Adam Lambert – The Ego Has Landed
Adam Lambert has gotten exactly what he wanted today – countless people all over the country have been talking about his AMA performance. I didn’t watch the AMA’s, but I watched three performances today on YouTube – his, Lady Gaga’s, and Kelly Clarkson’s. Much to my chagrin, I’m going to give Adam what he wants and give my thoughts on his show closing performance.
As a musician, I have always avoided participating in music competitions. To me, that’s not what music is about. So I didn’t initially jump on the American Idol bandwagon. But there have been a few seasons that I paid at least some attention:
- I watched the last part of the inaugural season and rooted for Kelly Clarkson
- I watched several elimination episodes until Sanjaya was voted off (yes, he annoyed me that much)
- I happened to watch Adam Lambert’s audition episode, and I watched the last half of this season
Unlike the rest of the judges, Simon was very critical of Adam at his audition, calling him too Broadway. While I would normally have agreed, I thought Adam was THAT good of a vocalist that he could tone it down and sing basically anything he wanted to. I was blown away. I didn’t watch any episodes after that – for a while, at least.
But the Bert Show on Q100 gave recaps of the performance episodes each Wednesday and played song samples of the top contestants. One song stood out to me, and it was Adam’s reading of Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire.” I am not overly familiar with Johnny Cash’s catalog, but I thought Adam’s version was incredibly self indulgent and contrived. It so turned me off, I wanted him voted off. (If you want to talk about an amazing remake, watch Johnny Cash’s video to his cover of Nine Inch Nail’s “Hurt,” which is easily one of the most moving and haunting videos ever made.)
At the same time, another performer began to gain notice due to his deft song selection and interpretive skills – Kris Allen. So I began to watch the show to actively cheer for Kris. The fact that Kris plays acoustic guitar appealed to me – not to mention that he’s cute as hell. I loved his versions of songs such as Donna Summer’s “She Works Hard For The Money” and Kanye West’s “Heartless” because he made them his own while still honoring them.
Each week I wondered what song Kris would choose and how he would arrange it, and I always knew that no matter what style of song Adam chose, no matter how soft a ballad, he would find a way to stick his tongue out and yell. I was thrilled when Kris won (and yes, I bought his CD last week). But I will also sadly acknowledge that there were probably a lot of people who voted for Kris simply to vote AGAINST Adam because he was the GAY American Idol contestant.
So the fact that I’m a gay man – and an out gay artist – leaves me feeling a bit conflicted as to why I have such strong negative feelings about Adam Lambert. Part of me wants to cheer him for being out there and pushing boundaries. But his performance last night, and his recent handling of the media, typifies exactly why I don’t.
Let me just say that I am not a prude. I am not opposed to two men kissing – quite the opposite. I am all for pushing boundaries, for creating dialogue, for promoting change and acceptance. There are ways to do that, while still promoting art. Adam Lambert’s AMA performance was none of that – it was simply a hot mess. It lacked any redeeming value, the song was mediocre, his vocals were atrocious, and most predictably, he screeched through half of the song.
For weeks leading up to the release of his CD For Your Entertainment, Adam has posed for provocative photoshoots (kissing girls – oh my!), done provocative interviews (”girls are hot.”), talked about his chubby, bad skinned past, and revealed one of the worst CD covers in recent history. He has basically done everything possible to generate column inches that will hopefully translate to CD sales. And he’s done it very well.
Entertainment Weekly has given Adam a lot of press coverage lately, first for his supposedly unfair treatment by OUT Magazine’s editor, who wrote an open letter to Adam about his publicist’s request to present him “not too gay.” Adam said OUT had gone too far, that every gay man is different – that we’re not all the same. EW seemed to side with Adam. Regarding Adam’s AMA performance, EW’s resident Idol expert Michael Slezak didn’t like it, while Ken Tucker (who I often agree with) said, “As a TV event, he was splendid.” Ken even went as far to say that the music was beside the point, that it was Adam’s chance to break free from American Idol. Hello, Ken? It was the American MUSIC Awards, not the American TV Awards.
So Adam, last night you asked, “Do you like what you see?” Well, no I don’t. And to quote you, all gay men aren’t the same. Sometimes I prefer someone who doesn’t hide behind a contrived image, who still has depth and “realness” even when the image takes center stage, who can pick up an acoustic guitar and reveal the true song by stripping it down, who doesn’t scream just because he can, who respects the music enough to let a song simply breathe. Kelly Clarkson’s AMA performance of “Already Gone” is a perfect example of that. What is most sad to me is that you will probably sell more CD’s than Kris Allen BECAUSE of the things that bug me the most, while never showing the boy behind the makeup and screaming voice. While Kris Allen may not have the pipes you do, he has an honesty and quiet confidence that you don’t. Maybe you are being honest and I’m simply out of touch. Perhaps you are what music – and pop culture – has become. So while you may be here for my entertainment, I will say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
So what do you think? Did you love his performance? Hate it? Think I’m crazy? Post your comments and let’s discuss.