This dance-floor filler is the lead single from Maroon 5's fourth studio album, Overexposed
. The song finds frontman Adam Levine in a downbeat mood as he reminisces about a failed relationship. The song, which was produced by "Moves Like Jagger
" co-authors Shellback and Benny Blanco, was debuted on The Voice
on April 16, 2012 and released for download immediately afterwards.
The song features rapper Wiz Khalifa, whose verse is more direct than Levine's despondent lyrics. "Had a really good game but you missed your last shot," he raps. "So you talk about who you see at the top, or what you could've saw. But sad to say it's over for it, phantom roll out valet open doors." "On our last record, we had a feature with Lady Antebellum, and on this one we did one with Wiz," said Levine to Rolling Stone. "There aren't many bands that can do that!"
The song's title comes from Levine's line at the start of the song, which also serves as the hook: "I'm at a payphone trying to call home all of my change I spent on you." We're not sure where he found a payphone and why he didn't call on his cell.
The 493,000 units logged by this song in its debut week broke the record for most digital download sales by a group over a 7 day period. The total was almost 30,000 more than the Black Eyed Peas, who set the previous best in 2009 with "Boom Boom Pow
." Flo Rida holds the ultimate record with "Right Round
's" 636,000 in February 2009.
Maroon 5 had intended to pursue a "no guests" policy for Overexposed but the opportunity to involve Khalifa was too good to pass up. Levine told MTV News he was glad the band bent the rules to get the Pittsburgh rapper. "He's already so huge, but he hasn't really done many big pop records, actually, so just the idea that he'd be interested in doing it was enough to get him involved. It was too good to pass up," he said. "He's a wonderful guy, he's so creative and so quick... watching him in the studio, he was just so in it, within 30 minutes he had this incredible verse and he'd already knocked it out."
The song's music promo sees Levine escape from a bank hostage scenario only to be pursued by the police across the Californian desert. "The video is this crazy thing; it's about a bank robber, it was actually an idea that I had, and Sam Bayer, who's a brilliant director is doing it," the singer told MTV News. "I work at a bank and I wear these glasses that are really a bit creepy and maybe make me look like a child molester. It's a real go-for-it, swing-for-the-fences video, I get brave and I steal a gun from one of the guys and try to be a bad-ass, which is weird, because I'm not a badass."
The clip was directed by Samuel Bayer, who told Interview
magazine, "I got on the phone with Adam Levine and we talked about using machine guns, maybe a car chase and a hot model. How can I say no to that?"
Bayer also directed the Maroon 5 video for "Animals
Levine did most of the stunts in the video himself and he told E! that all the clothes worn were from Men's Wearhouse. "I didn't want any of it to seem stylized," he said. "I wanted it to feel as much like it was really happening as possible."
In the United Kingdom, a sound-a-like cover by a collective named Precision Tunes debuted at #9 on the Singles Chart, a week before Maroon 5's version was released.
Maroon 5 gained their first UK chart-topper with this song, having had a couple of near-misses. The group spent two weeks at the #2 spot with 2007's "Makes Me Wonder
" and four years they were stuck in the runner-up spot for seven weeks without ever reaching #1 with "Moves Like Jagger
Asked by UK newspaper The Guardian why so many people relate to the song, given that they barely use payphones anymore, Levine replied: "I think in the age of the cellphone the payphone has transitioned from this thing we used to use on a very regular basis to this thing that is only associated with being used by someone under duress or in an emergency. If you're using a payphone that illustrates the point that you're struggling somehow or you've lost your cell. You're stranded. It indicates something much more than it used to mean, and that's kinda cool."
Regarding the line "Fairy Tales are full of s--t," Levine explained to The Guardian: "I'm talking about fairy tales in general. The disillusionment one experiences through being let down by love. I think a lot of people would argue that some people are lucky enough to live the fairy tale. But then there are times when they wake up and think: 'his is all crap.' That happens to me sometimes."
Benny Blanco told the story of the song to Artist Direct
: "I was down in Virginia," he explained, "and two of my writers Ammar Malik and Daniel Omelio "RoboPop" were kicking it down there as well. They were working on ideas. They started this thing on an organ and sent it over to me. The first thing I heard was, 'I'm at a payphone.' I was like, 'Holy f--k, that's ridiculous. We've got to elaborate on that.' We tweaked it a little bit. I sent it to my friend Shellback. I was on a train to Boston, and he shot an idea right back. We tweaked it more. When we write songs, the lyrics will be nonsense with the melody at the beginning. We sat on it for a month or so, and it all came together."
Blanco told Artist Direct about Wiz Khalifa's contribution: "I love it when there's a weird collaboration that doesn't make sense on paper," he commented. "I said, 'Wiz you've got to jump on this track.' Five minutes before he showed up, I realized I didn't have a beat for the bridge. So I made the beat really quickly. I want to catch you off guard. When you're listening to it, you have no idea he's going to come in."
In peaking at #2 on the Hot 100, this became the highest-charting hit with the word "phone" in its title. The previous best had been Soulja Boy Tell 'Em's 2009 hit "Kiss Me Thru The Phone
," and Lady Gaga's 2010 single "Telephone
," which both reached #3.
The song tied the record for spending the most weeks in the top three of the Hot 100 without reaching #1. It spent 15 weeks bouncing between #2 and #3 on the chart equalling the top three runs of LeAnn Rimes' "How Do I Live
," Shania Twain's "You're Still The One
" and Timbaland's "Apologize
," which all peaked at #2.
Levine has known Jake Gyllenhaal since kindergarten. In 2007, he appeared with the actor in a Saturday Night Live Digital Short called Iran So Far.
Levine made the winning shot for his local YMCA championship basketball team at the age of six, and his love for the sport has continued ever since. "And if that shot had bounced off the rim all those years ago? Who knows," he told MSN, "Maybe today I'd be a serial killer or something."
Adam Levine worked as writer's assistant for the TV show Judging Amy before Maroon 5 hit it big. The show's producer Barbara Hall was a family friend.
Adam Levine is a self-proclaimed car nut. He drove for a time a 1971 Mercedes 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet, which he swapped in December 2011 for a vintage Porsche convertible.