madden, who has watched as his bandmate's calendar has swelled with opportunities, suggests he is thrilled but not at all surprised by Levine's rise. "Having known Adam for so long, it all seems to fit a script he's had for himself ever since he was young," he says, laughing as he completes his thought: "My standard line on Adam is that fame just justified his personality."
Additional reporting by Kim Masters and Shirley Halperin