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It put me on this trajectory, and I love it." (To be sure, the Los Angeles native has not given up his penchant for motorcycles, nor has his romantic life taken a hit; Levine, who keeps a yoga instructor on his payroll and shares a Hollywood Hills bachelor pad with an old pal, is dating Victoria's Secret model Behati Prinsloo.) STORY: Five of Maroon 5's Music Milestones It was two years ago that Levine's childhood friend-turned-longtime manager Jordan Feldstein, brother of actor Jonah Hill (né Feldstein), reached out to NBC about its new singing show, but at the time Levine required convincing."I scoffed at it initially," he admits, acknowledging that his bandmates similarly were skeptical."If I'm somewhat out of it, you'll know why," he says, his head cocked awkwardly to one side.Between sips of a red eye -- a caffeine jolt of coffee mixed with espresso -- he reveals himself at once charming, cocky, self-deprecating, self-aware, funny and grateful.
During the breaks, the exec watched from the studio audience as Levine charmed the crowd with song requests.
The genre of reality television had been a massive turnoff.
"It's just a bunch of f---ing assholes who are fame whores," he says without naming names.
A fourth cycle of the singing competition -- its first with Shakira and Usher temporarily replacing Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green -- begins March 25, and it can't arrive soon enough for NBC, whose ratings have plummeted from first to fourth place without .
Its dependence on the show has turned Levine into the improbable face -- if not the savior -- of the network.