Tuesday, 13 October 2009

If it Ain't Broke...

I feel that there's too much fixation on 'perfection' in society and especially celebrity culture today. Although it's a tribute to how far we've moved up the hierarchy of needs in order to get to this point, the fact that so much effort is dedicated to perfecting the superficial seems vacuous, leaving me feeling a little disturbed. It sometimes feels like the Borg have taken on the form of Barbie and Ken armies to assimilate everyone into identikit replicas complete with plastic perma-smiles, and we're erasing the quirks and oddities that make us unique. What's wrong with allowing nature to assume its natural state? Sometimes I think we're going to stop ourselves evolving because of the desire to rectify even the slightest mutation.

A good reason to celebrate Adam Lambert is that to many, he seems to lead the resistance against conformity, which I hope doesn't get eroded over time. He's the weird kid who's strong enough to rebel against societal pressures but even he isn't immune to this human affliction. He's not completely comfortable in his own skin having changed his natural appearance and has mentioned issues with his weight.

As you can gather from the title of this post, I'm not fan of meddling with natural beauty just for the sake of it but I see it happening all the time. Firstly there's Adam's voice. I've always preferred the live to the studio recordings where we hear more of its raw dynamic quality. Tampering with it on those tracks for me is a definite no-no. There seems to be little of the rough guttural tone left after the studio manipulation although the later ones did show an improvement. Of all the studio versions, I believe BTBW is the closest to what the album will sound like. I love the heavy driving bassline and can see where he wanted to go with it. But I don't love that they cleaned up the voice and removed the gritty edge, making it too thin and light for the instrumentals. The snippet of Time for Miracles suggests that they didn't overdo it, but when it comes to the soaring backing wail, it sounds a bit too smoothed over, losing many of the qualities that uniquely distinguish it as Adam's. Why anyone would want to artificially hinder the biggest selling point to its detriment is beyond me. I hope that the production on the album steers well clear of masking the natural vocals to sound like any other good singer's. To tame them and not allow them to flourish is an injustice to their splendour. It's like dyeing the vibrant hues of autumn maple leaves green.

Another example that comes to mind are recent photo shoots. Apart from Rolling Stone, I haven't liked the results of any. There are the 'vampire' photos which don't look like Adam and resemble a heroin junkie, and the Sebree ones which should have been so much better. They are excessively airbrushed, sucking the life out him and making him look like an exhibit from Madame Tussauds. Considering how photogenic Adam is, they somehow turn him into a plastic still life subject, the eyes and expressions vacant, allowing little of his personality to shine through. There's just no need for such liberal use of the airbrush if there's little that needs to be covered. It removes the natural contours of his face, not to mention the freckles. He may not have the smoothest skin, but just look at someone like Brad Pitt to see how necessary that is. I can appreciate that the photos are meant to be highly stylised and I like the colour composition, but I prefer almost any other candid or any of the pre-Idol photo shoots. The three below are my least favourite:

Photobucket      Photobucket      Photobucket

The first one strikes me as just odd - the pose, the line of the clothes, the expression. It doesn't work for me. He looks uncomfortably awkward, like he's throwing a strop after having been forced to do something against his will so is subsequently giving you the evil eye. The next one strikes me as your bog-standard catalogue underwear pose where the requisite look far-off into the distance is replaced by a rather blank expression. I just don't get it. I'm really bemused by the last one. I like the chair, I like the background, I love the lighting, but WTF? There's just too much going on with the clash of clothing styles. It's like he couldn't decide what to wear, so decided to wear everything and as a result, the clothes wear him and drown him. I expected so much better from a professional photo shoot.

Not to be all negative, there are a couple that I do like, and they are the ones featured at the start of this post. In the first one, Adam wears a commanding expression with eyes that bore into you with the slightest trace of a smile, like he's daring you to do something and waiting for your response, finding mild amusement in your dilemma. Here the futuristic mediaeval knight/count of the castle look works well, keeping the focus on Adam. The next one looks like a Tim Burton creation, a little camp and melodramatic, where he's the dandy eccentric gent in charge. The pose is one I envisage Jack Skellington of The Nightmare Before Christmas might strike due the graceful elongated figure he cuts. The airbrushing still makes his complexion look like a Ken doll's though.

I'm crossing my fingers that whoever's in charge of Adam's music artwork for his upcoming single and album will resist the temptation to doctor the image beyond recognition and whoever's in charge of the sound mixing won't feel the need to obscure some of that magnificent voice.  I think it's a huge a mistake to try to 'fix' something that's already so close to perfection.


  1. I have the same opinion. Adam started weightlifting and trying to have the muscular arms...whereas I thought his arms looked perfect and yes with all the freckles.
    I am glad you criticized the photos. I was starting to think maybe i don't have an artistic sense, but I don't like any of them except the one that he is standing sideways with OTT eye makeup. It says 'adam' to me. I hope he doesn't give in to the idea that he is fat or has bad skin. He is beautiful as he is.

  2. Adam Bombed, love your critics. In fact, I do not like any of those Vampire pictures of his. I prefer the pre-idol one. :)
    Will there be too many edits? Will the cover of his album look like Kent? Well, what can we do but wait. Meanwhile, I try to find some peace from another perspective. Professional photo editing is costly and time consuming. That goes the same with the edits on music. It is like they are putting all the money and afford to strike for an A+, pushing every foundry to do so. Tick...tick... tick... also apply to the other side of the panel. The production must be rushing in an out, pressuring for redo, edit and etc.
    Imagine all this investment is made on someone who do not even have an album out yet. That must be some kind of pressure!
    When I have that in mind, I feel more relax :) OK, counting down! :D

  3. Anonymous, I'm with you hoping Adam doesn't feel the need to change the very things we love just because society has dictated what is supposed to be beautiful. His boldness in going against the grain is what I find most appealing about him.

    k65535, I also prefer the all the pre-idol photos. The Sebree ones must have cost a lot to set up but I don't think they were value for money. I find it so hard to believe they were done by professionals. The crouching one is just wrong, the pose too unnatural and stiff, the head angled too low... the one with the in-turned feet should have been taken from a little lower to make him seem more imposing, the one with the green trousers is too top-heavy... I could go on!
    On the positive side, I love this recent photo and we've got the album artwork and the results of the Elle photo shoot to look forward to.

  4. Adam likes to express himself through fashion and costumes which indicates his love of showmanship and surprise. I don't think we will able to ever get a "handle" on Adam's presentation. I think we have to expect the unexpected. I remember smiling when I first saw the tutor-esque photo - he seemed to be suggesting that he is a new member of musical royalty.

    By the way, when my (not so easily moved) 15 year old daughter heard the snippet of "Time for Miracles", her face immediately flushed and her eyes watered up. I was so touched by her reaction. My obsession was validated.

  5. I so agree with you about liking a more raw version of Adam--although I do have to say that I fully appreciated the workout he did on his arms. What a breathtaking moment it was when he whipped off his jacket at the concerts. Be still my heart!

    One of my very favorite youtube clips of Adam is his performance at Upright Cabaret of What's Going On...the first time I heard it, I couldn't get over the lisp. (What was going on there--did he just get his tongue pierced, was he drunk, or was he just queening it up for the night? I'm interested in any theories folks have on that...)But once I watched again, I just loved how much unadulterated fun he was having with the song and his playfulness with the audience...and of course that oh-to-die for smile.

    As a member of the queer community, I am just so damned proud of how out there he has been and enjoy his camping it up - in concert as well as in photos. But I also don't want that sweet person that shines through to get lost in the Hollywood glitz. I guess that my worry about the way he has taken on the glam mantle, is that he may get lost in the posing. It's true that somehow the Rolling Stone photo shoot managed to find that fine line between celebrating His Glamness and revealing Adam. My very favorite photo from that photo shoot is the one of him putting on his eye liner. I love how it illuminates him at the moment of transition, from every day life, to full on guyliner gloriousness. I hope he'll be able to keep that twinkle in his eye, which tells us with a wink and nod that "Hey ya'all, I'm just playing! Don't you want to come play with me?" (To which, of course, we answer YES YES YES!)

  6. Idahophoenix, I meant to get back to you a bit sooner, sorry. The lisp - I don't think it's really a permanent speech impediment but rather a lazy 's'. I've noticed that people with big tongues are more inclined to make this sound and we all know that Adam has a huge tongue! A good example of this is in the Satisfaction video at around the 0:22 mark but he gives perfect 's' sounds just before it.

    I don't think we need to worry too much about Adam succumbing to Hollywood vices. That's an advantage of being older when finding fame. He seems to have already been through it all and come out the other end a much stronger person.

    Aw, Lynn, I'm ecstatic for you that you can squee with your daughter!