We all, at some point, have to emerge from our comfortable, ear-worm loving bubble and come to the realization that Adam Levine sucks. This love that we may have for Songs About Jane has since been muddied by glimpses of his real personality. It's no secret that he has supposedly told a fan that he "doesn't give autographs to ugly chicks", and frankly his record of dating exclusively models until he's through with them and onto the next doesn't give him much to refute that with. He has also spoken a lot about cheating, insinuating that men are not "programmed" for monogamy and that it feels worse to cheat than to be cheated on, both in separate Cosmo interviews, but that he just loves women so much that he wants to sleep with as many as possible (this gem from Details). My personal favorite is his bizarre belief that nobody knows how planes work.
But besides this plethora of reasons one might criticize Levine, I found myself coming to his defense after the Superbowl, when it became a news trend to mock his very exposed, um, body of work. Because the fact is, even though Adam Levine is a shitty person, he is the proud owner of a lot of very good tattoos.
I took the pictures I'm using from this article, which I don't love for a lot of reasons - while I appreciate the idea of wanting to make fun of incredibly wealthy celebrities for not being willing to spend the money on good work, that is not actually the case with a lot of Levine's newest pieces. It's also clear from the article that writer Catie L'Heureux was going on just a feeling when she wrote this piece, and did little to no research into tattoos beforehand. Even the smallest amount of familiarity with tattoos would have enlightened them as to why Levine was so thrilled with his back tattoo, which L'Heureux refers to as "featuring every item from your third-grade coloring book".
Levine's back piece is my favorite and a good one to start with for the simple reason that it, like many of his better tats, are done in the traditional style. The increased popularity and decreased taboo on tattooing has led to an explosion of different styles, specialties, and types of tattoos that are available to almost anybody, but it is important to shed some daylight on the fact that this was not always the case. And while contemporary styles such as minimalism, watercolor, and illustrative tattoos have found their niche, many tattoo artists
still take pride in the American traditional style of tattooing
dating back to WWII and the Sailor Jerry era. These tattoos were simple, often nautical themed, made up of bold lines and recognizable images meant to last a lifetime. What L'Heureux calls images from a coloring book are actually carefully selected elements of traditional tattooing (the rose, the clipper ship, the mermaid, the skull, and the swallows) combined to make up a classic image that speaks to themes of adventure, loneliness, and death.
When me move to the front, Levine has more of a mishmash of images than one cohesive piece. But Sahalie, you're asking, what about the massive "California" he has blasted over his stomach? Are you going to defend that one too?
No. Absolutely not. Like most tattooed people, Adam Levine has a mix of bad, good, and mediocre tattoos, and this one is straight-up sad. The font choice, the sizing, it's all awful. But leaving California aside, I don't think it takes away from some of the better work he also has, including the eagle directly above it.
The eagle is another image taken directly from American traditional tattooing, with the animal often being used as a sign of patriotism. Above it, we can see the hand holding a rose, done with slightly finer lines in the neo-traditional style, with the words "true love" positioned directly above his heart. Hands are one of the most difficult tattoo elements to draw and execute well, and his is both proportional and pleasing.
Below the disastrous California, we can also see a traditional girl head resting on his left hip, done in the style of old-school ladies meant to help sailors survive their celibate misery (I can't lie, I'm partial to lady heads and a little biased, since I have one myself).
Most of Levine's tattoos that are not strictly traditional are still done well, and by that I mean they are well-saturated, decently placed, and with few mistakes concerning line work and shading.
Levine's arms are interesting because they show the progression in quality that he has achieved as he's learned to give a little more thought and money over the years. The faded guitar, one of his earlier pieces, has been swallowed by the rest of his sleeve, which includes water and flowers reminiscent of Japanese style. His "Mom" tattoo is also a classic piece, but we can see that he decided to go less traditional for his arms after that. The waves on his forearm and the peonies on the upper bicep are both quite good as well. He probably wasn't sure what he wanted his arms to look like when he first started - he's no fortune teller. You live and you learn.
(A Note To the Reader: In honor of Sailor Jerry's "13" tattoo legacy, I have included 13 titles of Maroon 5 songs throughout this piece. You're welcome).