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The Music I Hope Adam Lambert Does Next – IMHO

July 15, 2013

By Thea

adam-lambert-trespassing-epLike everyone else, I think Adam’s covers are wonderful, but he’s not into them the way he’s into his own music (and Queen’s). That makes me doubt he’d really put his heart and soul into a whole CD of covers, so I’m glad he left RCA over the issue. At least “American Idol” and Adam had a purpose in common, getting the biggest audience possible (although with very different agendas) and I think Adam’s agenda “sparked” his Idol performances in terms of both level and versatility. I don’t think a CD of covers would do that for him now, at this point in his career and musical development.

On the other hand, I’ve always thought and felt that “Trespassing”, while addressing Adam’s expressed desire to be more transparent to his fans (we who are loud and opinionated!), left a lot of people out. Like me. And I’m a fan! I appreciated the CD but I also felt that there wasn’t much there for me. I’d prefer more, hmm, what’s the word I want? Inclusiveness. I wanted it to appeal to a broader audience than we fans—who asked for and almost demanded it–and his sexual community. This is ironic because gay people have often said that “straight” music too often left them feeling like “outsiders” with its emphasis on male/female coupling. Here’s Adam doing the same thing in reverse on “Trespassing”. It’s like this blog having the word “I” in it so many times.

WWFM video still“Whataya Want From Me” is a great example of inclusiveness at work. I think some of its success came from its universality. Anybody could say or sing this to anyone they’re involved with. Look at how easily it crossed over from being a song written by a woman to a man to one presented to us as a man relating to another man. I’ve sung it in public myself. I’d like Adam’s own music to do that.

Most music that appeals to me focuses on the “you” rather than the artist singing it, no matter their orientation. You can’t tell what gender they’re singing to. It’s one reason I’m so into Darren Hayes. (Yeah, yeah, I know!) But it’s not only his exquisite tenor voice, it’s also that you don’t know if he’s singing to his husband Richard or not. I don’t know if he was even out at the time he released what’s become one of my all-time favorite CDs. Hard to tell. It “fits” no matter who’s singing to who.

Classy move on Darren’s part to tweet his support to Adam yesterday! He, too, walked away from a big contract to do his own music. True, it’s not as well-known as Darren’s group Savage Garden’s was but it’s just as good, maybe better. And much more authentic. Savage Garden’s music was pure pop in the age of pure pop and as such was a fit for the times. Their two biggest worldwide hits, “Truly, Madly, Deeply,” which, although released in 1997, still holds the record for the number of weeks on the charts, and “I Knew I Loved You” were love songs, both with the emphasis on “you.” I’m not saying being on the charts is the end-all-and-be-all but it is a nice recognition of effort and appeal. (BTW, Darren’s fans are pretty obstinate, too, just not as vocal as we Glamberts. Maybe it’s because they’re mostly British and Australian and younger. They haven’t found their voice yet.)

To me, a lot of Adam’s music seems descriptive rather than interpersonal. And, for the most part, it doesn’t communicate contentment. If anything, much of “Trespassing” sounds like the loner on the sidelines watching the game instead of one who’s participating in it, much like how Adam describes his youth until he became one of the “theater kids.” Even “Broken English” and “Nirvana,” which I think are the two closest to being love songs on the CD, don’t sound very happy. One’s about the tough challenge of communicating and the other is about escaping. His interpretation of “NCOE” was a major chance to personalize a song and what did we get? Post-Apocalyptic Hell. Even “If I Had You” on FYE, which many of us hoped would be more personal, got interpreted as a party anthem. Love the song but that video didn’t really work for me.

AdamKnifePlease understand that I am not saying that any performer should only do happy music. Many of the best standards are melancholy and gorgeous works of art. As a legend-in-the-making, one day Adam’s music will be among both categories.

I also sense that Adam’s music has an “edge” to it right now and I don’t mean “edginess.” I mean sharpness like a knife. It just doesn’t take many folks to their own Nirvana. That understandably makes people uncomfortable, as if that knife were pointed at them. It’s subtle but it’s there in the lyrics, to my ear anyway, and it keeps people away. Maybe others pick up on that, too, even if they don’t know what it is they’re reacting to. Could that be one of the reasons why the dancing and screaming we see and hear at his concerts doesn’t translate into radio play or album sales, at least in this country?

See, this is why I think he’s still hiding himself and that this time it’s behind the music. Like the costumes he used to wear so often, “Trespassing” was another, and very sophisticated, way for him to hide. It appears to be transparent but to my eyes and ears is just as hazy as “FYE.” There’s just so much more to him, things we haven’t seen yet. IMHO, the most clearly human music I’ve heard from him so far is “Is This Love?” where he finally lets his hopes and his uncertainties out, which he will only briefly talk about if asked, for us to hear and relate to musically. I want more of that alongside the great party music.

So that’s what I hope Adam will write, produce and perform next, a collection of music that’s more inclusive, interpersonal, accessible and emotionally exposed.

Adam is finding his way. I hope he’s “gonna go my way” a little, as well as his own.

45 Comments leave one →
  1. rosemary permalink
    July 28, 2013 1:02 am

    Have to agree with ElKat in that I don’t think Adam’s the best song writer. My guess is he’s better at creating the actual music than at writing lyrics. I can usually tell which lyrics are his and I find them disappointing– rather generic, unoriginal. ( surprising since I think HE’s an original).

  2. rosemary permalink
    July 28, 2013 1:12 am

    This may sound a little odd, Thea, but I think Adam is authentic and personal in his club dance songs. I feel that some fans think he should go more in the direction of Underneath in order to sound authentic. Adam knows the club scene and, at least for now, this is part of who he is. He’s not faking Shady, Kickin’ In, etc. I BELIEVE him– that he knows intimately what he’s singing about and that is real.

    • July 29, 2013 11:30 am

      I agree that Adam’s club dance songs ARE authentic expressions of who he is, and I do love them for that reason. But I think Thea’s point is that his songs on “Trespassing” are saying “this is me”, which is something he perhaps felt the fans wanted and that he needed to get out of his system, and that perhaps this may have contributed to the limited appeal of the album. Not because he’s saying “this is me, openly gay”, but that any “this is me” song may get in its own way of being embraced widely.

      As I interpret Thea’s comments, she’s hoping for songs that are a conversation, songs that draw you in at a personal level because they touch something universal in all of us, that can only be expressed through music. I encouraged her to share her ideas in this essay because I thought she raised a very interesting new idea about what makes a song work or not, what makes a singer break out and become beloved by the masses, etc. There has been so much discussion about whether the lack of Trespassing’s commercial success was due to Adam’s sexual orientation, or lack of RCA promotion, or if he’s working in the wrong genre, etc. etc. Thea introduced a fresh perspective that I found thought-provoking and valuable.

      I appreciate all who responded thoughtfully, honestly and with respect, whether they agree or disagree, because that’s what this Salon is all about.

      Have a fabulous day! – Juneau

      • July 29, 2013 9:20 pm

        I totally get where Thea is coming from. I think Trespassing is a legitimate statement of where Adam was at the moment. It was clubby, heady, a bit in your face ( Oh yeah, get a load of me!) earnest and rebellious … in a “we’re here, we’re staying, deal with it!” sort of way. I love it, I understand it, I think it SHOULD have had more than one big hit, and NOT the ones they promoted ( Shady, Runnin’, Cuckoo) Bottom line, it didn’t do what it was supposed to.
        Do I play it everyday? NO. I find myself playing Queenbert more often. Why? I don’t know ……
        Let the speculation continue …

  3. rosemary permalink
    July 29, 2013 11:19 pm

    Well, I think I better go back and read Thea’s essay again. Sounds like I really missed something. Thanks for clarifying and for your thoughts, J. And El Kat. And, yes, this whole conversation speculating about why Trespassing didn’t make it bigger is fascinating.

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