Adam Lambert - For Your Entertainment
Those of us for drawn towards liking music we know we really shouldn't are afforded all too few opportunities to raise the value of our Contrary Index. Take Adam Lambert. (No, really.) Runner-up in last year’s American Idol, word is Adam’s the ‘real winner’. Oh, okay. You don’t wanna be winning the damn thing, nah. Kelly Clarkson? Will Young? Girls Aloud? Selling all those records must be a damn pain in the butt. Winning these shows, though? Who wants to do that? Isn't 'the journey' enough?
Hey, I’m as clueless as you are as to who beat him, to be perfectly honest. I’ve listened to his album. Now you want research on top? Look, like I said, it would have been a thrill to go out into the world with stone tablets engraved with “I hereby proclaim that the potentially plastic beyond belief, over-produced album by Adam Lambert, American Idol runner-up, is actually a smartly diverting piece of work that tips a nod to its questionable provenance and offers up a spicy brew of pop-rock of the type that really does shag the leg of the zeitgeist.” Would have loved to. Seriously. But it ain't gonna happen, folks.
For Your Entertainment is marginally diverting, there's no denying it. But you pay a price for the gems. Opener ‘Music Again’ comes on like ‘A Kind of Magic’-era Queen and it’s framing of just why our Adam is so into her (or him – mmm, don’t worry, we’ll come to that) via its “Oh you make me wanna listen to music again” is propelled into the cheapest seats in the arena via one Justin Hawkins. Yep, The Darkness man puts himself back in the shop window with canny nous. Depending on your age, you’ll nail him for the gymnastic guitar solo in a second. Or like some of us, you’ll at first wonder whether it’s Richie Blackmore.
And it’s generational pointers like that that really do mark out Lamberts’s demographic. Because For Your Entertainment wasn’t recorded in a bedsit on an old Bontempi, written “on the road” or blessed with any of the accoutrements of your traditional cool, facing up to its committee-driven, conveyor belt-assembled provenance is hurdle number one. Now that’s not going to bother the young people but recent shows in Britain, firmed up by his TV heritage, confirm that Lambert is loved by all ages. Fine. The second obstacle is unavoidable. No getting around it, Adam Lambert is a bit gay. Now, I could give a flying one about what Mr Lambert gets up to when he gets the Barry White out but it seems to be a subject of some conjecture for people who surf the internet trying to find out if newly famous people who wear eyeliner and don’t make it easy by wearing blue jeans and checked shirts might be Homer-Sexyuls! I don’t know whether he is or not. Care less and all that. All I will say is, if he’s not, he bloody well should be. If I had those cheek bones and could throw Prince circa ’86 poses like our Ad can, I’d turn gay in an instant. But that’s just me. We move on.
‘FYE’ contains a monster 18 tracks. Ridiculous, of course. Was someone with a clipboard not employed to stand in the studio and keep count? Too much filler means it takes a while for me to get interested again after the blinding opener. Much has been made of the input of all manner of A-listers and the Pink track ‘Whataya Want From Me’ is much as you’d expect and preferable to the dire ‘Strut’ with its de rigueur electro marching beat. And you’ll think I’m making this next bit up but I’m not. Are you ready ? You’ll spot the Muse track a mile off. I’m not joking. ‘Soaked’ has ‘Matt Bellamy’ in a bracket after its title. I swear, anyone with the vaguest awareness of popular music of the past decade will, two bars in, loudly guffaw and go “That’s f***ing Muse !” And it is. This one also brings to mind Queen, as did much of Muse's last effort, but we're in A Night at the Opera territory: strings, the grandest piano and overwrought to a tee. Rather fine, all in, it must be said.
And so it continues. Risible in parts, of course, but largely, you know, okay. ‘Sure Fire Winners’ is a plop of euro pop-rock that, with a straight face, sees Lambert sing “Cause all the girls and boys wanna know / How far this bad wild child’s gonna go.” I suspect they don’t, to be perfectly honest, Adam, but I recognize that there’s an image thing to consider here. But really, it’s 2010. I know Billy Bob sat on the back stoop in Arseville, Iowa, will see you on his telly and think the devil’s unleashed you on the Christian world but we’ve kinda seen it all now, you know? Britney and Robbie with their season tickets to rehab, Lady Gaga, as alien as we have right now in pop despite being manufactured to such a degree she probably has an an ISO 9001 tattoo on her backside - nothing really rocks us anymore. That nice Will Young ? (I know, I can’t leave it.) Took him about three years to tell us what we’d kinda suspected from the off. Guess what? Earth carried on spinning.
It’s only when you take note of just how utterly extraneous these distractions are, that you revert back to more prosaic concerns. Is the music any good, for instance? Well ... it's alright. You could probably guess what it Sounds Like. But even while the main feature is playing, you find yourself drawn back to the adverts every time. Adam Lambert may well have come second in a singing competition, he may well be camping it up just a bit too much for us to really think he’s 4 Real (check out his Idol look – a bit of spiky black hair but no more frightening than Gareth Gates), and this whole ‘Is he/isn’t he?’ thing is already so old. But it takes an effort of will to pull back the curtain, particularly when it’s tied back with such an absolute army of collaborators that the CD booklet thank you’s page really needs chapters. (Though, to be honest, I only squinted through it to see if he thanks God. Like they all do. Bucking the trend, surprisingly, he doesn’t. Hallelujah! That said, he does thank Idol major domo Simon Fuller for being “the voice of artistic taste”, which is hilarious, and he also thanks one of my cats, which is cool. Unless he actually does have a friend called Boo.)
In summary ? For Your Entertainment makes good on its presumption. Nothing here has been enginee- sorry, created to challenge or unsettle. Not at all. Reality gets in the way every time. This is a really quite bloated record, not just in its almost obscene length but in its hefty kitchen sink production. The ugly sequenced bleeps of ‘Pick U Up’ sit a little bit uneasily with the likes of ‘Time for Miracles’, drab AOR that has no place on the calling card of a supposed firebrand and rebel. Lady Gaga and Katy Perry are in there somewhere too, apparently, but they may have popped up when I’d drifted off for a bit. Jeez, you could nip off and have a bath while the album is playing and still get back in time for the second half.
Therein lies the rub. Adam Lambert (did no-one, by the way, think to do something about that bloody estate agent name?) is here to entertain us, not himself, and the greatest pop dilettantes gave not two hoots about what the great unwashed thought. They were on that stage for themselves. Our Adam, so keen to proffer the fruits of his many and varied labours, so sullied by the whole Idol process, comes off sounding just a tad desperate and more than a little eager to please. As much as I’d love to tell you that, actually, he’s a shining star, here to blind us like a young Bowie with an uncommonly angular take on spacey pop rock, locked onto a sexual trajectory that will make the entire planet his willing slaves, I can’t. I simply can’t. He’s called Adam. Adam Lambert. He sings songs other people have written for him. And sometimes it’s just too much like hard work to get past the unfortunate truth.