Re-inventing Adam

Adam wants to be in this game for a long, long time. That’s true of everyone in his business, of course, but he’s coming at this with clear eyes, a lack of romance (not talking personal life here, folks. Possibly not ever) and a strong sense of history. Which makes sense for a man who has been on the periphery for years, who sees himself as a businessperson as much as an artist and who has a deep and broad knowledge of his chosen field.

And one of the most successful and long-lived artists in music, one who has not had to produce either a “holiday” album, or one of covers is one of Adam’s own personal idols, Madonna.

Just a note – I’d love Adam to make a classic rock cover album. I’d love to hear his voice interpret some of the great songs of all times. And I pray he never has to do that – such an album would happen because he needs the money. I don’t want him in that position. He rocks his own songs on stage. That’s plenty.

Anyway, back to Madonna. When her career was just starting, she pushed boundaries, but she also reinvented herself with every album, every video, every tour. She was ALWAYS Madonna, even when she was Marilyn or Evita, but she presented herself and her music differently. She never let her fans get bored or complacent. And she carefully gauged how shocking she was – just enough to get the headlines; not enough to get banned. And she’s still well-known, she’s still immensely wealthy and there are no cover or holiday albums waiting in the wings for her. If she puts out an album next month, it WILL sell.

And that’s what Adam’s after. A career that constantly gains new fans even as he maintains most of his old ones. He’s already gotten fans outside the Idol bubble. I’m constantly seeing tweets and posts by people who became his fans after Idol, after Gridlock, after he returned to Idol.

After the AMAs.

He’s NOT Madonna, and there are boundaries he has as a gay man that she, as a straight woman, would never have. When she kissed girls, it did not make straight men uncomfortable and everyone was sure it was play-acting. When Adam kisses boys, it bothers male viewers plus there’s always the possibility it’s real. Fortunately, Adam has learned that there are times and places for pushing boundaries. His performance style is also different – while her style has always been overtly sexual and sultry, his has always been playful. They are different people, after all. I don’t know if Madonna ever wore so much glitter.

But he does share one trait with Madonna – he knows exactly who he is both personally and musically. With that knowledge he can reinvent his image and style as much as he wants while not distancing himself from his fanbase. It will always be Adam on that stage, singing his face off, no matter what he wears or how he does his hair. It will always be Adam’s vocals emerging from the earbuds.

There are people who are disappointed that he’s reinventing himself now. They love his glitter and rhinestones and over the top make-up and costuming. I love it, too.

And there are those who would like him to go further, to eschew nail polish and lip gloss and keep his hair neat and pretty, and singing sweet acoustic songs. I love that, but not because it’s more “masculine”. Adam’s about as butch as he’s going to get. I just think he sounds nice when he sings that way, and it’s a different look.

I have no idea what his current reinvention is going to do, although I’m rather pleased that he intends a rock edge to his pop. I also know that can change at any point – Adam’s made that clear himself. And there will be more albums (I’m sure of it) and videos and tours in the future, and he’ll reinvent himself again. Not just for business reasons, either. I’m pretty sure he’s currently bored with glitter and camp, having lived that for the past nearly two years. But then, I’m pretty sure “glitter” was a line item on his tour budget. And we know how easily that man gets bored.

It’s going to be a fun ride – I don’t think we’ll ever be able to predict what Adam will do in future. But it will be amazing to watch.

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About mamadeb

I'm a devoted fan of Adam Lambert, but also of cooking, knitting, science fiction and pretty anything pop culture. I'm @_mamadeb on Twitter.
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4 Responses to Re-inventing Adam

  1. Jaleh says:

    Madonna might not be a good parallel. Madonna, I think, always knew who she was, and what music would fit her, which put a realistic, secure limit on the reinvention. I’m not sure if Adam is as clear on his musical identity, which worries me about the reinvention.

    Yes, Adam knows that he can sing. But who is he, musically? Only three years ago he was doing Wicked, piano-acoustic for Upright Cabaret, uber-grunge for Citizen Vein, and uber-glam for Zodiac. Which one of these guys is Adam Lambert? Does he know? If he’s not sure, what will the reinvention be based on? Audience reaction? Sales? I ask, because he’s talking about a drastic reinvention here, one where he moves from DTRH to Aftermath.

    How safe is a reinvention if the person doing it is unclear about his own artistic identity? Adam sounded very certain about his direction for FYE in early interviews, and many fans jumped to his defense, explaining the various genres on the album as various facets of Adam. He’s said recently, however, that he WAS confused about his identity and direction while recording FYE.

    Is he clearer now? Yes, he has more time, but he’s also said that he’s basing this reinvention not on his own needs as an artist, but on sales and fan response. I’m not sure if this is a good thing.

  2. mamadeb says:

    Only Adam knows for sure if he’s clear on who he is, of course. But your examples – Wicked, Citizen Vein, Upright Cabaret – are all jobs he held, not places where he could choose his own music. He regarded Wicked simply as a way to pay the rent, and what he sang at Upright Cabaret was appropriate for it – he may have had a choice of songs, but not style. Citizen Vein was Monte’s band; Adam was merely the singer. While he probably had input, the band style was the band style. To use those as examples would be like using Take One, imho.

    Zodiac is a different animal, and Adam certainly did have more choices. And he chose to go all out glitter and glam – much like he did post FYE, so it seems to me he did understand where he wanted to go. And then you have to look at pre-Idol recordings, which were heavily into the electronica, something Adam has said will also be in this next album.

    I think that Adam does have a firm idea of who he is and what he wants to sing NOW – but part of reinvention is changing one’s style of singing as well as presentation. And Adam has always sounded very certain of who he was musically – and that could just mean “I am a very versatile singer who enjoys many genres and does them well.”

    It is a drastic change (although I think DTRH would fit on a rock-edged pop album), but Adam himself has said he’s not ready to conceptualize things yet. I think the major differences will be that he will have written on most of the songs, which will give them more coherence and he will also not have so much style variation on the album. He wants/needs a commercial album, and for that he has to gauge audience reaction. Yeah, I can see how that can be worrisome. He already knows he can’t please everyone, but I can see him trying to please the majority.

    FYE is actually fairly similar to what he described on Idol itself, but coming off of tour and all of a sudden having these songs – Soaked, Fever, Music Again – being handed to him by his own idols – must have messed things up. He hasn’t had ten years to visualize this album, so we shall have to wait and see.

  3. Jaleh says:

    Definitely! Adam needs a commercially viable album, and smash singles from that album. WWFM sold far better than IIHY, and had an easier time on the radio than IIHY, so the idol audience was not the only one to prefer soul-stirring Adam to playful Adam. WWFM sold well abroad, as well. So…We’ll see. I’m hoping that he has a few BOs and DTRHs on the new album.

  4. Pingback: Adam Lambert Week in Review – March 13-19, 2011 « On the Meaning of Adam Lambert

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