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Adam Lambert and the Resistance

May 20, 2018

We have arrived at the ninth anniversary of the season eight American Idol finale—that unforgettable day when Adam Lambert failed to win the competition—and I find myself reflecting on the lasting impact of that cataclysm. As often happens, thoughts about my Adam world spill over into the “real world,” and I see intriguing parallels to what has happened in the aftermath of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Does this seem like a stretch foo far? Bear with me.

Legions of disappointed fans, unable to accept how their godlike Idol could have failed to claim the crown, wailed over the homophobia and vote-rigging that seemed the only possible explanations for how the most prodigiously gifted singer in Idol history could have lost to a bland, sweet-voiced guy with a guitar. Xena and I had to constantly assure the fandom that the Idol loss did not matter. Adam had captivated audiences, and his career was going to be just fine. If anything, harping on the loss seemed counterproductive, and risked forever defining him in terms of his American Idol loss, or worse, as a bitter loser.

Indeed, with the benefit of hindsight, I am convinced that losing Idol was the best thing that ever happened to Adam. Imagine for a moment that he had won. How many of us would have felt self-satisfied about having picked the winner, and passively waited for Adam to reap the rewards we expected to flow to the victor. We would have enjoyed his music, and over the years, our ardor would have dimmed as we lost track of Adam’s life and career during the long waits between albums.

Instead, Adam lost, and we collectively, obsessively, googled every video and shard of information we could dig up about him. We reached out to others who felt the same way, for comfort and validation. We formed a collective intent to support Adam’s career and prove to the world that he was worthy. Without Adam’s loss, I would never have found the Glambertinas whom I now count among my dearest friends, nor co-written a book with Xena Princess Warrior about our journey, nor found myself traveling to distant lands to stand all day in lines waiting to get into the general admission areas for a Queen and Adam concert.

Because Adam lost, we constantly fanned the flames of our passion, reunited regularly with fellow Glamberts, and nine years into the journey, our obsession burns as hot as ever. His defeat turned us into evangelists, ready to like and re-tweet every social media post, comment on every tabloid story, sell out every show, and above all, sustain a community. Indeed, it’s not unreasonable to wonder whether Adam’s loss on Idol, by giving birth to such a deeply loyal fandom, accounts for his success today.

So what does this have to do with our current state of politics? Hillary Clinton’s loss was devastating to many of us. (Not all; I recognize that some Glamberts are Trump supporters.) But just as Adam’s defeat drove the fanbase into deep research on everything we could learn and turned us from a passive audience into a highly activated fandom, I see a similar phenomenon playing out across our nation.

We realize that we cannot count on the old institutions and world order to take care of our future. We must do it ourselves. Activists at the local and state levels, in both the public and private sectors, are advancing policies in areas once delegated to the federal government: climate change, immigration, health care, common-sense gun laws. Other nations, no longer able to count on America as a reliable partner or champion of human rights, global economic stability, or international security, are seizing the initiative without the U.S. These changes, I believe, signify a healthy transition toward a more balanced, empowered world community.

Which brings me back to Adam and American Idol. Placing power into the hands of the people would have seemed to have ended badly when Adam lost. But we won a more enduring victory, because we fans resisted. We took matters into our own hands, supported and promoted Adam along a singular path to career success. This vision—of people powered by nothing more than their passionate beliefs and social connections—should give us all hope and the courage to weather the storms ahead.
15 Comments leave one →
  1. October 13, 2018 4:14 pm

    i like history

  2. October 13, 2018 4:16 pm

    i like motown and the supremes

  3. October 13, 2018 4:18 pm

    iam amember of the mary wilson fan club

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