The Jagger/Levine “Moves” Showdown

The topic of Mick Jagger is generally raised in only two circumstances.  One is during discussions of advancing age among once-heartthrob-y celebrities.  The other is during discussions with baby boomers about why the Rolling Stones are better than what we listen to now.

Recently, however, Jagger has become a common topic of discussion among the pop music set.  His rise in relevance, of course, is owed to Maroon 5’s new single “Moves Like Jagger,” (henceforth MLJ) featuring the divalicious over-singing sensation Christina Aguilera and Maroon’s lead singer Adam Levine expounding on how having moves like Jagger makes them irresistible.  

To be honest, Jagger is not a celebrity I would have ever expected to consider the moves of.  He’s British, after all.  British people generally lack moves just as they lack straight teeth and blind optimism.  Think of the difference between Elvis and the Beatles.  Which one of those contemporaries of Jagger (more or less) could stir controversy with their “moves?”

Still, MLJ leaves us with two important questions to address.  (1) Does Mick Jagger have any moves?  (2) Are any of these moves also had by Adam Levine, lead singer of Maroon 5/famously sleezy Lothario?

We begin our research with the the official music video for MLJ.  The creators of this masterpiece had an incentive to make a favorable comparison between the moves of Jagger and Levine, so if the comparison can be made at all, it should be glaringly obvious here.

During the course of this video, we do see a lot of clips of Jagger moving in some fashion or another.  One particularly memorable “move” features him wagging his finger like a school marm.  There are also a couple of hip shakes, but mostly this video features women doing moves, not necessarily Jagger’s but certainly dance moves of some sort.  The one person who does not at any point in this video demonstrate moves like Jagger is Adam Levine.  His timid attempt a couple of hip shakes is the closest we get to seeing him move at all.  Mostly he stares intently into camera, his eyes fake-smoldering.  This is a classic music video strategy employed by move-less people hoping to get screen time.

Next we move on to what should be the pinnacle of Jagger dancing on screen:

David Bowie & Mick Jagger – Dancing In The Street

Ostensibly this video would have to feature Jagger’s famous moves, since it is a version of Dancing In The Street and the premise of the video is that David Bowie and Mick Jagger are singing while…well…dancing in the street.

Unfortunately, the very first comment on the youtube page for this video is “I have now decided that Jagger has no moves.”


The moves that are there are disturbing.  Both he and Bowie really throw themselves into an awkward 1980s style bouncing step, lots of skipping is accomplished, dramatic facial expressions and close-talking/singing abound.  Very few moves, however.  Certainly nothing to write home (or a song) about.

The Rolling Stones – Get Off of My Cloud (1967)

Jagger’s early moves are slightly superior to his later, 1980s moves, but not by much.  Mostly, this performance’s move situation is superior to “Dancing In The Street” in that there are fewer moves shown.

ROLLING STONES “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” on The Ed Sullivan Show

This video is shot so tightly that there is no way to know whether there are moves going on below the shoulders.  Based on past experience, it’s better for it.

Rolling Stones – Honky Tonk Women – 1969

Jagger is certainly doing something dramatic here, but whether any of it qualifies as “moves” is open to interpretation.  He does a lot of tapping his foot and periodically gives his shoulders a little shake.  He throws in a spin or clap from time to time a well.  More than dancing, however, he appears to just be into the song.  Still, this is the most movement-y we’ve seen him in the pre-1980s era.

Ultimately, Jagger is British so he doesn’t really need moves.  Still, I think we can agree that the presence of “moves” in his case is a somewhat open question.

Adam Levine, on the other hand, could probably use some moves since he is a notoriously over-hyped singer whose value as a musician mostly lies in being good-looking, charismatic, and an vaguely entertaining performer.  We’ve seen the spectrum of Jagger’s “moves.”  Now we examine whether or not Levine has any MLJ:

Kanye West – Heard Em Say feat. Adam Levine LIVE @ SNL

This guest spot with Kanye should have theoretically given Adam Levine a good opportunity to show some moves.  Rap is good for this purpose, and Levine is bouncing, or at least his head is bouncing.  This move, however, is NOT a Jagger special.  It’s too subtle.  The Jagger bounce is more of a whole body affair.

Hands All Over (Adam Levine Guitar Solo!) – Maroon 5 – Live Glasgow 2011 HD

Some of these moves are better suited to a guest performance with the late N’Sync, though his awkward bounce is beginning to approach Jagger proportions.  He also does some prancing, chest out, hips swinging, which is in some ways very Jagger-like but, regardless, totally unacceptable for a man who is not European.

Harder to breathe – Maroon 5 – Live Cabaret

This is the most Jagger-like we’ve seen Levine, mostly for the facial expressions he’s making.  There are definitely some moves here.  A little jog thing and more bouncing.  Still there is something much more guarded about Levine, as if he’s afraid of looking too white (looking too white is a prerequisite for having “moves” like an aging British rock icon).

Ultimately, there is something deeply troubling about making any comparison between Mick Jagger and Adam Levine.  They are two totally different species’ of rock star and, more importantly, “MLJ” seems to misattribute Jagger’s appeal in the first place.  Jagger is not an icon because to his moves; his moves are part of a larger persona.  If you are not a rock icon, attempting said moves at home will not attract the ladies.

While I grant that Levine is an iconic something, he doesn’t belong in the same category as any member of the Rolling Stones, so using Jagger’s moves is a risk for him.  If the moves lack context, they look sort of goofy and British, which is presumably the reason that Levine does not attempt any of the moves in the MLJ music video.

Still, Levine does, somehow, both do moves and attract the ladies.  Attracting the ladies is mostly what he’s famous for on a personal, Maroon 5-less level. Considering how poorly he executes his MLJ, however, I think it’s safe to assume that the ladies are not being won over by his Jagger-like appeal.  It’s Hollywood, people.  They’re being won over by his sleazy air, and sleeze is a quality that I do not associate with Mick Jagger in any way, mostly because he’s been a middle-aged dad for my entire life.

Ultimately, I think we can all agree that Levine is taking liberties in singing MLJ, that nobody should be promulgating rumors that Jagger is famous for his moves, and that Jagger and Levine have too little in common to compare in the first place despite the Levine-sponsored attempts to make a case out of a few shared hip shakes.  Case closed.



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