If there was such a thing as the Callously Creepy Video Hall of Fame, Maroon 5’s seriously stalkerish take on an already problematic song would be an instant nominee. And I’m hardly the only one who thinks so, as you’ll see. But let’s start with the predatory lyrics to “Animals” before delving into its graphic, unsettling video.
In the simplest terms, “Animals” is about a couple that doesn’t get along at all (“It’s like we can’t stop, we’re enemies”) with the smoldering exception of their animalistic appetite for each other’s bodies (“But don’t deny the animal/That comes alive when I’m inside you”).
It’s not completely clear if they’re still together or broken up. What is clear is lead singer Adam Levine’s oft-voiced intent to hunt down this woman and satiate his beastly appetite for her flesh. And if that sounds overwrought, here’s how Levine himself bluntly puts it (over and over again): “Baby, I’m preying on you tonight/Hunt you down, eat you alive/Just like animals/Animals/Like animals.”
As the song progresses, it increasingly seems as if the woman in question here isn’t crazy about the idea of being chased like “prey.” “Maybe you think that you can hide,” Levine taunts, “I can smell your scent for miles/Just like animals.” And if the song flirts with the implication of stalking with its provocative predatory metaphors, the video rams that deeply disturbing motif home with the force of lion pouncing on its prey.
Onscreen, Levine plays the role of a socially awkward butcher. Yes, a butcher. We watch him cleave meat in the store and hang shirtless in a meat locker next to sides of beef, his torso smeared with (presumably) cow blood.
But the yuck factor is just getting started.
It’s not long before the object of Levine’s leering affection shows up at the butcher shop (portrayed by the singer’s real-life, Victoria’s Secret supermodel wife, Behati Prinsloo), utterly unware of those aforementioned leering looks. He follows her. And as the scenes progress, we alternate between images of Levine standing in the rain outside her apartment looking up to her window and shots of him in his darkroom developing pictures he’s taken of her. As he lurks below with a camera in hand, she ends up mostly unclothed looking in her mirror as he looks lustfully at her.
Things only get more twisted from there.
Levine apparently breaks into her apartment and takes pictures of her writhing in lingerie in her sleep, then lies down next to her. But when he tries to hit on her at a dance club, she’s not interested. To “cope” with that rejection, Levine fantasizes about what it would have been like if she’d responded as he’d hoped. Accordingly, we see their naked bodies intertwined (and barely covered) even as gallons of blood pour down on them as they have sex—a disturbing, “artistic” suggestion of murderous violence without ever quite saying that’s what this jilted would-be lover has in mind.
It’s a thoroughly chillingly noir depiction of an unhinged and unbalanced man sexually stalking a beautiful woman—and apparently getting away with it.
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network immediately condemned the video’s glorification of stalking. “Maroon 5’s video for ‘Animals’ is a dangerous depiction of a stalker’s fantasy—and no one should ever confuse the criminal act of stalking with romance,” said RAINN vice president of communications Katherine Hull Fliflet. “The trivialization of these serious crimes, like stalking, should have no place in the entertainment industry.”
Critical commentary about the video piled on with more negativity. Writing for the U.K.’s Guardian, Jessica Valenti compared the video to Robin Thicke’s 2013 song ” Blurred Lines,” saying, “It seems Maroon 5 has been taking the ‘How to Terrify Women’ class at the Robin Thicke School of Music.”
Then she added, “You might think, given all the international focus on violence against women and sexual assault of late, that one of the biggest musical acts in the world might not be that into writing, releasing and promoting a ‘hit’ that tries to make terrorizing women seem ‘sexy.’ But instead of considering the message they’re sending to the 3.4m people who report being stalked in the US alone, the band doubled down and made a video even more disturbing than the song. … I’m sure Levine and his bandmates think they’ve done something edgy here—ooh, so dark!—but there is nothing ‘alternative’ about showing women being stalked, hunted, raped or killed because it’s something that happens every d–n day.”
“Maroon 5 Just Released the Most Disturbing Music Video of the Year,” reads the headline from mic.com’s Jared Keller. And emblazoned at the top of thinkprogress.org’s Jessica Goldstein article is, “Stalk This Way: New Maroon 5 Video Tries To Make Violence Sexy.”
In an interview with Access Hollywood before the video was released, Levine merely said he had a “crazy idea” for it that would be “really dark and weird and cool.”
Levine and Co. absolutely nailed the dark and weird part of that equation. But cool? The dangerous ideas exalted here are about as cool as a restraining order, a prison sentence or a sexual predator tag following someone around for the rest of his life.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.