Adam Lambert and the quality of mercy
Malcolm Welsford’s decision to release two “Adam Lambert” CDs this fall will surely go down as a textbook case for PR Disasters 101. His marketing strategy was one that any Glambert could have told him was guaranteed to bring the wrath of fans raining down on his head. Furious fans have attacked his Twitter account and flooded the web with denunciations, exhorting people to not buy the CDs. And because fan mobs act more like an improvised explosive device than a precision guided missile, there has been some collateral damage that has caused added anguish.
For fans who have been living in a cave or are semiconscious from being on a juice diet, here are the bare facts: Two new albums popped up recently on Amazon.com, both featuring Adam Lambert. Titled “Beg for Mercy (Colwel Platinum Entertainment, Inc,) and “Paramount Sessions” (GONZO DISTRIBUTION L), they were produced by Welsford. If the name isn’t ringing a bell, Welsford is the Los Angeles producer who in 2009 released “Take One”, an album of demos by pre-Idol Adam. That album emerged shortly before the release of Adam’s debut RCA album, For Your Entertainment. These new Welsford albums seem similarly timed to exploit the imminent release of Adam’s second RCA album.
According to a series of sharply worded tweets sent out by Adam Lambert:
Beg For Mercy project is same as ‘Take One’. some songs I worked on 5 yrs ago and never finished. This release comes as a surprise to me…
It is NOT what I’m currently working on, nor does it reflect my artistic vision. Some folks will do anything to make a buck. F*ck.
the paramount sessions is the same situation. I don’t even know who steve Cooke is.
I think both projects were mastermind (but I mind) by Malcolm Welsford.
“Take One” and “Paramount Sessions” are projects conceived by Welsford, featuring songs by one Dublyn Jones. Monte, Adam and the other musicians on the albums were hired guns. They were paid, and in return, they signed over all rights to control the material, including any say over how the music would be used or marketed, or how their names could be used. If Adam had not shot to fame on American Idol, he would probably have been thrilled to have these albums come out.
Instead, Adam became a household name, was signed to RCA, and earned the opportunity to record his own solo album. “Take One” – touted as an Adam Lambert CD – was released shortly before FYE and excited fans snapped up
100,000 copies 48,000 copies in the U.S. Riding the wave of Adam’s sudden fame to peddle these demos as an Adam Lambert release was ethically questionable. To do so right before the debut of Adam’s first album – a move calculated to exploit fans – was sickening.
“Paramount Sessions” is a double album cut from essentially the same cloth. One disc focuses on tracks recorded in 2005 with Adam, and the other features a singer named Steven Cooke. Like Adam, Cooke was a hired gun who had similarly relinquished rights over the release. Unfortunately for Cooke, some overzealous fans, assuming he was part of a plot to undermine Adam’s second album, set out to sabotage his Wikipedia and social network accounts.
I initially lumped “Beg for Mercy” with “Take One”, but upon reflecting, I realized the situation is less clear-cut. Contrary to what Adam says, BFM is not “the same” as “Take One”. The songs on BFM were co-written by Adam and Monte Pittman back during their Citizen Vein days. ”It was a collaboration between the two of us,” explained Monte in his blog post on the topic. “I still think they’re great songs years later. There is a lot of heart and soul and positive energy that went into this at the time, which I cannot deny.”
As such, “Beg for Mercy” represents Adam’s vision from his pre-Idol phase. Just because Adam has moved on, should the recording be deep-sixed, locked away in a subterranean vault with a stake driven through its heart to ensure it never sees the sun? Adam is not the only one who has a legitimate interest. The recordings are also Monte’s work and represent a significant investment of effort and expense by all involved.
So let’s think about why fans are so upset. They are concerned about potential damage to Adam, arising from these CDs:
1) Not representing Adam’s current artistic vision
2) Cutting into sales of his upcoming sophomore album.
The whole mess was giving me a migraine, so I went to an expert. I consulted my husband, who is a composer and as hyperperfectionist as anyone in the business. I expected him to sympathize with Adam, but to my surprise he didn’t draw a hard line. Because of the vagaries that surround recordings, having a new CD reflect an artist’s current vision is often not possible. What matters, he said, is the quality. Are the performance and production good? If so, then Adam should make his peace with it.
Steve Cooke on his blog essentially takes this view: “I’m really happy that Adam got the break and he is in my view, the greatest male singer currently in the world. His early work should be treated with more respect, whether it’s his work for hire jobs or his co-writes with long-term pal Monte Pittman.”
Fan opinion on these pre-Idol recordings ranges widely. But it appears to be united in opposition to the way in which these albums are being released and marketed. The timing of the releases is opportunistic. What’s worse, the album titles and packaging do not provide any context, so a casual listener might be deceived into thinking these are Adam’s current work.
There is something unquestionably dishonest and distasteful about the manner in which Welsford has gone about this. Then again, we don’t know whether he reached out to Adam about obtaining his blessing. It’s possible that he did and was rebuffed, and now he’s just doing what any businessman would do, trying to maximize revenue from his investment.
The fact is that these recording are going to get out, one way or another. Adam could choose to treat them as a threat or as an opportunity. He could squeeze lemonade from these lemons.
I wish I could hit the “re-boot” button on this whole business. In re-boot world, here’s what would happen:
- Welsford begs Adam for mercy. He gives Adam a say over the timing and marketing of the albums.
- Adam agrees to this plan. “Beg for Mercy” is released as a Citizen Vein album. “Paramount Sessions” is clearly labeled as an “Adam pre-Idol” demo.
- Fans could choose to buy the albums without being made to feel like pariahs.
- An end to conspiracy theories and internecine warfare.
It’s not too late. Wouldn’t it be nice to now all join hands and sing Kumbaya…
I anticipate being pelted with rotten eggs for my modest proposal. First, there are those who argue that no true fan would go against Adam’s wishes. Did I miss Adams’ coronation as the Pope? Is he infallible, his every tweet to be treated as an eternal truth? Might it not be possible that he is a mortal who was having a bad day? He’s laser-focused on his career right now. He’s not perfect. My love and support him are not predicated on his being perfect. I’m not going to mindlessly follow his every tweet when I’m not sure it’s truly his last word on an issue.
Then there are those who assert that Welsford can never be forgiven, and that Monte was disloyal to continue to associate with him. All’s I can say is that I have no inkling of the true relationship among these individuals. I’m not going to speculate or judge. All I can be certain of is that this whole affair must be extremely painful to both Adam and Monte. They have both been put in difficult positions, and what they need right now is not more salt thrown on their wounds. They need compassion.
“If Adam had not shot to fame on American Idol, he would probably have been thrilled to have these albums come out.” I think that the only album Adam would have been happy about is “Beg For Mercy” because of the quality. The songs are by Citizen Vein, a legitimate band he formed with Monte with their original music. This production is good so it’s no wonder Monte is o.k. with it.
This whole exercise has been fascinating as I try to unravel on what principles people base their opinions. Is it because someone else, over and above Adam and Monte, is making money from it? Adam has expressed his dislike of professional paparazzi who for monetary gain, invade his personal life, even his personal space, yet we see those very photos tweeted and posted instantly and constantly by fans.
Adam has decried other fans for speculating about his personal relationships and then mudslinging over fictitious or imagined slights. Only recently Adam complained that he did not like that his fans argue over who qualifies as a “true” fan or assert a hierarchy of fanship. Has all of this stopped?
Adam fans come in all shapes, sizes, demographics etc. and each of us has our own ideas about how we celebrate or express our passion for him and his music and how we react to his missives. What disappoints Adam is when we can’t regard others’ reactions as simply different and move on. It’s okay to disagree with Adam’s position on Galliano or music suggestions or other opinions he expresses – he’s chatty and speaks very candidly, which is both a blessing and a curse. Would we have him any other way? I wouldn’t and it’s part of his charm.
Some of my twitter feed reveals very shocking language directed at anyone who disagrees with the tweeter about this issue. I am sad and disappointed about this.
Now I am going to go watch the videos from Adam’s performances at the Upright Cafe and listen to that stunning young voice sing Brigadoon, then maybe follow those with some Zodiac Show and TV appearances when he sang religious songs. Not sanctioned by Adam, not what he is doing today, but love them anyway. How many of you have the Citizen Vein videos?
It seems many people have not read Monte’s statement so here it is:
“The “Beg For Mercy” album contains songs that Adam and I wrote and recorded prior to him entering the “American Idol” competition. It was a collaboration between the two of us. Brian Frasier – Moore played drums; Rickey Pageot & Eric Mayron played keyboards on these recordings. I do not have any control of the release of any of these recordings, and I haven’t had any involvement with these songs since we recorded them. In fact, they have been out of my hands since before Adam completed Season 8 of “American Idol.”
“Because we signed all of the associated legal paperwork, they are technically allowed to release it. Additionally, I have had and continue to have no control over the timing of these releases; I couldn’t halt or accelerate them even if I wanted to. All performers make money on all recordings that were played and/or written on.”
Still true: No Worries About Adam’s Music