Just as Adam Lambert dragged a woman across the stage in his American Music Awards performance, he dragged me into the pop music arena after forty years as a classical music lover. I don’t discount all of pop, but I find Top 40 formulas in general cliché, repetitive, over-produced, often juvenile and at worst, undistinguished. For instance – -Colbie Caillet and Taylor Swift — are they the same person? Their music is as interesting as a dishrag.
Lambert couldn’t get no satisfaction on the stage of American Idol as one of the Top 36, but he gave me plenty and I’ve been listening ever since, anticipating his first solo outing with a mixture of excitement and dread. Would it be all he is capable of, or just another AI-engineered throw-away? On first hearing, I dismissed the title track, “For Your Entertainment,” as pop fluff, but it has willy-nilly imprinted itself on my brain as the soundtrack of the sexiest music video this side of paradise. The thing is hotter than boiling magma.
Note to self: also never judge a CD by its alarming web-streaming 30-second snippets. Apart from the dreadful art direction, the CD does not disappoint; in fact I was astonished by its wealth of interesting material. Matthew Bellamy’s middle-eastern-flavored “Soaked,” delivers something I rarely hear in pop music: a beautiful melody, perfectly suited to Lambert’s range, power, and heart. And Adam’s yearning, anguished performance of Pink’s haunting, simple ballad, “Whataya Want From Me?” brought tears to my eyes. Even the sappy overblown Hollywood-epic anthem “Time For Miracles” has won me over, with vocals Brian May of Queen predicted would “make jaws drop all around the world.”
The least effective songs are ones too ordinary to waste his voice on. The sleepy Lambert co-written “Broken Open” sounds like KD Lang on valium, and the bizarre wah-wah effects and drum-kit beat turned me off to Linda Perry’s “A Loaded Smile.” Another, “Aftermath,” is too generic a noisy rocker with AI coronation-style lyrics. They’re the only ones excluded from my FYE Faves playlist.
That leaves 13 highly listenable songs out of 16 (14 on CD and two more available as ITunes downloads), a pretty good track record, as it were. I could see any number of them climbing to the top of the charts given the airplay: Lady Gaga’s “Fever,” “Strut,” “Sure Fire Winners,” the disco-romp “If I Had You,” “Pick U Up,” or the two bonus tracks: “Down the Rabbit Hole,” and “Masterplan.”
All these tracks give out a happy, danceable energy and any one of them is more pleasing than the Kings of Leon No. 1 snooze-fest “Use Somebody,” but “Sure Fire Winners,” and “If I Had You” top my iTunes playlist. In “Pick U Up,” Adam hits the high note you’d expect him to, then surpasses it and stays in that register for the rest of the song. “Fever” makes me itch for an Adam-Gaga dream-team tour right now.
I read on a comment board that had it been all about the music, not his personal life, as Adam often stated during his AI run, that he wouldn’t have gone on the show to begin with. There are those who hold that AI is the biggest bullshit fraud/charade in music, a pop culture travesty ridiculing and exploiting marginal talents with over-inflated dreams — but even if so, Adam Lambert was the diamond among the zirconium. I say, blessings upon American Idol for delivering to us the glittery alien from Planet Fierce! We’ll take him however we got him.
Considering that FYE was put together in six months, during two-and-a-half of which Adam was on a 50-city tour, this is an impressive debut from the first American Idol contestant to walk onto its stage already a star. Less than one year later, he is peer to the artists he admired as a fan. Apparently he needn’t drag us kicking and screaming to buy the disc. He was predicted by USA Today to ring up 230,000 sales in his first week (actual numbers are coming in just under 200,000) compared with Idol winner Kris Allen’s 80,000. I am confident that “For Your Entertainment,” and Adam himself,are surefire winners with a long shelf life. Mazel tov, Glambert.Powered by Sidelines