Although I make it a point to ignore American Idol as much as humanly possible, (not out of snobbery - I am just not a masochist) Adam Lambert did pique enough of my curiosity to merit a listen. Had I just heard his "Glam Rock" or "Pop" music, I would have quickly moved on, but I was lucky enough to get my ears on his version of Brigadoon's (classic musical theater circa 1947) "Come to Me Bend to Me," and was left astounded.
The style, vocal quality and range were golden. Most impressive about it was the ease and polish of his performance. If perhaps he held a couple of notes just a bit longer than necessary, he was no more excessive than the greatest operatic tenors, Franco Corelli and Luciano Pavarotti.
No stranger to pop music either, I quickly investigated his crossover to the stuff "the kids go for." After scanning the YouTube versions of "I Can't Make You Love Me If You Don't" and "Dust in the Wind," I felt like a junkie who only really enjoyed the first fix. Yes, he was head and shoulders above the others, but it was far from the miracle I experienced before. What was free and easy in the theatrical music was now sometimes forced and unauthentic.
A case in point was his recent appearance on E! Network's gabfest Chelsea Lately. His polite and sincere conversation had nothing of the edge or quirkiness of a David Bowie or Rod Stewart. Speaking of being a chubby kid in his high school days, he came across as wholesome, charming and as willing to please as a well behaved puppy.
What really seems to be going on here is some twisted identity politics. Although not coming out of the closet until after winning second place on American Idol (is two the new one?), he made his "queerness" blatantly clear with his antics and costuming. The irony of all this is that although gay, Adam Lambert's real persona is not the "Glitter Queen" or the "Ironic, World Weary Homosexual." He is the "Boy Next Door" - despite his sexual preference (the straight Rod Steward looked great in drag) or voguing. That was evident last month on the stage of the Nokia Theatre in Times Square.
Lambert's foray into what I can only call "retro glam rock" is troublesome for more than one reason. The message it is sending is that to make it big in showbiz is to deny one's true essence. Although Lady Gaga might be a nice Italian girl, her act is totally organic. Not so for Lambert. If his shtick really worked in his live performances I would say go for, it but even the "discerning" non-musicians in my company were not buying any of it. This adjective cannot apply to Adam's generic new songs or his somewhat campily entertaining cover versions of "Whole Lotta Love" and "Ring of Fire."
The pressing issue is whether his golden voice can survive the pushing, screaming and bad sound systems that put him in real and immediate danger of tarnishing his instrument permanently - resulting in him not having the chance to "come out" as the real theatrical performer that he is cut out to be. The gifts he possesses are rare and fragile -- so for the sake of people who love great theatrical singing and music, I hope he wakes up and smells the grease paint before it is too late.
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