Monday, 27 April 2009

Will The Real Adam Lambert Please Stand Up?

Who is the real Adam Lambert? What do we really know about this person we feel we've gotten to know through TV appearances, articles, photos and videos? The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced I know nothing. I think he's like a shape-shifter, adapting himself in any kind of situation but still retaining his essence.

Where does Adam sit musically? He's said himself that his album would be quite schizophrenic, (or should that be more like schizophonic) and would include electro, pop and rock. All the American Idol performances we've seen have been so varied, winning over slightly different legions of fan every week. His fan base has been piling up, and as far as I can tell, none of the other contestants have been able to amass such broad appeal because they've more or less stayed near their genre and comfort zone whereas Adam has straddled them with ease. Everyone has their favourite Adam performances and because there are so many different types of fans, it's becoming increasingly difficult for him to satisfy everyone with each performance. This is a factor that will influence his upcoming choices on the show.

Many believe his true self to be outrageous and OTT and that he's playing it safe and toning it down to win by trading in some of his edginess for popularity. One thing we must remember about all his pre-Idol performances is that they were just performances and not necessarily him. I don't know how much creative input he had on gigs such as the Zodiac Show or Citizen Vein, but he immersed himself into each of the characters for the roles he had to play. He has shown his ability to adapt to anything but what would he be like if given complete freedom? Some argue that American Idol is stifling his creativity somewhat, but do we know by what extent? Much in the way that he did theatre to earn a living, that he has done outrageous stuff before doesn't necessarily mean that's where he wants to go. I'd of course love it if it is.

Adam has talked about structuring his performances like a set list in a show, which suggests he's a strategist who's been carefully plotting each step beforehand. Or have the decisions he's made upon his journey been more intuitive and worked out as he's gone along? From his interviews and soundbites, he comes across as unimposing and articulates himself very well, somewhat in contrast to his performer persona. His answers are intelligent and considered and you get the feeling that he knows a lot more than he's letting on so it wouldn't surprise me if every move is carefully calculated. If you take it even further, you could conjecture that he's been planning and preparing for the show for years. In those years, he's been steadily developing himself, his skills and building up a fan base from his various gigs, applying to American Idol only when confident in his ability to go far on the show.

On the show, he comes across as a modest, respectful and considerate person, which certainly makes him likeable and helps win votes. But could the fact that he has acting under his belt have allowed him to carefully construct his on-screen persona to perfection, treating every moment as a performance? Surely he can't keep up the façade all the time? And when he does perform, does he really sing from the bottom of his heart and feel all the emotions he portrays? If not, it's a true testament to the mastery of his acting ability.

Having said that, he does seem to test the persona on rare occasions, where I think I've detected a tiny inkling of cockiness in his reactions to the judges, and how he seems less camp on the show than during interviews. And doesn't all the pre-Idol material somewhat contradictorily paint him as someone very daring, bold, flamboyant and uninhibited? Or is that just his performing alter ego?

Is the pleasant image part of his manipulating masterplan or is it the real Adam?

All the interviews with people who've worked with him suggest the latter. If he were a Machiavellian genius, then surely he would already have broken through as an artist? I've often wondered why he hadn't already been discovered. Could it be because he's such a nice person and hasn't elbowed, hustled and manipulated his way up?

I guess it doesn't matter who Adam Lambert really is, only that we are under his spell. We just feel that he's captured our imaginations by being fascinating, intriguing, exciting and addictive. I can't wait to see how he expresses himself when he's given free reign. In the meantime, we'll just have to settle for whichever side he choses to show us. Just like his music, Adam is fluid and multifaceted, and I suspect that whoever the real Adam Lambert is, will elude definition. It's all part of his mystique.


  1. Props to you for writing such a well thought-out and introspective article, I enjoyed reading it. I think that many of the questions you pose here are valid, but ultimately we really have to wait and see (and keep voting, of course) where his evolution on the show will lead. I think his strategy for picking his song choices really illustrates that he is a serious artist and the fact that he's not taking the "oh I'm just gonna have fun" approach, which is really admirable because it shows that he truly understands how privileged he is to be on a show like American Idol. The amount of exposure it is giving him is priceless and he deserves really seems like he analyses every intricate detail of his performances and what impact they might have which I think is great, in fact if some of the other contestants would do the same they might not have struggled like they did. I also agree that Idol limits the contestants' creative abilities but they knew that coming in, its the compromise they all have to deal with and its what makes the competition challenging; it allows those like Lambert who have been successful to really shine and stand out from the more mediocre or karaoke performers. His ability to be emotive in his performances and still sing flawlessly I think shows that he is a professional, he knows how to use his instrument well and that is something that comes with experience. Really he does what we expect artists to do, we expect them to give moving performances yet still sing well but at the same time that emotion has to be contained in some way otherwise you cannot get through the song without falling apart if you get too involved because then you just start crying and people can’t understand you. Its that fine line that really makes or breaks a performer and only those who are really skilled can manage it well. He has that ability as well as obviously having intellectual abilities but I think what really makes him stand out is his voice and that is what it comes down to. His vocal range is almost inhumanely exceptional and what's more he knows how to use it and though some of his performances may come as over the top and reckless, they are not. He is in complete control of his voice especially when he sings the high notes. For instance people have talked about how he “screams” and sticks his tongue out and how they think it’s distracting and he does it for show, etc. What the casual AI fan doesn't know, because they don’t really have any musical knowledge about singing is that keeping your tongue forward is actually a vocal technique. Keeping the tongue forward is a must when singing high notes, so he sticks it all the way out and that's why he sounds so great. His high notes are always in tune, whereas a scream is usually off-key. He knows what he is doing and that is refreshing to see. Too many great artists have had their lives and their careers sabotaged for being too reckless and indulging in self-abandonment. I think he's learned from he seems like a perfectionist. That's not a bad thing. Sorry for ranting on and on...good article.

  2. If you think his nice persona is only an act, why haven't there been testimonials otherwise? Certainly everything else about his personal life has come out.

    And he never said his album would be schizophrenic, he used the word chameleon.

  3. Hmmm... If everything was an act, the easist way to win, was to stop being Adam Lambert and acted as a next door underdog Adam.

    With his good looks (blond, blue eyes,6 foot 1) and that voice, he would easily win.

    Yes, being so stubborn is what I love him for. But at a point, I was thinking, "can't you have your hair and nail dyed black after the AI?" No. He needed to stay true to himself!

    A lot of things are well planned? Yes, I do agree. I guess, knowing that others would find him very different, he try to draw them in with the similiarties. He had the confession tapes and the vid. at Upright Cabaret to show the audience another side of him. Everything was well planned. He didn't bet on luck but just on himself.

  4. wow, that was amazing! I just found your blog today through adamofficial. I am excited to go through it and read all your posts. Judging from this article and the one (linked from adamofficial) detailing the differences between Adam's AI rehearsals and live performances, I am very impressed. What well-written and well-thought out critiques these are! I am a singer and also a psychology major and I hope to learn some cool things from your writings.
    - Dana

  5. Dana, thanks for visiting. You just made me read this post again and I realised that it contains another song title in 'masterplan'! You've just found two song titles in my old posts - thank you! Maybe Adam has dropped by here some time (one can dream)!

    The fact that you're a singer and fully clued up in psychology gets me a little nervous from someone who is trained in neither, but I look forward to reading about your take on Adam and his music.

  6. adam lambert is awesome :D LOVE HIS MUSIC