A royal epoch ending in the UK. A war roiling across Europe. A constant drumbeat of inflation creeping up, cutting household budgets. An ever-present worry that the pandemic isn’t over. The world is in an odd place, and anxiety levels are through the roof. Things are so bad, in fact, that people—the very online ones, at least—are turning to Adam Levine for comfort.
In recent days, the Maroon 5 singer has been the subject of claims that he sent flirtatious Instagram messages to a string of women. Model Sumner Stroh also alleged that Levine cheated on his wife, Behati Prinsloo, last year. In an Instagram story, Levine admitted to speaking to women “in a flirtatious manner,”, but denied that he had a physical affair. A number of other women have since shared similar messages they claim are from Levine.
Those messages have given all-new fodder to the internet’s meme machine, making it impossible to scroll through Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter without being confronted by jokes taking screenshots of the alleged messages out of context.
“Memes tend to spread fast and far when they are easy to make sense of without the initial topical context and when they’re technically easy for people to participate in via remix,” says Alex Turvy, a PhD candidate at Tulane University in New Orleans who studies memes. “This one has both in spades.”
The raw material—Levine’s alleged sexts—are vague enough to be deployed in a number of different situations. And they’re as subtle as some of Maroon 5’s crooniest songs. “This genre of meme requires almost zero cultural literacy,” Turvy says, “so it can be understood and created by basically anyone.”
And they are being created by plenty of people. People have remixed Levine’s alleged request that he “may need to see the booty” of Stroh, followed by the word “Fuckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk” (with 25 Ks), into the minds of pirates, among others. One Twitter user said it was “truly a gift and we need to incorporate it into the lexicon.”
“It’s the perfect combination of celeb relatability—seeing someone so polished be so cringey in text to express a feeling that we’ve all had at one point—and the sheer absurdity of it,” says Amanda Brennan, senior director of trends at XX Artists, a marketing agency. Don Caldwell, editor in chief of Know Your Meme, agrees. “It’s like a teenage boy wrote them, which makes them super memeable.”
The “booty” is just one of the treasures in Levine’s alleged DMs. Another two-part missive also went viral this week. “It is truly unreal how fucking hot you are / Like it blows my mind” is, on the face of it, an affirmation of a woman’s attractiveness. But taken out of context by the internet’s meme makers, it was transformed into an ode to mozzarella sticks and a reinterpretation of the Goldilocks fairy tale, among other things.