When Adam Lambert lost the American Idol crown to Kris Allen on the Season 8 finale in 2009, Allen was quoted as saying, “Adam deserved this…he is seriously one of the most gifted performers I’ve ever met.” Lambert’s runner-up status is long forgotten now in the wake of his incredible winning streak among critics and on the charts since. “Whataya Want From Me,” the Billboard Top 10 hit from his debut album For Your Entertainment, earned a Grammy nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance in 2010. Lambert is currently on a roll with his follow-up album Trespassing, which recently debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, selling over 77,000 in its first week of release. His new single “Never Close Our Eyes” was penned by heavyweights Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine, Dr. Luke and Cirkut, and produced by Dr. Luke, Cirkut and The Smeezingtons.
Even while fulfilling his post Idol media and tour obligations, Lambert was a media star long before For Your Entertainment was released in late 2009. He appeared on the covers of Entertainment Weekly, Details and Rolling Stone, and his provocative performance of his title song at the American Music Awards led to complaints from various conservative organizations. Lambert’s response at the time was: “My goal…was to promote freedom of expression and artistic freedom”; he was invited back to the AMAs two years later as a presenter. Lambert embarked on his debut headlining concert tour, starting in the U.S. with fellow Idol contestant Allison Iraheta and Orianthi before performing throughout Europe and Asia. His performance in Indianapolis was captured for his bestselling first CD/DVD collection Glam Nation Live. He also released the EP Acoustic Live, which included acoustic performances from various countries.
Lambert’s Idol audition song was “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and he has played several times with legendary band Queen, singing the songs of his idol Freddie Mercury. He performed “We Are the Champions” on American Idol with Brian May & Roger Taylor of Queen, and in 2011 joined them for a special performance at the MTV Europe Music Awards in Belfast, where the band was honored with the Global Icon Award. While working on dates for his next solo tour, Lambert will be doing a string of European dates with the Queen this summer.
Seeking to prove himself as more than simply a successful Idol contestant who rode the show’s wave to success with his gold-selling debut, Lambert switched management from 19 Entertainment to Direct Management Group and boldly decided to take the reins as Executive Producer on Trespassing. In addition to co-writing nine of the 12 tracks on the album, he ensembled with an all-star cadre of award-winning artists, producers and songwriters including Pharrell Williams, Claude Kelly, Benny Blanco, Bonnie McKee, Nile Rodgers, BC Jean and Sam Sparro. By design, and with a lot more time to develop strong material and a powerful concept, it was a major shift from Lambert’s approach to For Your Entertainment, which he recorded that year on rare down moments during the Idol summer tour. He worked closely with RCA Senior VP of A&R Rani Hancock to help assemble a dream list of collaborators.
“As executive producer,” Lambert says, “I was able to be in complete creative control of the album, so even with all the collaboration and working hands on with RCA, at the end of the day, Trespassing reflects my vision, my final say. It’s my obsession, my baby. The best thing about the process this time is that I had time on my side. I was able to experiment with different writers and producers, and as the process went on I was able to see a trend of which sounds I was gravitating towards. My first album was very glam rock, and the imagery was full of feathers and glitter. I wanted a whole new direction this time. I was into moody emo stuff and was feeling dark before I started working on the new album. But the demos I was creating in that vibe weren’t clicking and I soon realized I wanted something more driven by dance funk and disco.
“I started listening to some electronica songs by Daft Punk and digging the idea of an electro modern vibe but borrowing from dance classics,” he adds. “The label suggested Pharrell Williams to help me fuse these concepts, and I flew to Miami to work with him. At first, I honestly didn’t feel cool enough to enter his studio, but he was a great guy and was very into what I wanted to do. The first part of the album takes its cue from our grooving and danceable title track, then slows down later into more of an experimental, emotional kind of place. Because it’s still me, there’s always room for a little of that over the top rock spirit. But I’ve matured a lot and so the overall song and vibe are more important than just trying to hit all the high notes. That’s something you do in competition mode, but it’s been great to learn the value of nuance as I move forward.”
Jonathan Widran is a free-lance music/entertainment journalist who contributes regularly to Music Connection, Jazziz and All Music Guide. He can be reached at Few522@aol.com.