Adam Lambert and the Spirit of Freedom
This has been an epic week. First there were Adam’s triumphant concerts with Queen. And today we celebrate Independence Day in the U.S. Throw in a big shout out to the Higgs Boson, or to be more precise, “Higgslike particle” – it weighs in at the predicted mass, but pinning down all of its properties will require years of further study. Still, July 4, 2012, is likely to go down as a historic milestone. Adam. American Independence. The Higgs. It all melds into a wonderful alloy of joy celebrating human imagination and what can be achieved when people break out of their cramped cells and aim for the stars.
In the Adam Universe, we felt yet another tectonic shift. Hard upon the heels of his Billboard #1 album release, Adam’s performances with the legendary Queen will loft his career to a new plane. In this brief tour, he will be seen live by roughly one million people. One million bodies that will experience the astounding effect of Lambert’s vocal vibrations on their molecules and have their neural circuits permanently altered by his electrifying energy and beauty.
These appearances cannot but help boost Adam’s confidence. Already, between Kiev and Moscow, we can see him gain in assurance, engaging playfully with band members and with the screaming audience. Watching Roger Taylor, Brian May and Adam jam on stage, having a royally good time, was pure ecstasy. It felt to me that we saw Adam rediscover his rock n’ roll soul, which had gotten a bit locked down under the demands of producing and marketing a pop album for a mainstream label. If anything, I wouldn’t mind seeing Adam camp things up even more. (Maybe he’ll have to lose those medges; he can’t prance around easily in them!)
In the nearly two-hour long set, it’s almost impossible to name the standouts. One after another, Adam nails the songs – and puts his own stamp on them. Many are tailor made for his blend of attitude and vocal fireworks: “Don’t Stop Me Now”, “Another One Bites the Dust”, “Radio Gaga”, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, and of course “The Show Must Go On”, “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We Are the Champions”. He takes “Somebody to Love” to church, souling out with an abandon that outraged the purists. And on the melancholy anthem “Who Wants to Live Forever”, he was breathtaking, his throbbing vibrato (also much maligned by Freddie die-hards) drawing buckets of tears from eyes around the world.
The song I have long dreamed of hearing Adam perform is “I Want to Break Free”. Among Queen’s catalogue of great songs, this one is transcendent. It speaks to the most profound of human yearnings, but is also unsettlingly ambivalent. “I’ve fallen in love” – it’s wonderful, but is it also a trap from which we year to break free?
The music video for “I Want to Break Free” is a masterpiece. Watch:
With the whole band in drag, it’s a huge, knowing wink at Freddie’s gayness – the entire band is in on it, giving him fraternal support that is as touching as it is hilarious. The video is also an affectionate tribute to the legions of women who idolized Freddie. Freddie dons a black miniskirt and prances about cleaning house, but his mustache and hairy gams give the game away. There’s a beast underneath, dying to break free. Just as Freddie is in drag, the music and video themselves are a kind of drag, with dancey beats and candy-colored melodies that disguise a darker truth about the crushed hopes and trade-offs we all make every day of our lives as we defer our dreams and smother our authentic selves. Even love can be a trap.
Adam sings the song in a more straightforward way. When he sings “I’ve Fallen in Love”, joy radiates across his face. He can’t help it. He IS in love, and he’s still over the moon about it. I would love to see him dig deeper into those darker undercurrents. Surely, he is experiencing them in his life. There are other things to fall in love with – like a superstar career with a major recording label – that can become traps. I don’t doubt that there have been moments when Adam longs to break free of the bean counters and opinion polls, and follow his own North Star.
I’ve been scolded by some fans for not being 100 percent supportive of Adam’s every song, video, costume or statement. I don’t deny that I have my loves and not-so-loves. But that’s besides the point. I’m a die-hard fan of the man, not just of his products. Adam transcends his products because of how he tries to live his life, as an quest to break free and be true to himself. It’s a battle that each of us has to fight every day. So today I raise a glass to Adam’s amazing life, and to all of us who yearn for that freedom.