“Adam – Find a Box and Stay There”
But Adam wants freedom with no music boxes. Who is right?
By Xena, January 22, 2010
Randy Jackson Offers Career Advice To Adam Lambert, Kris Allen: ‘I don’t think the boys have all made great records,’ the ‘American Idol’ judge tells MTV News. Interview with Jim Cantiello
“Jackson said the experimentation just confuses your potential fanbase, who might not want to invest in an album that isn’t focused. “You confuse your public that voted for you, and they go, ‘I don’t know who that is. I’m lost,’ ” he said.”
It was bound to happen. Fortunately it happened after Adam Lambert’s debut album, “For Your Entertainment” appears about to go gold, not to mention two singles and a couple of videos selling too. Countless fan sites, blogs, public appearances and TV performances are evidence of a large and rather ferocious fan base. And a book! (shameless self-promotion) FYE debuted in third place behind the phenom of a century Ms. Boyle who recorded everything from the Rolling Stones to Silent Night (did someone say “focus”?) and an internationally established tenor Andrea Bocelli’s Christmas album, not to mention a field crowded with veterans as well as debutantes. Adam was actually the #1 American performer in CD sales the day FYE showed up on charts.
(A moment of digression here – I get the impression that the “music industry” however that miasmic swarm of art, business, divas, Svengalis and their Trilbys defines itself, does not support its own very well. I come from business, government and politics – my observations are forming, however this is for another paper.)
Bad news Adam, your songs may be selling but apparently your fans are confused, yes Randy says we didn’t know who we were buying. I think that is what he said. Apparently your album is not in a box that is easily identifiable as “Adam Lambert”, though from the psychedelic rainbow-coloured cover to lyrics that you sing and songs you perform as though they sprang from your own mind, spirit and soul, it all seems distinctly you. I feel like a naive idiot now. Anyone else?
Please tell this uninitiated, music business neophyte – if this isn’t “success” what is? For a young man who showed up exactly one year ago – what did you think he would accomplish by now that he has not? When I begin a project with a client, I ask “What does success look like?” At the end, we can see if we met that measure or not. According to Adam, he exceeded his own expectations by staying on Idol to the end, and just last week on Oprah he talked about how much more he has achieved than he thought he would, from Idol on. He acknowledges that he might be too idiosyncratic for broader public tastes, so he’s surprised at the level of acceptance with which he has been received by fans and, we’ll say, many in the media. What were your expectations for Adam post Idol? What do you see as his potential? How many CDs should he be selling? I need help here Randy, I want to understand you better and learn from you.
You said that Adam’s and Kris’s albums are “good” and I don’t quibble with that. Your knowledge of music and quality is far superior to mine and your quarter-century successful career anchors your guru status. But, “good” relative to what? “Good” for a new performer who had a few months to put an album together while on a 50+ city tour? I take that back; no excuses, no complaints.
Are these comparisons being made on a level playing field? The big Idol successes to which you refer have been around for a while, yet Kris and Adam only auditioned one year ago. What about CD sales? Sorry, I don’t have time to look up all the “sales within the first two months” for each of the successful former Idols you mentioned. That would have been helpful when trying to prove a point. Admitted data-junkie here and I know someone has it somewhere and would love to have it at my fingertips.
Randy, we fans from American Idol are not confused about Adam and his music. In fact his album is more cohesive than his performances on Idol were, which required that each competitor sing something from any genre or era or creative inspiration that an American Idol expert decides. Country singers don’t get to sing all country and rockers have to sing disco, so that allows judges and the public to see and hear the range, poise, creativity and talent of each contestant. Goodness Randy, some of those crossovers are painful!!
Adam’s album should not have been a surprise to anyone. He informed everyone about who his idols were and from which eras and genres he drew inspiration, and if anyone reading this can’t rhyme them off, please turn in your Adam Expert membership and all photos you own of Adam with a Bowie t-shirt on.
As a boomer fan sitting here plugged into Queen right at this moment, I agree with your assessment of the quality, complexity and degree of difficulty of the classic Zeppelin, Queen, etc., music. Adam pulled them off with panache on Idol, so we know, and you do too, that he has the chops to go there. Got something in mind? Any songs in your back pocket? Maybe someday Adam will cover some of the best, but not yet. He still thinks his mature fans love him because he sang songs we heard when we were in our youth. Already explained that one.
Randy you said Adam needs to “find himself” or – we keep hearing a word I have grown to despise -“focus”. I take that to mean “do not use the entire spectrum of your talents and creativity, do not appeal to a broad audience base from toddler to toker to oldster, rocker to bopper, male, female and everyone in between Find a box and stay there, as soon as possible.” OR…………. Or what?? Confusion in the entertainment business? Chaos, gridlock, lines criss-crossing, planes crashing, Alice Down the Rabbit Hole! Sorry, I need more information to understand that one. Where does that CD go in the store?? What’s the label on the shelf?
Don’t know about you Randy, but my playlist includes everything from the Beatles and James Brown to Gaga, Queen, opera, Mozart, Machover and Macedonian Folk Songs. I don’t own country, with one exception – love Adam’s Ring of Fire!! M&M and the rest of the Angry Older Men, the wrapper uppers are not on my playlist. I hear enough of the unholy class of “screamers” from Xena II’s room to inform my ears they need protection. I get the sense that most of Adam’s music buyers have eclectic tastes though.
Yes, Adam can sing his face off. Yes, Adam could sing the phone book as well as Olivier could recite it. He can croon as well as Connick Jr. or Bublé, rock with Kiss or Queen, sing Broadway, classical, Hebrew prayers – but he can’t “find” an audience that way? That is according to your advice Randy, so what do you want? I didn’t want to go there, but “Whataya Want From Me”. Do you really want the world to miss out on hearing Adam sing something he might choose, that’s not in the officially sanctioned “Lambert Play Book”?
His fans love Adam from A to Z(ed), from Heaven to Hell, tender/sweet Mad World to wicked Mephistopheles in FYE and Fever’s horny playboy. I fell hard when I heard, then saw him sing Tracks of my Tears, still do. Would I love a Motown hits album from Adam? – would I!! Oh, and that Rat Packer on the staircase left us all Feeling Gooood. More Sammy, more Sinatra – it’s all good, Randy. Bad Boy Rocker too, know you liked that Adam a lot.
Does FYE sound like Motown or Vegas, Philly soul or British rock? No, but it does sound like Adam and it sounds like today. Adam’s fans are greedy, mind you. We want all the Adam characters we’ve ever met and a few he’s probably working on.
Randy, we thought we were buying an album we love, with a song list that is so perfect, we don’t skip any. Not just that, we didn’t pick and choose singles, we bought the whole damn thing. Did you see his New Years Eve performance? What a show! Pathetic picture quality and murky sound from our computers not withstanding, we savoured each note, eyebrow lift and gesture as he pulled us up on stage and kept us there for how many songs?
As one who only recently kicked her way out of boxes – I want to enjoy whatever Adam wants to try. Adam’s viral charisma, enthusiasm, passion, talent and skills will ensure that his projects will succeed at some level, however uneven that might be. He is complex and multi-tiered, he must show us everything he wants, he’s bursting to share his ideas and we’re ready to hear them.
He’s not a wild unbroken pony, but a youthful stallion of independent mind, chafing at the bit, pulling where he wants to go and he should be given his head. We hope enough of us are along for what appears to be a very exciting ride, not through a pastoral countryside, but hills, valleys, streams, thunder, lightning and stars to support him through a fulfilling and successful career. Maybe not the straight line the country singers moved in, but a new kind of line, an Adamline.
Lest I be accused of denying any criticism of Adam’s music, I don’t, but it would have been helpful if you had qualified your comments somewhat better, so we fans would not feel diminished for our taste in music. You said Randy, along with your judge colleagues, that Adam is unique – why would you expect or even prescribe some sort of conformity to formula for him now? We love the voice, the body, the face, eyeliner, nail polish, fingerless gloves, perfectly tailored suits or edgier fashions, shiny boots and totally encompassing performance, who works his ass off for our entertainment and his success.
3 March 2010 Digital Spy Interview by Nick Levine – Adam responds to Randy’s comments on FYE album
Update Randy with Adam interview 29 January 2010. Did Randy hear from Adam’s fans?
Images of post-FYE CD and EP covers added since original post date.
Xena is a writer, policy analyst and commentator who has an opinion on everything, and co-author with “Juneau” of the book, On the Meaning of Adam Lambert – order at www.adamlambertbook.com or Amazon.com.