Each week during season eight of American Idol, the judges swooned over ultra-unique contestant Adam Lambert, and I groaned loudly. Paula Abdul coherently applauded his artistry, while the other panelists flaunted over their star in the making. Even Simon Cowell gave Lambert his due, aside from a verbal lashing over his exotic misfire cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” Meanwhile, I grew frustrated at the panel for admiring a man I thought was merely reconstructing songs each week as a gimmick, and was more style over substance. That all changed for me after Lambert lost the Idol finale, and released his first album, For Your Entertainment.
While not exactly the most impressive debut ever (let’s give that award to Roxette, wherever they are — yeah, I said it), FYE was a nice surprise — a wicked pop dance record that plays like a 1980s greatest hits collection. Listen to tunes like “Music Again” or new single “If I Had You” and tell me you can’t picture it playing in the background of an old school C. Thomas Howell volleyball movie? With his breakout “Whataya Want From Me,” and the closet door fully open thanks to a Rolling Stone cover and controversial American Music Awards breakout, Lambert’s rapidly living up to the hype those mundane judges gave him with “no boundaries.”
Lambert is sort of the male pop star answer to Lady GaGa. As a matter of fact, it’s time we refer to Lambert as “Papa GaGa.” They both have natural raw talent, dress outlandish, have no shortage of eyeliner, and come with extremely loyal followers. GaGa may have her “monsters,” but Lambert’s “Glam Nation” is going strong.
That sentiment was front and center Tuesday evening when Lambert took the stage at the Nokia Theatre in New York City in a theatrical laser-shining performance. Fellow Idol vet Allison Iraheta (who should be a star by now) and guitar popstress Orianthi opened the show. Speaking of the latter, there is no question of the Aussie’s talent but she needs some more edge.
Dressed in an outfit the offspring of the Mad Hatter and Skeletor might sport, and a Rihanna do, Lambert strutted his stuff, summoning the crowd to have an entertaining evening during his hour set. They did, and he clearly did. Whether it was showing off his pipes or his semi-provocative dance moves backed by dancers right off of Scandal’s “The Warrior” music video set, Lambert proved his pop melodies have bite and he won’t go away easily. Lambert was in top form in New York with a stripped down version of “Whataya Want From Me,” a spot-on “Aftermath,” and a faster paced seductive version of Gary Jules’ cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World.” (How’s that… a cover of a cover of a cover!) In a nice touch, Lambert ended the night by merging “World” into a rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” It was a fitting way to end the night since the crowd, a hybrid of parents, teens, and 30-somethings like me, there was plenty of love going around.
While Idol winner Kris Allen struggles to remain relevant and standout in the industry, Lambert has easily made the transition from contestant to pop star. Papa GaGa’s next album should push him over the edge.