For Your Entertainment – Adam Lambert

Title: For Your Entertainment. Release Date: November 2009. ©2009, RCA Music Group

Title: For Your Entertainment. Release Date: November 2009. ©2009, RCA Music Group

Adam Lambert can’t be accused of timidity.   His debut album, For Your Entertainment, hasn’t re-invented the acoustic wheel, but his bucking of any one genre is a risk most non-established artists would shrink from.     In an industry where pop icons themselves are branded as a commodity, music often takes a backseat to pomp and circumstance.   However, Mr. Lambert is a rare creature; his show-stopping style is backed by a preternatural vocal ability.   As Madonna (more a businesswoman performer than a vocalist) sagely stated, “An image and a good hook can get you in the door, but something has to keep you in the room”.    Mr. Lambert has made a bold and sweeping entrance.

The hook comes in the form of MUSIC AGAIN, the album’s opening track, and an irreverent, joyful hymn brimming over with 80’s enthusiasm.   The cheeky “Queen” sound makes this patchwork throw-back an homage of the highest order.    Why aren’t we treated to music like this anymore?   FOR YOUR ENTERTAINMENT, the debut single, really brings sexy back to commercial pop music, proudly displaying an element of sexual titillation usually exclusive to female pop stars.  Mr. Lambert gives men permission to be objects of desire; if Hellenistic Greece had possessed a techno-anthem, this would’ve been it.

P!nk’s WHATAYA WANT FROM ME is a bittersweet and simple song with an annoyingly catchy chorus designed for radio domination.   Its generic nature isn’t helped by Mr. Lambert’s careful reverence of P!nk’s signature style; his oft-admitted admiration of her may have prevented him from making the track his own.

Who knew that a man of such ear-piercing octave punches also possessed a lower-register growl with a tremolo capable of curling toes?  STRUT combines a kick-ass guitar riff with a gripping hook, but its verses seem plucked from Doctor Seuss.  Is the near-ridiculous rhyming scheme deliberately tongue-in-cheek, or a foray into junior-high-calibre Lyrics 101?   Mr. Lambert’s taste for kitsch suggests the former.

Those familiar with the rock-opera/futuristic-fusion sound of Muse will delight in Mr. Lambert’s treatment of Matthew Bellamy’s SOAKED.   The astonishing vocals are both immaculate and dreamlike, providing a stark contrast to the bombastic orchestra lending accompaniment.  Take a moment to fully absorb the lyrics and emotion evident in Mr. Lambert’s delivery.   Who knew that the self-flagellation of a person inured to one-night-stands could be so beautiful?

SURE FIRE WINNERS is tailor-made to be a romping, stomping stadium staple.  More observant listeners will recognize the song for what it is; a championing of male virility at the most primal level.

Close your eyes while listening to A LOADED SMILE.  Mr. Lambert’s flawless falsetto merges with the buoying synthesizers to create an almost aquatic ambiance that is both etherial and transporting.  The lyrics (brilliantly penned by Linda Perry) reflect the conflict of a person hopelessly in love, and the disenchanted object of their desire.

IF I HAD YOU is credible Euro-pop with guts.  Its rolling, cyclical refrain and staccato chorus perfectly compliment each other.  This is light fare and Mr. Lambert knows it, delivering the beguiling lyrics with a delirious abandon.  It is a song made for dance clubs and thunderous remixes, but is unlikely to have mainstream appeal.  Its mid-way placement on the album is somehow apropos; the song is forgettable until you hear it.

Rivers Cuomo of Weezer and Mr. Lambert collaborated to create PICK U UP, the album’s bravest and most subjective song.  Bold in its musical theatre roots, the track blends a fluid guitar with happy-go-lucky lyrics designed to elicit smiles.   It progresses predictably until the “money-shot” arrives; an insane vocal run that ascends toward a breathless key-change so unbelievable that you’ll have to stop and rewind just to make sure your ears aren’t deceiving you.

Don’t let the heavy disco-era references of Lady GaGa’s FEVER  deceive you;  its maturity and sophistication is belied by an appropriately sparse, yet raucus, musical arrangement which Mr. Lambert perfectly executes with a petulant and sinewy wail.  The opening line, “There he goes, my baby walks so slow,” will raise eyebrows, but years from now may be regarded as an important step in blurring the line between gay and straight cultural segregation.  Mr. Lambert doesn’t need to do the cover of Out magazine to be a human rights trailblazer.  FEVER is hands-down the best up-tempo track on For Your Entertainment.

SLEEPWALKER is an inevitable single; Mr. Lambert’s voice is earnest, pleading, yet unbearably sexy, making it a pop-ballad with an edge.   A killer guitar solo by This is It‘s Orianthi Panagaris gives this romantic lament some teeth.  AFTERMATH could be easily written-off as the accessible and bombastic rock anthem, but it serves as an empowering chant for all the faceless LGBT youths struggling to be themselves within a society that still largely rejects them.  With the simple urging “tell a stranger that they’re beautiful”, Mr. Lambert reveals not only his desire to spread love unprovoked, but gives us a glimpse at his own adolescent insecurities.  Every awkward teen hungers to hear such a simple affirmation of self-worth.   Perhaps next time we will be treated to musical composition worthy of such moving lyrics.

Closing out the album, BROKEN OPEN is easily For Your Entertainment‘s best slow-tempo song, and perhaps the best track overall.  Mr. Lambert’s sophisticated (and under-appreciated) abilities as a lyricist are showcased here; he gently urges a friend or lover to feel vulnerable enough to weep.  It is a song so other-worldly in its beauty that it evokes more traditionally “new age” electronic artists like Vangelis (Voices) and Enya (Shepherd Moon), but with a hitched, industrial influence.

There is brilliance peeking beneath the edges of this eclectic and brave album.  The fact that Mr. Lambert recorded it in a few short months boggles the mind; I am compelled to wonder what his limit would be if given sufficient time and resources.  His talents are immense and varied, and the untapped potential here is astonishing.  American Idol had to wait eight seasons for a discovery of this calibre.