Fourteen years ago, in the summer of 2002, Maroon 5 debuted with their album “Songs About Jane.” I was seven years old at the time. The album was the only CD my mom ever had in her car, so I would listen to Adam Levine sing sweet nothings on the way to school and on the way to soccer practice and everywhere in between. “Songs About Jane,” an album about love and lust written by a then 22-year-old Levine, would come to be the soundtrack to the latter years of my childhood.
As summer comes to a close and the rainy days start to trickle in, it takes me back to the first time I heard the album. And now, at 21, I’ve come to see the influence “Song About Jane” had on me: it was my first introduction to a love song.
I often joke with my friends that all I want is for someone, preferably a romantic interest, to write a song about me. Listening to “She Will Be Loved” before I even hit puberty is probably what had planted that seed in my head. But when you hear lyrics like, “I don’t mind spending everyday / out on the corner in the pouring rain, look for the girl with the broken smile / ask her if she wants to stay awhile, and she will be loved,” you’ve got to assume that he’s not just talking about Jane-doe.
And he’s not. Jane is real. Levine and Jane Herman were high school sweethearts who dated for four years, from 1997-2001. Herman is the girl who inspired not just one song (as I lowly aspire to), but rather an entire album, which means, in a sense, that Levine felt compelled to put into words how much he loved her at least 12 times during the course of their relationship. Both, of course, have moved on, but a part of me hopes that Herman still listens to this album every day of her life. I like to imagine that she wakes up every Sunday morning, when rain is falling, and listening to Levine soulfully calling out to her hoping that someday it will lead him back to her.
Even “Sweetest Goodbye,” presumably a break-up song, is inherently a love song. About the end of their relationship Levine sings: “I’ll never leave you behind / or treat you unkind,” and even with a tear in his eye he takes her goodbye as the sweetest that he ever did receive. This is where Levine succeeds in songwriting on this album. He’s romantic but he doesn’t gush. He writes about Jane in a way that reveals both of their flaws and insecurities and complexities but, in the end, he revels in them.
Sure, these days Levine, now a coach on The Voice, and his band mates are singing pop songs about pay phones and moving like Mick Jagger. And, yes, at seven years old, “Songs About Jane” didn’t mean much. But 14 years later I’m still waiting for “Songs About Daniela” to be released, and I’ve got Maroon 5 to thank for that.
Daniela is a journalist based in Brooklyn, originally from Texas. You can follow her on Instagram if you like.