He Will Rock You
Adam Lambert first wowed fans when he appeared on American Idol in 2009 as an energetic, fashionable, and unapologetic contestant. His albums were loved and praised even after he didn’t win the competition, and now he’s back once more, but this time in the company of royalty—Rocking out right next to Queen!
Simon Cowell was the first to criticize Adam Lambert at the start of his career, making way for a long road ahead of him towards freedom and ultimately, success. “Your voice is theatrical,” Cowell said during Lambert’s audition on Season 8 of American Idol back in 2009. Despite the coded jab, Lambert received four “yes” answers from the judges, allowing him to move on to the competition. This wouldn’t be the first time he would face scrutiny for his flamboyance and loud voice. Throughout the competition, tabloids wondered out loud in the form of headlines, if he was gay, moving his sexuality to the forefront rather than his talent.
Little did they know that Lambert had actually come out to his friends and family years earlier, at 18, in his hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana. He just didn’t feel the need to announce it on a singing competition show, where he desired his voice to be the main star, not his private life. Unfortunately, his private life did end up becoming a hot topic later on in the show, when pictures of Lambert kissing his ex-boyfriend circulated around the Internet. Tabloids had a field day, and criticism from conservative news anchors was everywhere, with Bill O’Reilly going as far as to call the pictures “embarrassing.” Despite the uncalled for attention, Adam continued to do what he does best, which is singing his heart out. He continued to impress on the American Idol stage, winning the hearts of many Americans and the judges, due to his fulfilling stage presence, loud and proud voice, and embellished attire choices. Many thought he would go on to win American Idol, but he ended up being runner up to winner Kris Allen, who was a seemingly “safer” option for conservative viewers.
After the show wrapped up and Lambert continued to put out music, the criticism still seemed to follow, but this time in a different light. His LGBTQ+ fans were upset with him for not coming out on the show, a missed opportunity to raise awareness and be a role model. “I didn’t [declare my sexuality on the show], but I also didn’t realize that I needed to. I’d already come out,” Lambert explained, referencing how he had already opened up about it years earlier.
Forgetting the controversy from both sides, he decided to pursue music after American Idol, and soon enough his first single, “For Your Entertainment” had been released, in 2009. It impacted the Billboard Hot 100, but not enough to make it into the Top 10. That soon changed with his most popular song to date, “Whataya Want from Me,” which reached #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and even experienced international success. The third single off of his debut album, “If I Had You” hit the Top 30, and then it was time for his first album to be released! For Your Entertainment released that same year, peaking at #3 on the Billboard 200, and was welcomed by a positive reception. Lambert had had to fight with the head of his label, RCA, to keep his chosen album artwork. The head of the label felt that it was “too much” and wouldn’t appeal to the typical American due to its airbrushed, bright, and feminine look, but Lambert felt differently, and won. Clearly, he was right as the album did exceedingly well!
Continuing to follow his own intuition, Lambert performed at the American Music Awards that same year in 2009, marking one of the most controversial performances on the show to date. During his performance, he made countless “out there” sexual movements with his dancers, and even shared a kiss with his male keyboardist. Censorship advocacy groups immediately began to file complaints about the kiss, and soon after, ABC, the network that aired the awards show, cut him from a scheduled appearance on Good Morning America the next day. Adam was confused and upset about the pushback and the cut from a potential interview; he hadn’t realized that a kiss would cause this much controversy. “I knew that people were gonna notice it, but I didn’t realize that it was gonna be, like, people were angry… I just expected a raised eyebrow, you know?”
At this point, Adam felt as if he had to “tone it down” due to everyone from his labels to the media to the people telling him he was over the top. Although he had gone on to receive a Grammy nomination in 2010 for “Best Male Pop Vocal Performance” for “Whataya Want from Me,” he was a bit discouraged due to the tough criticism. The result was his second album, 2012’s Trespassing, which was a bit tamer in nature. The album landed him his first #1 spot on the Billboard 200, making him the first openly gay artist to achieve the feat.
Craving a space in which he could be 100% himself without drawing any criticism, Lambert soon had found himself in the perfect situation. He had always been a Queen fan (In his American Idol audition, he chose to sing “Bohemian Rhapsody”), and the year before his second album released, he got the opportunity to perform with them at the MTV Europe Music Awards. For Adam, that was already an honor, but he had no idea what else would come of that performance. The next year, Queen reached out to him with an idea for him to join them in performing. It started off as a summer concert series, with Adam accompanying the legends (including guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor) onstage, but it didn’t end there. He also began to join them on tour, becoming a stand-in for the late and great Freddie Mercury. At first, he had concerns over how people would react about him filling in such big shoes, but as time went on, he realized that the Queen fans were actually pretty accepting and psyched to see him up there. Lambert had finally found a gig that made him feel accepted, encouraged, and free.
“…FREDDIE IS IRREPLACEABLE. THERE’S NO WAY TO COMPARE TO HIM. IT WAS ALWAYS MY HOPE THAT AUDIENCES WOULD UNDERSTAND THAT I’M UP THERE JUST EXCITED TO SING GREAT MUSIC THAT EVERYONE KNOWS,” Adam expressed.
And he’s been doing just that as he belts out the well-known ballads and high energy songs. He’s also been having fun with the outfit possibilities, as he dishes that he has more fashion freedom while performing with Queen. “I go further with some of the stuff I wear with Queen than I would in my own wardrobe, just because I feel like some of the songs just beg for that.” Expect loud colors, daring cuts, and lots of bold shoes to grace the stage; he isn’t holding back when it comes to dressing to impress!
While performing with Queen, Adam became inspired to create another album, as he was surrounded by such iconic songs and influences. After working on it for years, his third work, The Original High was released, and peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200. He had left his previous label to join Warner Bros, and this was his first work to come out of the new label, along with the help of executive producers Max Martin and Shellback. The album was a mix of EDM, pop house, and synth pop, marking a different style and route for the artist. Currently, Adam is working on his fourth album, and although there isn’t an official release date yet, he’s confident about how it will be received due to its adventurous genres. “…It’s a bit more organic and it’s a bit more retro…rock n’ roll vibes, there’s funk, there’s singer/songwriter vibes, a little blues, and there’s a lot more soul,” he shares excitedly.
Regarding his other ventures, Lambert and Queen just wrapped up a European tour not too long ago, and now they’re back on the road, embarking on their 23- show “Queen + Adam Lambert, The Rhapsody Tour.” They’re set to come to the BB&T Center on August 17th, 2019, and you better bet that they’ll tear the house down! Lambert (and Queen) will be doing it all for your entertainment!
By Selene Rivera