Saturday, 26 February 2011

Whataya Want From Adam?

This Whataya Want From Me? edit of mine was meant to coincide with the celebrations for Adam's Grammy win for best male pop vocal. I can't help but wonder if his chances would have been better if the record production did more justice to his voice. After listening to so many renditions of the song and even though the sound quality is lower, I'd take a live version every time. The vocals have the edge with the extra dynamism that's not flattened by meddlesome production, and a raw vitality that comes from the buzz of singing to a live audience.

I've watched about 95% of all concerts from start to finish and this acoustic WWFM from the final stop at Club Nokia is my favourite. Why? Aptly, it's because of the vocals. Before we get to those though, there's banter at the start, where Adam's charm is at work and he gives us a glimpse as to what he would be like as an evil villain with his sadistic little laugh. I noticed that he started singing a little lop-sidedly with a wonky mouth at times towards the end of the tour, but nevertheless it's impossible not to fall for his gritty belts and soaring improvisations at the end. Amazing.

It was some time ago during an interview that Adam first told us that the sound of the second album would be like WWFM, the song that has brought him most success so far. I've not been thrilled by this because it's one of my least favourite on FYE. I feel that lyrically it's fairly bland and clichéd, and its sound is one of the least distinctive, bar that voice. On its own merits, it's not something that would interest me nor would I buy it. But as I've mentioned before, music isn't only about sound being pleasant to the ear. It's about the experiences and emotions that we attach and weave into it. I wasn't fond of WWFM but it turned out to be one of my favourite performances from the tour. Why? Because it's a time capsule of the journey since that AMA performance. It took on a significance because the song became real and was sung from Adam's heart. The different versions got played enough times to reach a certain threshold for the hook to do its job and we were all able to sing along. Knowing that so many others at the concert shared the same ups and downs whilst being united in song with Adam was a beautiful experience. So I ended up liking it because it reached a certain level of success whereas I think it should really be the other way round.

I've got the results of some crude polls taken by you. The one on the left was taken soon after the album was released and the one on the right taken soon after the end of the tour (where were you all for this one?!). I've only taken the songs included in both. The complete album poll included a total of 16 songs and the Glam Nation poll included a total of 20 songs including some classics, which may explain why overall percentages have generally declined. Users were allowed to select multiple answers.

It's not the most scientific study (especially as participation was fairly low on 2nd poll), but if we compare the percentages, I think it's an indicator of a number of things:
  • Song's ability to stand the test of time
  • Difference between album production and live experience
  • Comparison of different arrangements

Contrary to my opinion above, WWFM, the song whose sound Adam wants to base his second album around, has suffered a significant drop between polls. It could be that the acoustic arrangement performed on the tour is less popular than the original (I'm doubtful of this because of the popularity of acoustic Aftermath), but I'm inclined to believe that fans have become tired of hearing the song. I don't think it bodes well if he decides to continue down this route.

The biggest loss has been from Music Again, which has continued with the same arrangement. I think it has suffered from its change in order too, from being the album opener to one near the end of the set. Performance-wise, it had a lot of energy but there was little that stood out or made us keep tuning in to see what Adam would do differently each time. Without any tricks, the popularity of this OTT song has fallen so I think the decision to include "Less rhinestones, more leather" is a good call on Adam's part.

FYE and Broken Open have also suffered considerable drops and I think their results were partially due to their scarcity. FYE had a different arrangement which I feel was lacking in melody and punch, and was also buried within a medley which didn't help. Broken Open came in two different varieties during Glam Nation. In its initial form at the start of the tour it seemed too long and sleepy, sucking the life out of the set. It later re-appeared with an acoustic arrangement. There are too many differing factors to conclusively explain why they fell in popularity.

DTRH has held steady, but SFW and Strut with the same arrangements have fallen a little in popularity. As well as the dilution effect of more songs in the second poll, I think this is due to their attention-lull position in the set after a long interlude. They tended to go by in a blur, maybe because they're not the strongest of songs.

On the positive side, the biggest gain has been from Aftermath, which was our least favourite on the album (and I reckon one of Adam's too, who describes it as "Heartland, adult contemporary rock" and admits to always having heard it as a dance-pop anthem), but its debut on the tour through an acoustic re-arrangement has become one of the highlights. I think the acoustic version is better placed to showcase his vocals and sheds the outdated feel of the original. It'll be interesting to see how its message will be received after being re-packaged as dance-pop.

And now we come to arguably the most important part for deciding future direction - the songs that have scored consistently high. For a song to achieve lasting success, it needs to be well-written to stand the test of time, and Adam needs to be able to perform it well live. I think the latter contributed to FYE not taking off - the key is too low for him.
  1. Fever was on top by some margin in both polls. I'm sure the kissing antics made a significant contribution to the Glam Nation poll but nevertheless, it's a superb disco-dance-pop song. Catchy but evidently not annoying because we still love this arrangement, it has an addictive bassline hook and oozes sass. And we know Adam does wonders with it live. It's just a shame it hasn't been released as a single.
  2. IIHY has had an appreciable increase after already scoring well on the album. The live performances were less dance-pop, and being the last song incorporated the band and dancer introductions to keep up interest. The audiences were also very familiar with it, generating a lively atmosphere. Its success is down to both the quality of the song and the interactive live performances.
  3. Sleepwalker still has the same arrangement so seems to have stood the test of time as a well-written song. It's atmospheric and engaging but it's Adam's voice that really makes this. The live performances have been electrifying, leaving audiences in awe.
  4. Soaked is another song which puts the focus on the voice. Both the aggressive original and the gentler tour instrumentals take a back seat for a timelessly rousing experience.
So how do the results of these opinions fit in with what we know about the second album so far?

Lyrically: heartfelt, honest and personal, maybe even a bit dark, with Adam doing much more writing

The results show no predilection towards songs that Adam was involved in writing but that shouldn't discourage him, especially as two of the top performers are songs that had been written by established artists some time ago and had already made it to the demo stage. I think there was a lot of promise shown on the album and with more time in which to perfect the songs, the results could be impressive.

"Personal and honest" immediately translates as self-absorbed and serious, even soppy to me, so it rings a few alarm bells. I hope Adam avoids extolling the virtues of love or getting emotionally over-indulgent with the dark. At times during the tour, the way he worked backwards to fit the set neatly into an unnecessary box labelled "Love" made me cringe a bit. It's like he tried too hard to create a flowing theme out of the material so the result felt rather crude and inelegant. When he was explaining it to the audience, it seemed like he was also trying to convince himself at the same time. It's probably a result of having followed everything too closely but I'm afraid to say that for me, it missed the mark and felt contrived. But that is a niggle over how he tried to find a common theme to link the set, not his songwriting, which I believe won't follow that style. I'm not a fan of the direct and overt like Aftermath and WWFM when it comes to emotional songs. I prefer something a bit more oblique, leaving the listeners with something to interpret.

It could be argued that all the songs are personal because Adam can relate to them. Under the heading of "honest", I would welcome some social commentary with astute observations sprinkled with snark. I saw some potential in Pop Goes The Camera but it wasn't further developed. I do give my thumbs up to "personal and honest" as long as the songs are cleverly written and quirky, steering clear of boring clichés. This category does however, exclude the light-hearted fun and frivolity of Fever, our firm favourite.

Sound: Less try-hard, less camp less rhinestones more leather, production focus on vocals

To know that the production will do more justice to Adam's voice must be music to our ears. Since I prefer the live recordings, I hope they'll leave it well alone this time round.

With the the decline of MA, it looks like time's up for glam rock, but should we really be swapping rhinestones for leather? I'd say the top songs are a mix of clubwear and leather. We can group them into two categories. One is dance-pop with a strong melody, a driving bassline and a rock edge, the other is big vocally-driven dramatic power-ballads. Adam seems to counter-intuitively be wanting to back away from camp favourite Fever. Could it be the wrong decision to ignore the former to focus on the latter? Let's not forget that the poll was taken by fans and one of the aims is to win over new ones. My guess is this second album is geared towards the US market where WWFM did better than IIHY and Fever was deemed unsuitable for release as a single.

So what's the point of this post? Well I've learned recently that Adam is more easily influenced by fans than I expected, from an interview where he said he kept kissing Tommy because he thought it was what we wanted, to the social media summit where he said he has used ideas from fans. It's evident from his recent blog post that he's interested in our opinions and we know he lurks a lot around this fandom, so I thought it might be useful to do a bit of market research for him using stats. Also, maybe now is a good time to express our opinions when the second album is still in its embryonic stages. Please help out by completing and sharing these simple polls:

What type of music do you think Adam should record for his second album?

If achieving commercial success were not an issue, would your choice be different? If so, ideally what type of music would you like to hear from him?

I prefer the bonus tracks on the last album so wasn't keen when Adam said he'd be basing the next album on the safe pop-rock sound of WWFM. I'm hoping to see him push things, be more adventurous, experiment a little, but I also understand the need to turn in a profit so he's better placed to do this in future. There has always and will always be this balancing act between artistic integrity and commercial success. He's managed it quite well so far and I expect it to continue.

If I could decide what to have on the second album I'd have a funk-rock core, especially after having been teased by a few licks from Monte during the tour. I'd put some soulful vocals on top of it, and to add variety but keep it cohesive, there'd be elements of acid jazz, electrofunk and disco thrown in. The lyrics would be witty and have a little humour in them. The voice would take centre stage and there'd be a stripped-down jazz/blues track or two just to kill a few people. And there'd be a crazy-as-fuck bonus track that I don't even have the imagination to describe.

Adam thought that on his first album he tried too hard to stamp his identity, but could it be that on this second album he'll try too hard to please the masses? Something that one of the AI mentors said comes to mind and that is the aim shouldn't be to make music that's popular, but to make music that you like and work on it so that it becomes popular. Even though this whole post has been about what we want, ultimately I don't want Adam to over-think things and pander to what he thinks other people want, but to follow his musical instincts. The advice I'd give to him comes from his own mouth and is the reason why he has won over so many of us in such a big way. That is to stick to his promise of surprising us and to stay ahead of the curve, giving us what we didn't know we wanted.

DOWNLOAD WWFM (with intro) mp3 - 13.48MB Alternative download link
DOWNLOAD WWFM (without intro) mp3 - 7.56MB Alternative download link
DOWNLOAD WWFM iPod compatible mp4 - 39.73MB Alternative download link
DOWNLOAD WWFM HD mp4 - 139.19MB Alternative download link


  1. Am I the only one who love :Pick You Up"? That is one pick you up and put you in a good mood tune - I love it and think it would have done very well as a single. IMHO

  2. I'm one of the older gals. I loved that you mixed your first album up with a great variety of music. Please don't listen to your fans. We don't know what the hell we want. You have better instincts than we do, and all we really want is you. You are the first beautiful, pure voice to come along in years. We do recognize that gift. That is a major part of this love we have for you--your voice. The younger gals are interested in you handsome face, kissing Tommy and your glambulge. We appreciate that too, but it is your sound, your phrasing, your articulation, your voice that wraps around us and causes us to swoon.

    I loved "I Can't Let You Go." You said it was too hard to sing in concert. Don't go there then. It was such a disappointment not to hear that live. I still wish you and Monte would do an arrangement so we could hear you sing that song live. Also, "Pick You Up." Same complaint. It is frustrating when you say "it is too hard to sing live."

    Personally, I also love it when you stop me dead with your voice (usually happens when you sing a ballad, "Soaked" gave me continual goose bumps). I love when you get emotional and the tears run down my cheeks. Your voice affects something in my brain that takes me to a different place. I can almost feel my heart swelling. Its a very strange feeling. It really makes me wonder if there aren't different dimensions to this planet

    I am an older gal, but I love my 28-year old self when I was young, skinny, and beautiful. "If I Had You" always made me feel 28 again. I love the lift it gave and where it took me mentally.

    I still love strings and horns too. The electronic sounds begin to sound the same after awhile. Not really fond of pretend music. I loved the sound of Adele's first two songs on her album. The drums in the first song had a native American beat. I really loved it. I am probably one of the middle of the road, older gals, and I bet the way I think and feel is probably normal. You will also have to check the younger generation now. Personally, I wouldn't give ten cents for Kesha or Bieber, although I do see their relevance for the younger generation. You are way too good to go backwards.

  3. Massive post AB, glad to have you back on the scene. No-one quite reviews Adam's music the way you do. I didn't know that he was planning to make his next album in the style of WWFM and I too am a little disappointed but we'll see. He doesn't disappoint very often. My personal favourites of Adam's songs are Fever (because he doesn't compromise and uses the pronoun HE), Can't Let You Go for it's vocals (OMG, I was blown away the first time I heard it), Aftermath for it's lyrics and FYE for it's pure sexiness!

    FYE was such an eclectic album, showing off his voice in all sorts of ways. I love that he didn't apologise for that and didn't stick to just one type of song like Kris Allen did on his album. We can only wait and see what type of ride we are in for - hopefully it's further down the rabbit hole and close to Planet Fierce.

    Welcome back again.

  4. There was a rumor that Meatloaf stated that the song FYE was in the wrong key for Adam. Since he's a singer I'm sure his opinion has validity. However, I saw Adam sing FYE early last year at Red Robinson and it was incredible - one of my favorite performances of his live (he had to start three times before the tech people got it right). I agree with many here that "Fever" is a barnburner - just hearing the opening chords puts me in a great mood and that "Sleepwalker" (particularly live) is mindblowing. Adam's very fortunate as he can sing so many different types of music (I heard a demo of a psychedelic(?) track of Justin Hawkins that was rumored at one time to be given to Adam - it was terrific - would really love to hear him sing that one!). "I Can't Let You Go" is beyond beautiful - the ending tears at my heart. So many who have heard it, really love it - so a track like that should probably be included. The first single from his second album should be very carefully thought out - it has to be commercial to draw buyers to the album. That doesn't mean it can't be "Adam." But it has to be something with a very strong hook. Radio has to play it and, I believe, some stations and DJ's are still not quite ready to give him the cred he so obviously deserves. (As well as Rolling Stone with its emphasis on wrinkled rockers and the newest passable-only singer.) His reputation is spreading though, and just his first name on a blog or in an article will bring hits. He works like the very devil and his hundreds of interviews allow people to know his wonderful personality. I'm so very much looking forward to hearing his voice again in something new - the thought of it brings great happiness to me.

  5. Was interested in one statement by this blogger - what is meant by singing "lop-sidedly with a wonky mouth" towards the end of the Tour. Is this a new, permanent "tic" or just an end-of-the-Tour mannerism? I never noticed it, but on looking at the WWFM above, think I did see something like that. Thanks for any info.

  6. I totally love Can't Let You Go. Real emotional impact. And Pick You Up was superb. I think Adam said he didn't perform it on tour because it's so difficult to sing and reaching the stratosphere like that every night would really strain his voice.
    Adam is foremost a singer, an interpreter bar none. Great singers are not necessarily also songwriters. Songwriters are not necessarily great singers.
    So, I don't want Adam to feel pressured to write all his own stuff. I know interviewers always ask him about that ... "So, have you started writing yet?"
    New songs by other writers? YES!!
    Covers? HELL YES!!
    Go for it Adam - just give us your voice - we love you forever.

  7. Very nice blog. Personally I would like for Adam to do what HE wants to do and what HE wants to sing. I have to say that when I heard "SleepWalker" live in concert it totally blew me away and left me in awe. This was one of my absolute favorites to begin with, but to hear Adam sing this live was beyond incredible. I would take live over album any day when it comes to Adam. "Fever", "Soaked" and "Can't Let You Go" are my other favorites. They tell a story, showcase his voice and are beautifully written. WWFM is AMAZING as an acoustic. Whatever Adam decides is fine with me. His voice is absolutely hypnotizing and mesmerizing and that is what totally drew me in from the git go! I agree with @choons....Go for it Adam - just give us your voice - we love you forever.
    Gloria476 aka LuvAdam476....Glambert476

  8. Loved your post. I do think Adam listens to his fans and incorporates their opinions in to his own decisions. BUT I believe that we don't always know what's best for Adam and his career! How could we?
    I LOVE Adam's voice. I love what Adam does. I love Adam doing what HE wants! And I want Adam to be around for a long, long time.
    I loved Fever- it's kick-ass good, and it should have been a single. I love Can't Let You Go & Surefire Winners & Soaked & IIHY & Broken Open & Music Again & WWFM. Sometimes it took me a few listens before I fell down the rabbit hole for all of them.
    When Adam sings rock, I fall apart- WLL drove me wild on AI. So did If I Can't Have You and Cryin. He is an amazing rock star, esp live. I would love him to sing more songs like those.
    My one piece of advice (because I am SUCH an expert!): Don't let the background music take center stage. YOU, Adam, are what we want. We want your awesome voice, your power, your emotion, your passion, your control, your ownership, your music knowledge.
    I don't care if you write the songs. Just sing the songs- your way. With conviction (and good hair!) Let it shine, BB.

  9. msvickyfonseca, you're not alone! It definitely does what the title says but I think it's one of the songs that's fiendishly difficult to sing live.

  10. This may be the best "improved" of the whole tour. You have outdone yourself! Incredible! Thank you. ~ myspencer

  11. Been trying to find the video of "Pick-U-Up" where the track is used for the background music of a National Geographic extreme jumping video. Does anyone have it? Thanks.

  12. I soooooo agree with you on the funk-rock, licks of soul-and-glam ideas for No.2. The way you described it is exactly how I hear it in my head, and I have this strong feeling it's what would give him that musical "edge" and accentuate his uniqueness. But what do I know, right?:) I read on another site that he's probably going for the "male Pink" style and the way he describes his next album, there might be something to it ( at least the way I see P!nk, she's light pop-rock to me). Hey, it's not a bad way to go musically, and the last I've checked, she is very popular and mainstream-successful. It might not be my personal preference for Adam, but I first and foremost wish him great worldwide,lasting success, so anything he wants to do to achieve that is fine by me.
    Besides, whatever he does, he infuses with so much of his personality and style so that at the end everything sounds more rock, glam and edgy anyway:-)
    So Adam, if by any chance you get to read any of this, nevermind all of us and our different wishes-YOU do YOUR thing like you've always done, and please don't worry or analyze too much. What brought you so many fans was and is your fearless swagger,your " live in the moment and be positive" attitude. Never lose that, and you'll be fine! Love you bb, rock on!:-)

  13. Adam is one smart cookie and we also know that he always has to 'own' a song before he sings it. I trust Adam's instincts on his second album, although I love your thoughts 'lambertobsession'. You are so very articulate and thought-provoking. Adam is both business savvy as well as wanting to be true to himself - even tho he has to appeal to the masses. I will miss the eclectic mix of his FYE album if he goes more with one type of genre but, again, I trust his instincts. I, for one, will buy whatever he puts out!

  14. PS - I was there for his final performance at Club Nokia - after also seeing him in Costa Mesa and Hawaii - and agree that this performance of WWFM is absolutely one of his best! The entire night was magical but also sad, knowing this was the last performance of the GNT. His mom was sitting right in front of me and her obvious love of him and excitement in watching him perform was so special. I really feel that the US will have no option but to embrace his talent. It can't be denied!! Hope Album #2 will knock everyone's socks off! He deserves it!

  15. I want Adam to follow his own instincts and HIS CREATIVE VOICE!!! I love mostly the improvised moments like Mad World at River Rock and MW/WLL in Vegas. My heart warmed to bursting at the belted out WLL in the Warfield in San Francisco because it felt like a personal thank-you to how that city contributed to early hard rock . I do love ADAM THE ROCKER.

    And, most of all, Fantasy Springs is still my favorite concert because it was such genuine Adam and that includes a post-gender wholeness that is endlessly satisfying.

  16. I totally loved the sound of Pick U Up, but some of the rhymes in the chorus made me cringe. I really enjoy strong lyrics, and that is my major criticism of the FYE album. To be fair, a lot of the lyrics I disliked were written by other people.
    I agree with Choon that all I want from him is his stage presence and vocal genius. I wish he could hook up with a genius songwriter.

  17. irish1139, thanks for commenting about your musical tastes, hope you feel proud of being one of the "older gals"! I'm fully with you on your point about only recording songs that Adam can sing live. It would've been impossible to sing CLYG night after night but I was hoping we might at least get to hear it once during the tour. I'm looking forward to being able to hear the best of the voice on the next album.

    jo_blue, thanks for the warm welcome back. This post took ages to cobble together, I'd had so many thoughts swimming around in my head ever since that first French article where he said he was going in the WWFM direction. Like you, I don't really want something too safe and hope he takes us much deeper into that rabbit hole. Sound-wise, I really liked DTRH from the album for being bonkers but you can't really beat CLYG for vocals.

    Anonymous 18:07, I've always thought he's done a good job with FYE but it's the verses that are lacking in melody and he can't seem to get a lot of power behind them. I heard the "Suburban Decay" demo too but I'm not as keen on it as you are. Let's hope radio is a bit better at catching on this time.

    Anonymous 18:23, it only started happening near the end of the tour. I don't think it's a tic, just a little bit of a bad habit. You can see it much more clearly on this video of the same performance.

    choons, I think Adam wants to write songs as he can feel a deeper connection with them and it shows during a performance. I also don't care who writes the songs, as long as they are great songs that suit Adam and he can perform them well live. The problem with covers is that I believe Adam wants to be an artist and not a singer. There is a lot of music snobbery around where musicians "ought" to write songs and play instruments but the voice doesn't get enough credit as an instrument.

    Gloria, thanks! I agree completely with Adam doing what HE wants - what got me concerned was I got the feeling maybe he was thinking too much about making music he thought we wanted to hear. Sleepwalker was amazing live but I was a little surprised at preferring the tone of his voice when he didn't push it so much, like during Aftermath.

    suenomma, I agree that we know so little about what's best for him as it's hard to be objective being such huge fans! You have so many favourites there and I think one of the difficulties in deciding direction is that he can sing anything. I'm glad he's taken it on board to get the production putting more focus on his voice so it looks like he's already acted on your advice!

  18. myspencer, thank you! Glad to be proving some entertainment on these quiet days. My favourite edit is the Amsterdam PH/WLL. It was certainly the most time-consuming by quite a way!

    Anonymous 05:10, I'm afraid the base-jumping video got removed from YouTube. It was here.

    Anonymous 17:44, it was a little bit of DTRH and some teasing from the tour that makes me want some funk. I find it much better to dance to than, say, songs like FYE that are dance. Ever since seeing SKoW from AI followed up by AGIGC, I know his voice has so much soul and the last album didn't make the best use of it. So fingers crossed!

    Anonymous 21:07, me too! I guess this whole post doesn't really matter because it's written by a fan who'll buy anything he puts out! I think I would prefer a second album that has a bit more of a common vibe to bind it together though. You're so lucky to have been at the final concert and from what I can gather from the videos, Costa Mesa was pretty spectacular too.

    Francess40, I love it when his performances are spontaneous. I think that's where so much magic happens - when he can feel his way through and be creative and experiment. Fantasy Springs is my favourite too, even after all this time!

    Anonymous 21:38, which songs' lyrics did you like the most from FYE? What kind of lyrics do you like?

  19. I havn't really read the whole blog, but as one of Adam's young fans, I just wanna say that the younger generation isn't only all about club music and sick beats so I hope that Adam didn't only vere that way to be commercial. Yes, Gaga makes music for dancing and yes she is very successful, but the current youth can also appreciate just FLIPPING AMAZING VOCAL SKILLS! Take Adele. She isn't really following any current "sounds", she's just writing beautiful melodies and singing them with everything she's got...and lo and in 19 countries. So basically, what does Adam have that Gaga doesn't? Absolutely BLOW-YOUR-MIND frikken unmatched vocal ability. Gagas an okay singer, but Adam is miles above everyone Adam, please, forget being commercial, forget what is a good "sound" for the radio, all you need to do is write honest songs that people can really connect to and SING YOUR HEART OUT BOY! Anyone I talk to about Adam, even if they don't like him or say something completely ignorant like "he's gay", cannot deny that he can SANG! So please, forget commercial...just SANG BOY!

  20. Anonymous, thanks for your comment. I think Adam is already heading in the direction you suggested. It seems that a lot of people have Gaga fatigue these days and from what I can gather, Adam is planning a more austere second album. Let's hope the songs do his voice justice.