VIDEO EDITThis 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.
WHAT DOES IT DO FOR ME?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.
WHAT DO WE FANS WANT FROM ADAM?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
ResultsContrary 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Lyrically: heartfelt, honest and personal, maybe even a bit dark, with Adam doing much more writingThe 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.
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?
WHAT DO I WANT?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.
DOWNLOADSDOWNLOAD 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