Adam Lambert can do no wrong.
Or so I was led to believe, judging by some fans’ reactions when I criticized his first Idol tour performance. “No true Glambert would ever say that!” But after he “loses his mind at AMA, has sex on stage,” even diehard Glamberts are taking sides in the controversy the guy seems to live for, given his appearance at the American Music Awards November 22, primetime on the ABC network.
Right: Adam at the Portland opening of the Idol tour, photo by Adrianne Martin
As one of the menopausal many who were swept away in the tsunami of Adamania during season eight of American Idol, I eagerly awaited the day I would hear Adam's first big single on the radio. So I woke myself up for the 6:55 debut broadcast on Ryan Seacrest’s October 30th show. I had no idea what to expect, but I’d become apprehensive as soon as I’d heard his CD’s title, For Your Entertainment, the lamest, tamest route this wild child could go, something better suited to Kate Smith or Jim Nabors.
Then when I saw the cover my jaw dropped. Why would one of the world’s most photogenic men pick a cheesy piece of fan art for his debut album? I was stunned to learn it was a photograph, and agreed when one web site named it one of the worst album covers of 2009, saying he looked like ”the bastard alien lovechild of Lisa Frank and Bonnie Tyler.” Homage or not, as he intended, it was cornier than Iowa.
The title made more sense when I learned it was the name of the first single, but when I heard the opening notes of the song itself, I knew it had not been written for my entertainment. I’m old fashioned. I like music to come from musical instruments. I like to be able to identify what instrument it’s coming from. So when I heard that toy-tinny synthy opening my heart sank. Bummer. It was just another catchy pop song any pop singer could sing.
This tacky trifecta of album title, cover, and choice of single did not bode well. At 7:07 I tweeted, “Adam Lambert, who is advising you?” At 7:15 someone else tweeted, “who heard Adam Lambert's 'For Your Entertainment' this morning on Ryan Seacrest radio show? What did u think?”
I shot back my first impression, “Over-produced pop-fluff disappointment.” I was unaware, at the time, that I was addressing the writer of the song, Claude Kelly. But even Kelly seemed taken aback by Adam’s AMA performance of his song, judging by his tweets:
aiight. Adam Lambert is closing this biyaatch. c'mon Glambert.
ok here we go. this is my song
there was a lot of riskque-ness in there…the silence on the my twitterfeed means u guys r shocked or too scared to say what u think LMAO
i think maybe they tried too hard for shock value…
1 weird thing about adams song is that they were bleeping words in the song for no reason: i didn’t write curses in that song. #shockvalue?
Was it all about shock value? The announcer hyped his upcoming performance as “eye-popping,” “must be seen to be believed,” “the performance everyone will be talking about tomorrow.”
I don’t shock easily. I’m an adult San Franciscan and half my friends are gay. But did Adam take it too far? Actually, I don’t care. Sex? Bring it on. Nor do I care about monitoring artists’ actions as inappropriate. I’m nobody’s moral guardian. What disturbed me about the performance was that it felt gratuitous and even somewhat hostile. Who was he flipping off? Just whoever doesn’t approve of him? Wasn’t he supposed to be “here for [our] entertainment”?
In case you can’t tell, I love this guy. He glam-rocked my world, and I want him to succeed and big-time. This performance was not worthy of him or his talent because it wasn’t about his talent. His voice is extraordinary, but there were plenty of exceptional voices on the AMA stage and Adam's amazing range is not what the water-cooler gossip will be about. When I saw Cirque du Soleil’s X-rated “Xumanity” I called it “a Vegas sham of sex, not true eroticism.” That’s what this reminded me of. It was not a fun exploration of human sexuality but a disingenuous display of it. Plus, nerves may have contributed to making his trademark bumping and grinding feel self-conscious.
As Rachel Sklar put it, “In this seen-it-all age of the meta, the dramatic, fearless, hyper-sexualized personas of Gaga and Glambert are less transgressive than reflective — two operatic baroque, characters less pushing the envelope than wearing it…he just didn’t wear it well.”
So did Adam Lambert do wrong? For me, a fan from day one, he made some disappointing choices his first time out, but I remain a fan. My collector’s edition of the CD is in the mail and I hope it does more to showcase his voice than what I have so far heard. I hope I love it, like I love his look, his spirit, his bravado, his vulnerability. I’ll meet him halfway on anything he does.
As for the world, did Adam make a career blunder? For Your Entertainment is now on the market. If it's true that audaci favet fortuna – fortune favors the bold — perhaps a fortune is indeed coming his way. But as Jay-Z put it when he picked up his award for Favorite Male R&B/Hip Hop Artist, “Men lie. Women lie. Numbers don’t.”