Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Let's Talk About Glambert


It's time for me to say a few words about Adam Lambert as the release date for his second studio album draws nearer.  It's clear to everyone, fans and non-fans, that Adam Lambert is not only a superhuman singer, but a genuinely good man.  Adam has always supported philanthropic causes near and dear to his heart, whether it be involvement in LGBTQ activism or raising money for clean drinking water.  Outspoken, high-spirited, courageous & daring, Adam Lambert stands far apart from other POP acts who lack temerity & personality.  Guided by his gift & a true moral compass, Adam delivers passionate & provocative performances other singers could only dream of.  Yet, Adam is consistently under-appreciated. Why? 

There is, of course, a deeply-entrenched social bias against openly gay male performance artists, especially flamboyant ones.  Gregory wrote about this extensively last November.  Adam has valiantly battled prejudice since the very beginning of his career - not to mention carrying the burden of being the first openly gay mainstream POP artist.  But the other factor limiting his career is less clear cut: Adam Lambert's music.

I mean it kindheartedly when I say that so far, I am concerned about Trespassing.  The first 2 singles just don't sound like winners.  Sure, they are graceful love songs that exhibit Adam's heavenly vocals (hot damn can he hit notes!), but ultimately, they falter.  Though it premiered at #76 on the Hot 100 with virtually no promotion, Better Than I Know Myself appears stagnant.  Now we have Never Close Our Eyes, which is a fun but ultimately unexceptional track.  It sounds like Dr. Luke put in a C+ effort while Adam, of course, put in 350%.  And, as much as Never Close Our Eyes sounds current, I don't think it's realistic to expect a high position on the charts (I do, however, expect good things from Cuckoo if it is the third single, which hopefully, it is).

But Adam Lambert is a first-rate performer working with the best in the business, shouldn't he be #1? Yes, he absolutely should!  But is Trespassing going to get him there?  As much as I want it to, I have my doubts.  Although working with Dr. Luke provides Adam's songs with a modern, glossy finish, part of the end result is that his songs sound tragically generic.  Generic?  Yes, unfortunately, I said generic.  I know, how in the world can the Broadway-experienced Adam Lambert make a generic song?  This question continues to baffle me.

Watch Adam perform Cuckoo, one of the most exciting upcoming tracks off of Trespassing, below.

However, after much thought & many conversations with Gregory, I have a few suspicions - the most important one being that I suspect Adam's team factors in the great risk of trying to make a POP star out of a Broadway talent - namely, they fear making an album that sounds like Adam Lambert: The Musical.  To avoid this, Adam's producers compress his powerful voice into a robo-POP format that just does not fit his singular talents.  Moreover, most of his singles as lyrically limited to dramatic love songs that lack boldness or grit (this is one of the main reasons why I would have preferred Trespassing or Cuckoo as the next single, they are the kind of gutsy POP-rock jams that only Adam could do justice).

What are the alternatives?  Well, for one, I would prefer that Adam worked with different people.  Writing a song with, say, Greg Kurstin, is a great idea.  After all, Kelly Clarkson worked with Greg in part because of his ability to let her vocals carry the song without over-processing them.  Give Adam a GUTSY song!  Likewise, working with Ryan Tedder could produce a raucous, beat-heavy song that adds a bluesy atmosphere & compliments Adams vocals (wouldn't his cover of Rumour Has It be epic?).  Or even better, Adam should work with Liam Howe, who gave us the brilliant & unconventional Mowgli's Road.  Adam should be making stomping, rock 'n roll tinged, operatic POP, instead of music that is shmalzy, over-saturated, & conventional.  No Bruno Mars-penned tracks are needed, & the less Dr. Luke, the better. We can't keep giving Adam formulaic POP when he clearly has so much more to offer.

My strongest evidence is the 2009 track Time For Miracles, written for the blockbuster film 2012.  Poignant & timeless, in Time For Miracles Adam is free of the electroPOP song structure that suffocates his sound.  Sure, electroPOP sounds good on Adam, and at certain times, even great.  But does it do justice to all that he can deliver? 


I firmly believe in a long-standing, trail-blazing future career for Adam, especially as POP music leans more & more towards rock 'n roll.  But when will he be front & center like he deserves?  Some might say "well, look, he already has a Grammy for Best Male POP Vocal Performance," to which I say: why stop there? Why shouldn't Adam receive both popular praise and critical acclaim?  Furthermore, why can't he make an album that sounds current but doesn't limit his sound?

I don't have all the answers, though I wish that I did.  I do know, however, that the millions of loving Glamberts will never let Adam drift from view, however peripheral.  Thank goodness.

Unapologetically,

Minna

19 comments:

  1. So weary of people trying to push Adam Lambert into the box of the rawk genre. You're not alone, the New York Times and EW do it too, but it's time to stop critiquing the imaginary career you think Adam should have and actually critique the one he wants to pursue.

    How many times does Adam have to say that he cut his teeth listening to Madonna, Michael Jackson and Prince? Hah even as far back as his Idol audition he told us his very first concert was Paula Abdul. He adores pop music and it comes from a completely organic place in his formative years, more so than his Dad's vinyl record collection of dusty old classic rock hits.

    I know the Idol branding was powerful, what with Kara pounding the table and yelling "Rawk God" and Ryan calling him a "rocker" every 10 minutes, hell much of the media has bought into it too, but try actually listening to Adam himself as he talks enthusiastically in countless interviews about how he loves the electropop and often funky sound he is dishing out for this album.

    If you lay his latest single Never Close Our Eyes up against the bulk of others in its own genre, it is blindingly clear that his gorgeous vocal is front and center in a way is unusual in most of today's pop hits. Why not focus on that rather than condemning him for not embracing the genre that apparently meets your approval for him, and a laundry list of producers that are the opposite of the direction Adam wants to go in? A review should review, not attempt to armchair A&R an artist.

    Also, it would probably add more weight to your review if you actually waited until his album came out and -- I know this is a crazy concept -- listened to the whole thing, instead of relying on single releases and preliminary low quality snippets. Just sayin.

    It's nice that you seem to appreciate Adam's talent, but since he Executive Produced this album himself and has referred to it as his dream album, he is obviously not secretly hankering to follow your rawk daydreams for him.

    p.s. Also, Ryan Teddae? Really? Tiime for Miracles?! REALLY?!! LOL forever.

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  2. Ryan Tedder gave Adam a song for his last album. It's called Sleepwalker.

    Time For Miracles is a god damn gorgeous example of Adam's vocal ability. However, its not Adam. Trespassing is HIS. I wouldn't want him to do anything other than what comes from a genuine place. Otherwise he'd just be a poser. Why would he try to be someone else when he's worked so hard to accept who he is? He is an inspiration for others who struggle with that so it would go against his values.

    I used to think that pop was a lesser genre, not worthy of real artists. Adam has opened my eyes however. There are actual real ARTISTS out there in pop. Not everyone, but a select few. There is good music in every genre. And although I used to be a strictly rock and alternative rock chick, I've gotta say a lot of the rock out there at the moment is pretty boring and in no way does that genre have any more credibility than another.

    Heart, soul, and musicianship go into EVERY great song. I don't care what style or format it comes in. Whether someone likes it or not is only a matter of opinion which everyone has a right to. So its cool if you like more of the rock thing about Adam but I think this fits him better. And evolving is necessary as an artist anyway.

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  3. You seem to be judging adams album on a select few songs. First I agree on the first two singles, but point out that these are NOT Adams own written songs. I think the label is playing it safe with these songs but they are not representative of the album.

    This disconnect reflects the label's desire to tread these new waters carefully. Adams challenges do in large part stem from his unique position as the first openly gay artist to try to achieve commercial success and this DOES impact the rest of the story. Fever was a fun and sexy song on his first album that radio refused to play, despite a pop landscape littered with S&M, Tonight Im Fucking You, I Kissed a Girl and I Liked it, etc.

    His new album has a song called Naked Love which I have already seen referenced to on a conservative site as OMG! gay guy singing such a song. But meanwhile in more open minded countries he had many more singles released from his first album and had many chart.

    You mention TFM, yes lovely song although elevated significantly by his vocals vs the song, but in either care, that WAS released in the US and got no airplay here at all. Also, Adam did do a Ryan Tedder song. Tedder is formulatic pop ballads, and while Sleepwalker was good this was not chart gold trust me - tho again, the live version was one of my favorites of Adams show because he KILLED it with his vocals.

    You seem to like Trespassing and Cukoo, well those ARE Adams own songs as are the others on the album. I think if you listen to the whole album you will realize that Adam has found his artistic "voice" and when paired with his VOICE, this album is pop gold in all the good ways.

    Shady, Kicking In, chokehold, the atmospheric Broken English, the slow sad ballad Underneath, these all show the many facets of Adam the Artist and Adam the Vocalist.

    Im going to check back next month to see teh album review, I am confident you may agree afterall that the track he is on is a great one.

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  4. Not in complete agreement with whole article though do feel his first two singles from Trespassing were not the best off the album. Did you hear the rest of snippets from the album? I particularly favour Shady, Kickin In and Naked Love as hits. Check them out if haven't already http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bzewf7nnCAc

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  5. Please do not worry about Trespassing! I truly believe this album is gonna make Adam the huge pop star he deserves to be. This was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I hope you get behind Adam and his UK Glamberts to get him more recognition over here THANK YOU ♥

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  6. While I agree with you about BTIKM and NCOE, your entire argument is cast into doubt with your championing of TFM. TFM in fact proved that rock is not the way Adam will achieve commercial success and stardom.

    Yes, Adam sang the hell out of that old-fashioned rock song. And yet... It got no airplay (even on rock radio) and sold very little. Why? Because it was totally out of step with current music, even current rock music.

    If Adam is to be a success in today's music market, he HAS to make TODAY'S music and old-fashioned rock is not it.

    He also has to make great music. I don't know why anyone at RCA thought BTIKM was a great introduction to this second era (or why they issued it with no promotion). I personally do not care for NCOE (I like ALL of the other snippets released from the album 100X more than NCOE), but I'm hoping that this time RCA knows what's doing and will promote it.

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  7. i think the problem is not in "adam lambert's music", but in his singles, which in turn is a linked to the "deeply-entrenched social bias against openly gay male performance artists".

    Adam meets a lot of resistance from US radio because he is an openly gay male and in turn, the record company goes with radio 'safe' choices like Dr Luke and Bruno Mars because they probably believe that is the best chance they have of getting his music spun.

    You've listed both Cuckoo and Trespassing as more 'gutsy and exciting'. I'd say they are also more quintessentially Adam and that there are many other tracks on the album that are far more interesting than the singles, Shady and Kickin In have a fun funky vibe; Outlaws of Love is an equality anthem from somebody that actually lives it rather than bandwagons; Chokehold brings that dark sexy vibe that has been making folks squirm in their seats since Ring of Fire on idol and Underneath has a true honesty and vulnerability to it. Not saying that all of those could have been singles, but some of them could.

    The snippets from Trespassing are truly amazing yet the album is going to probably going to end up struggling because the record company went with bland and 'safe' for the singles rather than show any belief in Adam as an artist.

    Oh and lol @ Adam should make TFM songs. IMO, he is doing exactly what he should be doing, he just needs the record company to stop being complete pants.

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  8. The album is amazing - it is exactly as HE wants it to be so it is exactly how it should be. Never Close Our Eyes is exquisite. It just started being played on radio yesterday here in NZ and debuted on the Top 20 at number 8.

    Over the nay-saying. If something is not YOUR PERSONAL taste then just say it that way, doesn't mean others aren't going to love it.

    Life's his light and liberty and he'll shine when he wants to shine.

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  9. I guess you have not listened to Underneath or Shady or Kickin In or Pop That Lock, Chokehold, Broken English, Trespassing. Underneath will shatter you. A song and a singer coming to together for a musical experience of a lifetime. You go with 2 songs that are pure pop of today, but listen to the others and then review. Outlaws of Love another. This is Adam and they are all not in any box and are out of this world!! I do so agree about Cuckoo! Loved it from the moment I heard it and wanted it to be his first single! I knew could never trust radio with Trespassing, but Cuckoo is so crazy Cuckoo. America Radio makes or breaks you and Adam does not get a break. Never Close Our Eyes is the best Pop out there right now. Waiting to see if radio gives it its due.

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  10. I agree with you, OP. While I don't want Adam shoehorned into a genre he's not interested in, I do feel that his work is overprocessed. For some artists this is a quirk, for some it's a necessity, for some it's . . . "why?" Adam is definitely the latter.

    Without saying "ADAM IS THE MALE CHER OMG," I'd like to make a comparison: I've seen Adam live twice, Cher live more times than I'll admit to here (my teen years as a Cher groupie in the Believe/Living Proof era prepped me for my life as a Glambert), and yes, they are absolutely comparable in terms of showmanship and vocal power. Adam should take a leaf from Cher's book: even on her dance album, "Living Proof," and her electro album, "Believe," Cher's voice often stands alone, separate from the synth of the music (examples: "Love So High," "Dov'e L'Amore," "Song For The Lonely," "We All Sleep Alone (self-cover)"). I can tell an obscene number of Cher songs apart by their opening chords, but even for those who didn't come out of the tradition of "800 miles away? . . . ROAD TRIP!!!", as soon as Cher herself starts singing, you KNOW it's Cher you're hearing. I would totally support that sound out of Adam, and while many other Glamberts wouldn't be so blunt about it, I think they would, too--how many of us say we prefer him live over Memorex?


    I feel like instead of blowing smoke up Adam's ass and telling him everything he's ever done is either godlike or not his fault (I refer here to the many, many people who insist that he was forced to sing Time For Miracles), we should tell him the truth: he would be best utilizing his wonderful instrument by leaving the synth for the instruments, instead of turning his voice into a near-unrecognisable mess.

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    1. I agree. And people wonder why he isn't being recognized more for his voice (I've seen many comments to this effect). I love him to pieces, but that doesn't mean I have to agree with everything he says, does, or thinks. And yes, he's entitled to do whatever the h**l he please with his music, and we're entitled to comment on it. To each his own really.
      I agree that many of the other song snippets we've heard are already better than the first 2 singles. My vote for the next single would be Shady, Trespassing, or Cuckoo, Naked Love is OK too (although when I FIRST heard NL, I admit I thought it was too processed, I've since backed off that opinion).

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    2. Really??? Cher???? LMAO Sorry - I fail to see why you are comparing Adam with Cher. Cheese and chalk. Cher's music is boring (to me) and her vocals are so-so. Her sound is outdated. This is 2012 and Adam is competing in today's world. Her biggest hit of the past couple of decades (Believe) involved famously heavy use of auto-tune which is kinda ironic given you're arguing that she could teach Adam how not to process his voice.

      I dont know of anyone who's a fan of Adam's who says he's either God-like or things aren't his fault. I hate when people build "straw men" just so they can tear them down and look clever.

      Adam always takes full responsibility for his decisions, personal and musical and has been very clear about that. His fans know this. In fact, the control he has over his career is a point of pride for him. And I for one applaud what he's done and is doing. I love most of the songs on his album (what I've heard of them so far) and like the rest. His voice is front and center throughout. Occasionally there are vocal effects thrown in SOME of the tracks but for the most part his vocals are raw and pure Adam. I see nothing wrong with the use of technology to enhance the overall effect of a track by messing with ALL instruments, including vocals. I appreciate Adam's lack of conceit in his willingness to let producers mess with the vocals to do what they think works for the song. He isn't hung up about his voice - he just sings. That's one of the things I love about him.

      The sound you hear on Adam's new album is all Adam's decision. It's the way Adam wants it to sound. You don't have to like it. But I hope you would respect his choice.

      As a final point, I cannot agree that Adam's voice in any of the songs is a "mess", recognizable or not.

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  11. I just wanted to note that my reaction to the headline was "*Sigh* Must we?"

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    1. Yes! There's nothing I'd like to do more than talk about Adam. What's your problem? You care enough to make a derisive comment on an article you're not even interested in. So spill. What is your special personal beef against this perfectly nice talented bloke?

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    2. When Gregory and Minna say "let's talk," I obey!

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  12. Pan (of Thrace) 4/26/2012 7:04 PM
    Lots of questions have been haunting me since Adam released NCOE. We all know how wide his vocal abilities are, he has proved his versatility all the time , from Come to Me....to the "old-fashioned" , "dusty" Whole Lotta Love or The Show Must Go On, which, by the way, are the songs that revealed how great his voice is. His rendition of The Show... in Belfast is the most powerful, the most dramatic one, ever. If Adam had begun his career with BTIKM or NCOE he would have had even a harder time to be accepted. He loves pop, so be it. But why such a computerized pop? Why does the syncopated rhythm covers his beautiful voice? Why is Adam's voice almost unrecognizable, pushed somewhere behind? Why didn't the producers let him sing NCOE his way?
    At least, Cuckoo, Shady lyrics sound fresh, cheeky, even irreverent, the tunes are appealing , the voice is raspy, the raspier the better for me. Underneath is another story
    an exquisite mixture of an old, dear piano (such a cinematic image , by the way), the synthesizer sounding soft, then like a stormy sea accompanying the lament of the man. Masterpiece!

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  13. The validity of this review is called into question when I read this line, "Some might say 'well, look, he already has a Grammy for Best Male POP Vocal Performance.' to which I say: why stop there?"

    He does not have a grammy. He was nominated for one. (This is not to say that I don't think he deserved a Grammy. He does.) But this draws attention to the lack of research which, in turn, casts a shadow over the entire review.

    For the record - I like both BTIKM and NCOE, though I like what I've heard of the other tracks much better. Adam is doing exactly what he needs to be doing - and that's music HE likes. It makes him happy. It makes his fans happy. And it will, soon enough, make the casual listener happy.

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  14. Pan(of Thrace) 4/27/2012 11:48PM
    Loving and very supportive post, tassiechick, but I don't get it, "you don't have to like it (sound) ...you would respect his choice." Song writers, critics, Brian May respect Adam or not , but we, the fans are supposed to love Adam and his choices. You seem to forget "the golden trio", sales=profits=money. Like it or not if fans don't love, they don't buy and let's be honest , only when his sales are big he will be accepted by the" elite" of pop.

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  15. Pan(of Thrace) 4/28/2012 10:41 PM
    I suppose the urge , so politely expressed, of "spilling" is addressed to me, I'm the only one who took notice of your article. I could put an end to it with an urge of mine:
    read my comments again! But it seems some more explanations are necessary. Sometimes an artist needs more than respect , love is a larger concept, it includes appreciation, understanding, support, loyalty. The relationship between an artist and his fans is complex and subtle, it is a kind of "mutual agreement" : the artist "delivers" and the fans buy or not . The sales,big sales, poor sales make the difference.... .It's so useless.!

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