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How Do You Solve a Problem Like Adam?

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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.

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About Alexandra Jones

  • Peggy

    I love to wait and see what Adam wears when he entertains on different shows…I hope he stays classy cause Elvis, always was dressed classy…Adam is a brilliant entertainer and I wait just to hear what shows he is going to be on….murley you are so right there was a lot of stuff on the ama’s that wasn’t for children, not just Adams…Now maybe in the 50 and 60’s people would of been shocked but the modern generation aren’t…Love Adam….

  • nadine shantz

    I am totally confused I guess I will never understand people. They sat through Janet Jackson’s performance and many others which depicted violence and sexual acts. The kids were still up when Adam came on with his performance and they complain about Adam’s performance, which was on in my area at 10.45. The mind boggles.

  • Camber

    So much has already been said but just so you know, here in England, our collective jaw dropped and is still hanging at the laughable reaction of half of America to Adam Lambert’s AMA performance.
    You Americans that ran for your chastity belts as you saw his performance in case it impregnated you, do you know how stupid you look to the UK and the rest of Europe?? Thank goodness there are enough people in your country who have a few brain cells!

  • Lil

    Take it or leave it – the US has not had an entertainer like him since.. well, hm, Michael Jackson? Don’t know – after moving here from the EU years ago, I gave up on listening to music and for the first time in 10 years I actually PURCHASED an entire album. Heck – I am in love with the kid! His out-of-this-world talent must be nurtured but not neutered. Go Adam, and when you make it big, remember that you like Reptiles and not Rodents, haha 🙂

  • joliee

    Pink did the EXACT same move with her male dancer in 2004 on FOX, and live no less. You don’t remember??? You don’t remember because no one made a peep about it. You can see Pink grinding her male dancers head into her crotch right here (better clutch your bible)

  • Tagrid

    Of the AMAs 14.2 million viewers, of course there would be a few complaints ” even if everything had gone perfectly! Adam did nothing to apologize for! Watch this Fox Network video from 5 years ago (at 1:30) then tell me there’s no double standard. And, Aaron Hicklin deserved to be flipped off!

    I agree with you Ax – the shock value seems engineered. While Adam can always be trusted to be willing to be theatric, there seemed to be more to it with all the hype they gave his performance before and during the show, his placement at the end (after the last award), the producers, or someone seemed to give him all the rope they could, just hoping he’d use it ” and he fell into their trap. But he remains strong and proud. He’s never once blamed others ” not the producers, not the choreographer, not the sound team, and not the network ” he took responsibility for it all on his own shoulders. He manned up and took the heat off everyone else ” and no one has stepped in to help him.

    But now, ABC has itself gone over the top! Adam tweeted last night that ABC has cancelled his appearance on Jimmy Kimmel AND will not permit him to perform on the Dick Clark New Year’s Eve broadcast with Ryan Seacrest. Now that’s just plain WRONG! How long are they gonna keep this up? What does ABC think they’re doing? These are both late night shows ” their excuses are GONE! ABC SUCKS!

  • How do you solve a problem like Adam?

    You don’t, you just love him with every beat of your heart.

  • Kate

    Good column. Adam Lambert’s CD is fabulous. I wish the AMA’s could have heard the song–but it does not stop me from wanting more from this talented guy. It’s a blip-in the bigger world issues.

    No doubt all the petty-mean things people have said about him for the last 11 months fueled the AMA performance as well as the flip-off. Pressure? He has had more than most entertainers, I’m sure.

    Well, he got it off his chest and now he can just get back to what he does best–singing! I don’t want to miss out on that because his voice is a thrill to listen to and he ain’t bad looking either.

  • irisita69


  • maryann

    Love, love, love Adam Lambert!!! His cd is the best!

  • jsh

    Ahhhh, Adam. Je t’adore toujours!!!! Love his cd, love him, whether naughty or nice, which he does soooo well! hee! A voice like his doesn’t come around very often (yeah, I know, the AMA’s didn’t accentuate this fact but his fans know it’s true!)I guess he’ll have to “tone it down” for the general tv audience but I hope he let’s his freak flag fly higher if he goes on tour! I’ll be in the front row.

  • Joanne

    Adore all of Adam! Good and bad. He is an exciting bad boy, edgy, unpredictably delicious, hot, sexy, handsome, stylish, and talented. No male I can think of recently that’s had my attention like this in awhile.

  • cacatua

    I finally got Adam’s CD yesterday. I didn’t get around to playing it until today. Having heard those excerpts from it online it had sounded very electronic to me, so I wasn’t in any hurry to hear it. My first impression, playing it today, is that the sound is altogether different – still electronic but much better. They do nobody any favors apparently by making those excerpts available online. Anyway, though there are still things about it that are not my cup of tea, I think it is, by and large, quite good, especially for a debut done in that whirlwind of sudden fame and attention. Anything he could have done at the AMA’s from his album, other than what he ended up doing, would have been so much better. It was such a boring show that Adam, singing the way we know he can, would have totally blown them away.

  • ver

    LOVE HIM!!!!!!

  • Nancy

    I love his music.He will be a superstar

  • B.

    I absolutely ADORE Adam!! I was a bit surprised by his AMA performance too, mostly because his vocals were not as spot on as they usually are. I thought ‘the kiss’ was HOT!! What impresses me is that he has brought the ‘h’ word – hypocrisy – to the forefront. Many people are now forced to deal with their own double standards and views on social issues. He has unintentionally sparked a great debate on sexuality and its effect on society and television. Now (hopefully) he can concentrate on his magnificent talent!!

  • Jenny

    Adam Lambert was very naughty at the AMA’s and his vocals were horrible. He knows he made a mistake, and I don’t think his management did him any favors by not picking a different single for his debut. There are 14 hits on that CD, and I’m not kidding. The guy’s talent is superhuman, his charisma and charm stellar, and he is smart, kind, sweet and very funny. Listen to his interview on Ellen! He was lovely, she ADORES him, and he was flawless on Whataya Want from me! A star is born, no doubt! An interesting and controversial young man, but a major talent. Haven’t seen someone like him since Elvis. Don’t Hurt me, but he is a much better singer than Elvis. Adam has had vocal and theater training since he was 10. It shows. The AMA’s were an infortunate blip. I actually think he gained more fans from the AMA’s than he lost. Adam bet Gaga, Rhianna, and Shakira for first week sales. How did he do that? He’s Adam Lambert, that’s how!

  • dee wallace

    I Love him, really really love his music, and really, really, really enjoyed reading and agree with your article.

  • Sharon

    Great article & refreshing to read. I learned after a fan posted that the finger to the camera was not to the audience or us it was to the editor of OUT which makes good sense. I think the pressure of expectations of him just got the best of him. Thought he handled the fall with grace and still kept singing. Few performers can pull that off. Adam is in a talent category way above anyone in the music business today or even in last few decades. I think way to much was made of the AMA performance. I enjoyed his performance and didn’t see wht all the fuss was about until I read all articles and watched some talk shows. Adam will be a superstar and the most talked about performer since Elvis.

  • Mtnwoman

    Just a correction — the Jimmy Kimmel mini concert is DECEMBER 17.

  • Derrick

    Your article made me laugh out loud. Very nicely written, showing the diverse reactions to Adam Lambert. I must agree with you, I will be watching whatever and where ever this guy goes. He is fascination personified, love him or hate him – I have yet to hear a single person say ‘eh, could take or leave that Adam Lambert guy’. Comments are either entirely over-the-top OMG this guy rocks and his voice is out of this world, or entirely negative, this guy is gay and shrieky. Put me in the OTT admirer group – I think we will be watching him for a long time to come.

  • Jenn

    Adam’s album is brilliant!! Adam has given a graceful bow to those offended. Many of them don’t want to get over it because they are using Adam as a lightening rod for their conservative agenda. Adam is a lovely man and an enormously talented STAR – let the music go on!!

  • raepat

    Adam is a mesmerizing performer and individual. Put your seatbelts on cause we are going on a ride into the stratosphere!! AMA’s are hypocrtical and lame given the performers that went before him. I thought he kicked A$$!

  • JLM

    Adam Rocks!! I thought the finger was minimal given what Out Mag and a lot of the gay community have slammed Adam (it was for them). His AMA performance was shocking to me except the vocals were not up to his standard. Adam’s album is killer!! The more I listen the more I realize it is genius. The intricacies of his voice and genre fusion are just brilliant. I will go to see him anytime, any where!!

  • Gaby

    I Adore him!!!

    Jules. Frankie, what I perceive after watching his performance a couple of times was that he starts well but whe he drags the dancer on the floor and spins her and then pull her toward him his voice tremble, I think this coreography was not for an artist who is actually going to sing, and yes you are right he panicked, with the pressure of fulfilling expectations on him (closing etc) going through GaGa, and as he just star singing feeling his breath getting complicated, yes he panicked and as you say tried to compensate.

    I really wish Adam the best!

  • Lilly

    LOVE ADAM!! Why all the focus on the AMA performance, and not all the wonderful qualities that he has in abundance? He is insanely talented, kind, sweet, supportive of his fellow artists, open, honest and so brave. He has been as inspiration to young people both gay and straight. There have been countless testimonials by parents of gay children, who say that through his example their child gained the courage to come out, to live there best lives. He has touched the world in ways that he can’t imagine.

    That week before the AMA”s was really rough for him. He gives a wonderful candid interview to OUT magazine, and gets thrown under the bus. Haha,I knew exactly who that middle finger was meant for, and I second the motion!!

    Thanks for a great article!

  • terie

    ADAM is ranked #3 on billboard’s Top 200 in the U.S. What has been omitted is that according to reports from other countries his albums have been flying off the shelves so that should boost the numbers substantially. He is loved WORLDWIDE and his fans are all begging him to come and perform for them LIVE! ADAM is a true TALENT and should not be held to ridicule for interpreting the LYRICS of a song. His VOICE should be in the NEWS! It’s STELLAR!!

  • Kathy

    Adam is AMAZING!!!
    His new album is a masterpiece!
    I love him so much

  • Frankie

    Jules, I think you hit the nail on the head. Adam panicked. His vocals, for whatever reason – be it the sound issue that plagued others or just one of those off nights that hits even the greatest of singers – were not to his usual unearthly standard (though excellent by the standards of most of today’s artists live) and to add to it all, he tripped and was lucky to be able to hide it with a ninja roll and being able to be up in time for the next line. I think he found himself in a situation where he had to do something to make the performance memorable, whether for the right reasons or not.

  • Ella

    Hmmm ….. let me think ….. the AMAs is usually ignored outside of America ….. Adam has been hailed as a potential worldwide star from early in Idol’s run ….. he performs some “outrageous” moves ….. he and the show are reported on around the world ….. the AMAs, which people outside of America thought were the same thing as the MTV awards, get noticed a little ….. Adam, whose American version of his album was released internationally on the same day as in America, pending releases of “market specific” versions at the beginning of next year, gets noticed a lot ….. ABC make the token gesture of cancelling Adam’s appearance on GMA to add a shred of credibility to their claims of ignorance in the whole situation ….. and game, set and match to Dick Clark and Simon Fuller. Well played, gentlemen!

  • Jules

    Love him dearly. Can’t wait for his solo tour. He can be raunchy as he wants; I’m all for it. 🙂 Adam learned a valuable lesson from the AMA experience, and I think he will use that to make better choices in the future. To be honest, I think he just panicked and overcompensated because the performance was not going well. He’s human, after all. People should give him a break and show a little forgiveness. I don’t think anyone understands how much pressure he has been under the last couple of months.

  • melly

    Count me in the LOVE HIM column! How could I not love someone who got me to watch Idol for something other than the joy of mocking? The AMA performance didn’t bother me at all, I cheered him on when he macked on his bandmate! And there was so much going on I didn’t even see the crotch thing until the still photo was emblazoned across every media outlet the next day, LOL. He may be a media magnet with performances that show some serious love for spectacle, but he backs that up with that unreal VOICE of his. His CD is in heavy rotation in my car and there isn’t a single track I skip. That’s pretty impressive. Apparently I’m not the only one impressed, the numbers don’t lie. He’s the #3 seller in his debut week, ahead of Rihanna and Shakira along with other well known artists. He is one of the Top 20 in opening week sales for the WHOLE YEAR, and is one of only two artists that made that list with their debut albums, second only to the SuBo phenomenon. I’m super happy not just for him, but because this bodes well for him getting a chance to make a second record, this time having more than 3 months while simultaneously touring 52 cities. Go Adam!

  • Sabrina

    A time and place? Since when was the AMAs a family show? It has been increasingly renowned since its inception for performances and speaches that the organisers have positively encouraged in an attempt to outdo MTV. Suddenly, it all becomes an issue when something of the sort is done by an outrageously talented singer and performer who happens to be gay and who has the misfortune of having the twee little albatross that is American Idol around his neck.

  • StarLight

    Adam is the best singer and entertainer in decades, I even got an iPod just to be able to listen to him whenever I want. He is magic and he is such a sweet,beautiful soul. Yes,let’s move on, he has been grilled enough, admited he made a bad choice , it’s crazy that America can’t seem to let go of this bashing,making it so important ,get over it, I have seen way more risque performances and on ABC too,Adam has nothing to apologize for, Rock on Adam, you have so many fans that love you. You are wonderful!!

  • :Lysette

    The article may be a bit more credible if the author had bothered to do their research and would have therefore known that the finger, and indeed the whole reason for the “embellishments” to the performance, was aimed at the Editor of Out magazine who had spent the best part of the previous week criticising Adam around the net, culminating in an open letter accusing him of not being “gay enough” and being a “record company puppet”.

  • murly

    I think it’s interesting that you said this: “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.” Adam performed on the AMAs, not Sesame Street. Anyone who didn’t notice the adult content on that show (Janet’s crotch grab, Lady Gaga’s whiskey bottles, Rihanna’s rifles, Eminem’s rape mentions) shouldn’t be complaining if they stayed tune for Adam.

  • littleblackdress

    What a pleasure to read such a thoughtful piece on this challenging, uber-talented new artist — you didn’t sugar-coat, but were honest and respectful. Thank you!!
    (p.s. I love his new album and the official FYE video [a much different tone than the AMA interpretation], and can’t wait to see him live many times in the future.)

  • Rosie

    Hey Ax – nice job as always. ;o)

    I’m with you – I can’t get enough and a couple of rookie mistakes aren’t going to make me send him down to the farm team. Talent like his is rare indeed.

    I’ll take “adore him” please.

  • Katelynn

    Adam can at least back up his button pushing with some talent. Vocally he is stellar, although not at the AMAs. He should do well if his label can find a hit off his album and there are quite a few possibilities. As for those who were offended by the AMA performance, people have short memories and tend to be forgiving. I’m sure there are some who have crossed him off their list permanently but they probably wouldn’t have liked him under any circumstances.

  • carla

    Thanks for this write-up. I love Adam’s CD. I pray that he will be big in the US so he can also be big in the world. He is now making headlines in some part of Europe,Asia and NZ. The guy has talent, charisma and is so adorable. As far as i am concern, he has nothing to apologize to.

    @ Adam – your fans love so. We will always support you.

  • cacatua

    We only watched the AMA’s to see Adam, which of course ended up being the whole show. It was like torture – the whole show stunk, more or less. Then there was Adam’s performance – hmmmmmmm. One friend thought his performance was a hoot simply because when Adam rolled he could hear the mike going clun-clunk-clunk, which proved that he was actually singing live. A comedy of errors, I guess. The best thing I can say about his singing was that it was not autotuned, like on the CD version. I have enjoyed him singing WWFM in his appearances since the AMA debacle much more, and I thought your article was a good one!

  • scrabblequeenbe

    Thanks for the information on the shows that Adam will be on. Now, I know what not to watch. Has anyone ever heard of Sodom and Gomorrah? Can this world of ungodly people be far behind? I don’t think so.

  • adamaniac85

    Adam is super amazing. Although I would have loved to hear his incredable vocals that night FYE is more of an intertainment song than one to show off vocals. For anyone who doubts his vocal talent I say buy the cd and you will be blown away. Soaked, Aftermath, Pick You Up totally show off how perfect he can sing. Love Love Love him.

  • Sherry

    I absolutely LOVE this man! His voice is truly amazing, which you NEVER get in pop music anymore, and he didn’t do anything worse than any of the female performers did. I have seen videos of his performances with The Zodiac Show, which are amazing, and sat with my mom thru 2 hours or straight boredom waiting for him to grace the stage during the AI tour this past summer for 20 minutes. And that was the best 20 minutes of my 26 year long life! I can’t wait to see him on tour and I hope this incident doesn’t cause him to tone down those performances. The vocals were HORRIBLE on the AMAs but I thought the performace was HOT. Adam has rocked my world (thank god I GET IT) and keep being YOU ADAM!!! DONT CONFORM!!!! I have been thoroughly entertained….

  • ScorpioBSB

    LOVE HIM!!!!!!!!

  • YR

    AWESOME article…exactly spoke my mind! Adam always claimed he is also a “businessman”, but I guess he “forgot” that part of him for the AMA, like he “forgot” that was the first TV appearance post-Idol(right). Still love him though and it looks like he’ll survive…pending Barbara Walter’s grilling.

  • mariana


    Yes, he is a crazy sweet angel and this is what makes the whole difference between ADAM and the REST!

  • zcatz

    Adams CD is THE BEST to come out in years! He is super talented & a very nice guy. I love him!!!!!!

  • Andrea

    Yes, but what about his music ? What about his TALENT ? That’s what should be drawing the media’s attention. He is a MAJOR new star with a just-out CD which is a masterpiece. Shouldn’t we be focusing on that ?

    By the way, the “finger” at the end was not flipping off the audience, but the OUT magazine editor and others that have criticized him unfairly. Should he have done it then when it might be mis-interpreted ? No, he’s admitted that. The pressure finally got to him and he made a couple bad judgments. Let’s move on.

  • bogie

    Sure Fire Winners and Fever KICK ASS!

  • mary

    I love him, who cares if dont like him, he is the number 3 today in the billboard Ja ja jajajaja.

  • Lynn

    Love this article. It is refreshing. Adam has reflected and realized he went over the top. He is a true talent, with a kind heart. Read some of his interviews. He lent his name to Donors.org and raised over $200,000 for children’s programs, while he was on the AI tour. His cd is creative and every song is a winner. It’s time for radio airplay.

  • Elizabeth

    LOOOOOOOOOOOVE HIMMMMMMMMMMMM. Music was so boring before Adam. We are all “Going Down the Rabbit Hole” together.

  • Chris

    I did not rush out to buy his album after seeing his AMA performance, but I gotta admit, aside Gaga, he’s the only one entertaining that night. I was so bored out my fucking mind before that.

    I don’t know about ladies, buy I think any guys freaked out over his crotch action bunch of hypocrites. Come on, every guy I know has seen and seeked out things much dirtier than that.

  • sara

    Put me in the LOVE HIM category!

  • Janina

    I loved AMAs. Your post would be more believable if you were bothered by females sexual antics on that stage BEFORE 22 pm. Sorry. Sometimes US people are so unbelievable prudish and double standards indeed. In europe this “ourage” is getting ABC being mocked as silly hypocrites

  • Kerry

    I love Adams music. I was horrified by the AMA performance but the main horrific part of it for me was the horrendous vocal. Adam is one of the most gifted performers I have ever heard. Ifi had never heard him before the AMA I doubt that I would have been interested in hearing any more of his music. To me that’s the sad part. He could have won over many new fans. Instead he alienated more than a few including the fans he already had. Such a shame. His performances since reflect his awesome voice and charisma. I hope he is able to make up the ground he lost but the public has a long memory. Dixie chicks anyone?

  • LOVE HIM.. I would never miss an apearance from ADAM