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The Video: Adam Lambert’s ‘Better Than I Know Myself’

February 3, 2012

By Juneau

I know Xena is going to watch the video 2,998 times and give it her incomparable, frame-by-frame Princess Warrior analysis, so…I’m jumping in right now with my hasty, ill-formed impressions. What I lack in stamina, I make up for in speed!

First, let’s watch it again…

We already know from Adam that ‘Trespassing’ is his invitation to venture into the dark and light sides of himself. And we received hints from the trailer about a one-way mirror dividing two Truman Story-esque chambers. We saw the sepia-toned images of Adam in his Mr Rogers-evoking cardigan – albeit a high-end “shabby chic” rendition – and speculated that the Gareth Pugh-sheathed dark version might be lurking on the other side. We were tantalized by a Lee Cherry still shot of Adam’s iris glinting gold, a hue ripped straight from the eyes of Edward Cullen in the Twilight movies

I worried that ‘Better Than I Know Myself’ would portray a simplistic dark-light dichotomy. Adam’s first three videos were eye candy more than brain candy, literal interpretations of the lyrics. And while the aesthetic pleasures of watching Adam cavort and wail are considerable, it’s his ability to engage my brain that underlies his peculiar appeal. Whether done consciously or not, he gets my mental gears churning. He captures our gaze because he dares to walk the high wires of life, and it’s all playing out in real time. There’s no safety net, and we fans cannot help but stretch out our arms to try to protect him. And to our repeated thrill and relief, he passes each test, stumbling at times but always regaining his balance and growing, always stepping up his game.

So with this new video, I was hoping for growth, for more nuance, irony possibly, and complexity. And Adam did not disappoint! We see on one side our golden hero, romantic, sipping tea while scribbling in his notebook, anxiously peering through the blinds as he awaits his love, meditating and breathing oxygen (what a sly poke at his current health kick!). On the other we see stormy Adam, pacing like a caged wolf, hair disheveled and bristling, tossing vodka and furniture, setting fires. He crushes a pomegranate with his hands (Xena will have a field day with that!) His eyes blaze furiously at “good Adam” on the other side of the mirror.

I was unprepared for the shocking sight of golden Adam collapsing as the blaze set by his dark side sucked the oxygen out of the room. Excruciating. And though Adam, ever terrible at keeping surprises, had told us there would be a twist in the ending, I was still startled by the wonderful denouement. Entranced, and yes, moved.

As Adam remarked in his interview with SugarScope, the dark and the light need each other. “It’s made me who I am.” Without the two, we are not complete. What is more, “dark” and “light” are not so clearly differentiated. Both are comprised of swirling shades of gray. We humans are engaged in a timeless battle between the quest for authenticity and an equally human addiction to simplification and division. It’s so much easier to split the world into good vs evil, heroes vs demons. Therein lies our downfall, whether we apply this false dichotomy onto how we see ourselves or how we see others. When I see Adam described as “perfect”, I cringe. Perfect is the opposite of human. Perfect leaves no room for complexity, for truth, for evolution, for the self-discovery and growth that should consume us for as long as we have breath in our bodies.

The quality about Adam that first enthralled me is his seemingly effortless embrace of a duality, between animal sexuality and angelic innocence (see Adam Lambert in the Garden of Darkness and Light). What Adam reveals in this brilliant video is a more agonizing personal struggle to reconcile his dark and light energies. It feels real.

Adam possesses a “dark” side. I’ve never doubted that. It takes uncommon ambition, ego, competitiveness and even ruthlessness to attain Adam’s level of artistry and stardom. But without that dark engine of desire, the world would never have been blessed with the luminous beauty of Adam’s art. The golden eyes of the ravenous beast are of the same hue as the light that envelops the romantic hero.

A visual reference to David Bowie...?

35 Comments leave one →
  1. Idolholic permalink
    February 4, 2012 12:43 pm

    I am smiling at the image of Xena watching this video over and over again! Of course the rest of us are doing the same thing, though it will take me a while to get to 2998! Great review, Juneau, and spot on. I did think the pomegranate was symbolic of crushing a heart. Love the sweater-clad “light Adam” but there is also something very compelling about “dark Adam.”. Can’t take my eyes off either one! Brilliant visual imagery to accompany those soaring vocals. This college professor gives Adam an A+++++++. :0)

    • February 4, 2012 11:51 pm

      The first time I saw the video, I thought dark Adam was ripping and crushing a heart. It was only later that I realized it was a pomegranate, which of course alludes to the Forbidden Fruit. And it is rich in anti-oxidants, tying in with light Adam’s health kick! I wonder how much of this was worked out in advance by Ray Kay, and whether Adam offered suggestions. It’s so rich. – J

  2. annehedonia permalink
    February 4, 2012 3:06 pm

    To Mary S (I think we’ve run out of “reply” room back there…) But just briefly, I’m grateful we could share a small moment of relevance here! And I’m grateful to J&X and to the extraordinary Adam Lambert for creating the opportunity for that to happen. (J&X are pretty extraordinary, too!) ;o)


    • Mary S permalink
      February 4, 2012 4:07 pm

      Ahhh….yes! I agree. J & X are extraordinary, and we are so fortunate to have each other through our Muse. It’s quite beautiful!

  3. Diane Y permalink
    February 4, 2012 4:17 pm

    No one’s ever known me “better than i know myself”. What a concept. But the song & video are all right!

  4. annehedonia permalink
    February 4, 2012 9:55 pm

    So I FINALLY saw the video. Also, Juneau, I reread your analysis a few more times, and it is indeed wonderful and as has been noted, spot-on!

    Forgive me for coming here and babbling excessively. I may be sucking all the oxygen out of the room, but I need someone to babble to…

    I’d seen stills, spoilers, clips and read commentary and analysis, but viewing for the first time was intense! As you’ve said, Juneau, the sight of “good” Adam collapsing is excruciating. My mind was screaming something on the order of “NOOOO!!! Don’t die!!! Save the poor baby!!!” (or whatever). I guess it disturbs me – from the standpoint of being made to feel – to know of the intensity of what goes on inside. I hurt for him, but I agree, it’s what makes him the artist and the human that he is.

    It is obvious that this vid is about the two sides reconciling, and Adam facing the world as an integrated personality. He’s singing to himself. And the solitary golden-boy is just as “imbalanced” and unrealistic in his hermetically-sealed Pottery Barn/ Mr. Rogers air-supplied chamber as the destructive bad-boy is in his spiky skull-adorned “lair”.

    I have to say I’ve never been totally blown away by the song, but Adam can make the most of material by the overlay of his heart-felt and brilliant interpretation. Bravo to him, and to you, Juneau.


    • February 4, 2012 11:47 pm

      When I receive such sensitive and thoughtful readings, it makes it all worthwhile. Thank you so much. There are so many layers to this video and other interpretations that occur to me. We’re going to discuss them on our radio show this week! – J

      • annehedonia permalink
        February 5, 2012 7:07 am

        Yay! I hope I can listen on my phone as before? My connectivity is otherwise compromised. :o/ (or I know I can listen after the fact ~ have done that, too…)

      • Idolholic permalink
        February 5, 2012 7:31 am

        I will be there!

  5. outlawbooster permalink
    February 8, 2012 2:53 pm

    Love that everyone is as fascinated with this gorgeous video as I am! Adam still can surprise us, to our delight. I would like to suggest that Light Adam is TOO passive, not waiting for a lover but just watching the world go by…Dark Adam is always straining to be let loose! I got to thank Adam for that last shot – one of the most fascinating faces in the world!

    • Mary S permalink
      February 8, 2012 3:36 pm

      “Perfect is the opposite of human. Perfect leaves no room for complexity, for truth, for evolution, for the self-discovery and growth that should consume us for as long as we have breath in our bodies.”

      So well said, J. And it brings to mind Jane Fonda’s comment from Master Class on OWN: “We are not meant to be perfect. We are meant to be whole.”. Of course, this was after a lifelong struggle to be perfect. So glad our boy is getting this in half the time! He is truly an inspiration and both sides of him keep us panting for more!

  6. February 9, 2012 9:19 pm

    Thank you all so much for your wonderful incite! It has taken me days to read everything, and try to comprehend so much intelligence. One of the reasons that I am so grateful to have Adam in my life, is that he has made me accept myself for who I am, finally!

    • Mary S permalink
      February 9, 2012 9:35 pm

      Yes, Rosemary. Me too!! Finally!! Thank you, Adam Lambert!

  7. The Unknown permalink
    April 15, 2012 4:45 pm

    I love Adam Lambert so much
    and i love his songs
    Iam from K.S.A

  8. natalie romero permalink
    June 30, 2012 3:07 pm


  9. nat permalink
    January 13, 2013 4:15 am

    I was listening to this song and I heard something that spoke to me.
    This song is like a conversation between a believer and God… Seriously. God’s the only one that knows me better than I know myself. Without him I wouldn’t know which way turn. You’re the only thing in this world I would die without… If you are a believer in Christ you would understand what I’m talking about. God works in such weird ways.

    • January 13, 2013 11:33 am

      I get it, Nat! And who is this God that “knows me better than I know myself”? My inner knowing is that it is who I really am, my big S Self. And when I’m aligned with that part of me I’m in perfect balance–I am the Adam at the end of the video–alive with the Inner Christ. It’s all just semantics, anyway. We are all that. Some just don’t know it yet. Adam seems to focus on the ones who do. That is why he is my Muse, my inspiration.

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