Oh Adam, Adam, Adam, what are we going to do with you?
After Adam Lambert’s “any-crotch-goes performance” on ABC’s American Music Awards, they said goodbye to his Good Morning America appearance the next morning. And that was just the beginning.
How do you solve the problem of Adam? You don't. Fixing one only creates another. Putting him in a competition gets him scrutinized, putting him in the spotlight offends people, offending people loses him a gig, losing him a gig garners him another, white-washing the coverage sparks new outrage, and if all that were not enough, ABC books convicted felon, woman-beating Chris Brown, even moving him from GMA to prime-time 20/20, after firing Adam for kissing someone.
And now, Disney/ABC is working to revise their contract language (“call it the Lambert clause”) to hold performers accountable for their unrehearsed embellishments during performance. ABC has not (yet) nixed Adam’s scheduled appearance on Barbara Walters’ 10 Most Fascinating People of 2009 special, airing Wed. December 9, 10/9c on ABC, and they’d be screwy to do so, after contributing so heavily to his fascination factor. For all their trouble, at least they'll get to reap the ratings rewards.
George Washington once hand-copied a 16th century French Jesuit text, 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation, the 1st being: Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present. The 2nd is: When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usually Discovered. And the 3rd: Show Nothing to your Friend that may affright him.
Adam didn’t get that memo — or flipped it off. “All hail freedom of expression and artistic integrity,” he tweeted after the AMA show. Hey, who’s not for that? Anybody can do anything flying that flag. But there’s a time and a place and you need to acknowledge the context. I’ll write a porno if I damn well please, but I won’t submit it to Highlights for Children. I know better.
Apparently, at the American Music Awards, Adam did not, or didn’t care, or didn’t see it that way. The latter, it seems. He was just acting out his song lyrics. “It’s not that deep,” as he has said, and the title track of his new CD, “For Your Entertainment,” is just a catchy pop song, but the lyrics could read as his personal manifesto. Oh, do you know what you got into? / Can you handle what I’m ’bout to do? / ‘Cause it’s about to get rough for you / I’m here for your entertainment. He had “no clue,” he claimed on “The Early Show” the next day, that people would get so bent out of shape.
But to choose to present himself fresh “out of the box” with an explicit S&M theme culminating in flipping off the audience (whether it’s been done before or not, by other rockers, or women, or even that night) and expect people to extrapolate that this was just one dance-y club tune out of the smorgasbord of offerings on an album most hadn’t yet heard, was either calculated, naïve, or delusional.
Naïve, I’m thinking. Adam can be snarky, but he’s not guileful. His lapse in judgment was not performing with attitude, like a rock star; it was choosing to do so in his first appearance on the world stage as a solo artist, which Lambert conceded on the Ellen show December 2nd. In the end, it was theatrics, not talent, that stole the show, but someone engineered the spectacle to be controversial, and it wasn’t just Adam getting his own way. The producers built up the shock-value expectations and made him the last act — even after the presentation of the Artist of the Year Award (isn’t that the culmination of the evening?) — when so many other proven top-billing stars were assembled. He was one of the first to be booked. The guy is news. His credit on the 2012 poster is as tall as the movie stars’. He’s provocative, dangerous, thrilling.
Adam’s still not apologizing; you can’t second-guess every artistic decision you make, but the people who were offended have a right to be so and don’t like being dismissed and flipped off when they were invited there to be entertained. And that he regrets.
So OK, the on-screen tongue jockeying and subsequent tongue-wagging work in his favor, at least for now. “The terrorist wins!” radio jock Don Bleu exclaimed. For whatever reason and there are plenty, Adam Lambert is a major button-pusher, and he pushed more of them at the AMA than a freakin’ accordian. For millions of other folks, the whole controversy should just be sent up in Jimmy Fallon’s “Who Cares Hindenburg” and go up in blazes. In this world and this time, why are we even giving this media space for more than a day? Because homophobia and civil rights and artistic expression and double standards and the responsibilities and pressures of mixing public and private life are complex and timely, hot-button issues.
And, quite obviously, he makes for great television. Predictability is boring. Adam will next be appearing on December 7 on LOGO’s NewNowNextPopLab; December 9 on the Barbara Walters Special, ABC; Larry King Live, December 15, CNN; The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, December 15, NBC; Jimmy Kimmel Live, December 18, ABC; Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve with Ryan Seacrest, December 31; and the People’s Choice Awards, January 6.
Over-exposure? Speaking only for myself, whenever and whatever the guy exposes, I’ll be watching him do it. He's been making the rounds promoting his CD with the Pink song "Whataya Want From Me?" But whatawe all want from Adam Lambert? Love him, hate him, adore him or deplore him, it’ll be hard to ignore him.