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Musical Analysis- ‘Girls Like You’

Maroon 5 is not a new band. Formed in 2001, they have been a prominent voice in the music industry since they dropped their first album “Songs About Jane” in 2002. Because they have had around 17 years of experience as a group and releasing hit after hit (‘Misery’, ‘Sugar’), there is a distinct sound to the band and all of their music. A seven-member band, there is plenty of instrumentation that goes into each of the songs, Adam Levine on lead vocals, Jesse Carmichael on keyboards, Mickey Madden on bass, James Valentine on lead guitar, Matt Flynn on drums, PJ Morton on keyboards, and Sam Farrar on guitar. The most notable of Maroon 5’s sound is the constant backbeat of the drums (on the second and fourth hit if in 4/4), a prevalent guitar and/or piano riff, and of course, Levine’s falsetto vocals. In ‘Girls Like You,’ by using their sound already created, and adding a hip-hop hook featuring Cardi B. rapping during the bridge section, Maroon 5 was able to show their legitimacy as a group.

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(From left to right: Flynn, Farrar, Morton, Valentine, Levine, Madden, and Carmichael, Twitter.)

When the song first came out on Maroon 5’s newest album “Red Pill Blues,” there was no featured artist. When deciding whether or not the song needed something else, Cardi B. and a rap solo made perfect sense to Levine and the higher-ups at their record label. In an interview with Variety, Levine stated that

A feature collaboration is a matter of what feels right. It’s anyone who can elevate the song. Cardi B was perfect. She’s out there speaking her mind.” (Variety.)

Wanting to add more meaning behind the layers already present in the song, Cardi B. was the best possible choice. Shawn Holiday, the head of Urban, Sony, ATV music publishing, said

“The song came out in the midst of the #MeToo movement, which is why I wanted a female on it. With Cardi, you felt the message of the song.” (Variety).

The band and their label wanted to emphasize the message behind their song and yet at the same time show some legitimacy, and in order to both simultaneously, Cardi B. was the only answer. 

Cardi B. rose to prominence in 2017 with the release of her single ‘Bodak Yellow.’ Released on June 16, 2017, and peaked on the Billboard charts at the number 1 position, and retained that spot for 3 weeks, spending 35 weeks total in the Billboard Top 100 (Billboard). Not only was ‘Bodak Yellow’ a huge hit, but it was also a breakthrough for female hip-hop artists. The last time a female hip-hop artist reached number 1 the charts was on November 14, 1998, with Lauryn Hill’s ‘Doo Wop (That Thing).’ ‘Bodak Yellow’ stayed at its number 1 position for three weeks while ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’ retained the spot for only two. Following her success with ‘Bodak Yellow,’ Cardi B. could have gone on to write a whole album, one that most likely would have gone on to top the charts but instead, she chose to accept a feature on another song, one that had already been released, and would be re-released in order to feature her. ‘Girls Like You’ ended up peaking on the Billboard Top 100 on September 29, 2018, and remaining for seven weeks. And Cardi B. did end up coming out with another number 1 song. ‘I Like It’ featuring Bad Bunny and J Balvin was released on May 25, 2018, peaked at number 1 on July 7, 2018, and stayed at number 1 for one week.

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(Lauryn Hill, left, and Cardi B., right, Truth Theory.)

This inclusion of Cardi B. was also impactful she is making a name for herself in a very male-dominated part of the music industry. Hip-Hop is a very male-dominated genre of music and the fact that she broke all the gender barriers and was able to reach number 1 on the charts shows the prestige she has already earned for herself. As explained in Tricia Rose’s “A Style Nobody Can Deal With: Politics, Style, and the Postindustrial City in Hip Hop,” hip hop’s origins are in South Bronx, in the 1970s, when the gentrification and the mistreatment of minority classes expanded into the music industry, as an outlet for all those feeling oppressed (Rose 342). These minority classes were mainly the African American Communities and the Hispanic Communities, and since it’s origination, the main participants in hip hop and rap to this day remain in the Black and Hispanic artists and remain mainly male. In the race category, Cardi B fits right in, a native of the Bronx, with her father from the Dominican Republic and her mother from Trinidad and Tobago. Cardi B is not afraid to speak her truth about her rise to fame, from a stripper to an internet star, to a successful rap artist. Rose states that

“All these artists [original DJs and rappers] found themselves positioned with few resources in marginal economic circumstances, but each of them found ways to become famous entertainers” (Rose 349).

Cardi B is no different. Her path to success is one hard fought, going against the gender norms in rap, a definition of a feminist, fighting for what she deserves.

* ‘Girls Like You’ by Maroon 5 feat. Cardi B. has been nominated in the 61st Grammys for the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance Category*