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