On the future of Adam Lambert.

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It’s been a long time since I followed the British music press, but when I did, I seem to recall a crazy level of hyperbole. Bands were routinely called “the best band in the UK” or “the best band since [some legendary musical act]” before anyone had ever heard their first album, based on a couple of hot shows or maybe an early single.

Many of those bands ended up amounting to absolutely nothing, but by that time the notoriously fickle press was already several best-bands-in-the-UK down the road.

I’ve never seen anything comparable here in the States, but the coverage of Adam Lambert, this year’s American Idol runner-up, is giving me flashbacks of the days when I used to peruse NME at the bookstore after my college classes were out. Before the contest was even over, Lambert had appeared on the cover of Entertainment Weekly solo. The judges, music journalists, the larger media, and bloggers routinely tossed around words like “superstar.”

Superstar? Adam Lambert hasn’t put out anything other than Idol iTunes tie-ins and a single of that Kara DioGuardi song that everyone hated.

Despite this, I am on board with the hype, although more cautiously than many. I used the word “superstar” myself, but hedgingly, asking, “Are we witnessing the birth of a superstar?” I wrote that Adam was a major talent, but, of course, major talents are not always successful.

As a follower of American Idol since the beginning, I’m inclined towards caution. I’ve seen a number of Idol winners or runners-up who seemed to have promising careers ahead of them falter either right out of the gate or when it was time for a follow-up album after the hype of the competition had died down and we, like the British music press, had moved on to a new set of contestants.

It would be a travesty if this happened to someone as talented as Adam Lambert who already commands world attention. To prevent it, Adam should take a long hard look at the rise and fall of Bo Bice.

Bo Bice had a ballsy Southern-rock sound that was popular enough to get him to number two during the show’s fourth season, exactly where Adam finished. Like Adam’s sound, Bo’s was new to the show. Although Bo wasn’t as consistent as Adam, his performances could also be electrifying (most notably here).

But when it came time to make an album, according to All Music Guide’s Stephen Thomas Earlewine:

They threw everything that worked for Bo on the show out the window — the Southern rock, the blues, the classicism — and shoehorned him into a bland alt-rock setting somewhere between Nickelback and Bon Jovi. Clearly, the idea behind this is that what appeals to the show’s audience won’t appeal to the record-buying public, particularly to teens, but instead of building on the audience Bo had on the show, The Real Thing alienates them.

This approach, or something similar, would kill Adam’s career just as surely as it killed Bo’s. Not that Lambert wouldn’t be able to make a comfortable living between modestly-selling albums and a stage career, but his opportunity to become a superstar–a Mick Jagger, a Steven Tyler, a Freddy Mercury–would be squandered, likely for good.

In order to not get his square peg shoved into one of the music industry’s small set of round holes, Adam needs to take control of his career. He needs to insist on picking his collaborators, and he needs to fight for quality material. He needs to refuse to sing songs that do not meet a high standard. He needs to not let the suits, with their preconceived and narrow notions of what will and will not be successful, push him around.

Can he do it? I think he can. Unlike many prior contestants, Adam has been working in the entertainment industry, if only its fringes, for years, so he likely knows the ropes better than most and hence is less likely to get steamrolled.

I also think the Record People are less likely to steamroll him. When Bo Bice got Bo Biced, the show was still in its early phases and The Powers That Be were focused on producing pop stars. The success of Carrie Underwood demonstrated the narrow-mindedness of this approach and since then we’ve had both country and rock Idol success stories. And I get the impression that the Record People think Adam Lambert’s sound will be plenty commercial as it is.

But I still don’t trust them, and neither should Adam. In order to realize his potential, he needs to take control. I pray that he does.

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8 Responses to On the future of Adam Lambert.

  1. Alex LaPointe says:

    Holy-wack unlyrical lyrics Andre. Your fucking right!

  2. Indeed I am. Let’s get down to business.

  3. M says:

    Absolutely correct. The last time I cared about a season of AI was when Bo was on. Had such high hopes for him. Now Adam has sucked me in, really hope HE is stronger than the powers that be.

  4. Maree says:

    Quite so. For what it’s worth, he says he’s pushing for quite a bit of creative control on his album.

  5. lindajean says:

    They let him pretty much have free reign on Idol so hopefully they will let him do what he wants. He’s stated he wants a blend of all different types of music and he is the only artist I have ever seen who can seem to sing everything and anything flawlessly and effortlessly. The kid is amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like him. Plus he puts on a great show. I bought all his AI music on Itunes and I have to say he has a beautiful studio voice. When he studio records and your not so focused on what he’s wearing or doing on stage and just listen to the voice he becomes all the more amazing. Feeling Good, Mad World and A Change is Gonna Come especially highlight his unique vocal gifts. In Feeling Good at one point he goes way, way up in falsetto. It’s incredible.

  6. mch says:

    That was a very thoughtful and right to the point article. We hope Adam is smart enough and business mind enough not to let other people to ruin it for his album and his career. More importantly, we hope 19-E and the producers in Sony-BME learn the lesson on BO. As you said perhaps 19-E learn from experience, and they will not damage or waste the talent of Adam who can make them millions. If they were any smart, they should really let Adam does the driving and it will get to his and their destinations.

  7. adamsluvjnes says:

    Adam is smart enough. He has said that he wants a cohesive sound with his music with him as the center. He has already started talks with music producers. I think that he will accomplish his goal. Why? Because, Simon said at Adam’s audition that he thought Adam was “theatrical, and therefore not current.” At the end of Idol, Adam could literally do what he wanted to do. KISS??? “Theatrical to the nth degree?” Queen -Freddy Mercury anyone? Adam’s costume for the KISS medley – “theatrical”?? Adam has broken through the pop idolness of AI and has literally made AI his “own”. Adam has infused AI with the very essence of who he is and AI will never be the same. So I believe that Adam will not allow TPTB to steamroller over him. He will make sure that his wishes are followed through…and he has the goods to prove it.

  8. Edie says:

    Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but Adam can control his own destiny if anyone can. He promised to surprise us at the beginning of AI and he’s been keeping that promise pretty well. The only thing that worries me is all the negative press. I know that the more talent, popularity, and potential a future star has, the more they seem to be a magnet for all kinds of yellow journalism. Here’s hoping that Adam can get thru this hype. Our world needs him in our dull lives.

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