Ah, celebrity. Adam certainly is one. It’s pretty much his second job – and it is work. Yes, he’s a recording and touring artist first. That’s what he wants to do – make music and entertain us. That’s the first job. That’s what he did last summer, when he performed for US (the collective us of both hardcore and casual fans who attended his shows or at least watched the vids). There were some mentions in the online tabloids and there were radio interviews, and he even made the news once or twice (Papgate, Malaysia) and won an award in Canada, but mostly, he was the gorgeous, talented, insane man on stages all over the world, just for his fans.
Remember when Adam went to the Scissor Sisters’ show in NYC? This was towards the end of his US tour, and more or less in the middle of the whole thing, and all of a sudden, he’s in the papers. He’s hobnobbing with Susan Sarandon and Katy Perry and he’s KISSING Jake Shears. And we were greeted in the middle of the time when Adam was ours with the reminder that he is ALSO a celebrity who sits in VIP and knows other celebrities by their first name, and that there will be a time when that will be the main way we get to hear and see him – the time he will not be ours. When he’ll be on red carpets and award shows and go to parties and restaurants. When he’ll be a celebrity again.
You know. Where Adam is right now.
Celebrity is work. It’s also play – Adam likes getting dressed up and getting his picture taken, and he loves going to parties, but it’s work. It’s why he didn’t take even his mom to the Grammy Awards, it’s probably a reason why he’s late so often and why he picks and chooses where he’ll go. It means he’s lost a certain amount of privacy and freedom of movement. It means his personal life is fair game to gossip columnists. (And all of that has been sacrificed to his fans as well.)
Why is he paying this price? Because, yes, it’s a thing he wants – there are perks to celebrity as well – but also because he didn’t come to fame the traditional route. He has to keep his name out there lest he become just one of many Idol finalists who put out one album and disappeared – he needs to get and keep the attention of people who have never seen an episode of Idol or heard of the American Music Awards. He also wants to be more than a singer – he wants his fashion sense, his make-up sense and, these days, his ability to be a gay role model out there. And that can only happen if he keeps his name and image out there. And he has to do that while working hard making his next album (and giving us as few clues as possible about it.)
And the higher the level of celebrity he attains, the better. In some ways, it’s easier because the gossip mags, the paps and the interview shows will seek him out. In other ways, it means he has to attend more events – but yet has to pick them carefully. Adam wants and needs to be A-list. He needs to a bold-faced name in a tabloid, a linked one on a website – and they need to feel comfortable mentioning him without identifying him as an American Idol alum. Rock star, pop star, singer, recording artist – all fine. “Openly gay” if it’s relevant to the article. Grammy nominee canNOT be said often enough – at least until he wins one. And I would be so happy if I never saw the words “American Idol runner-up” again – unless it’s relevant, again. (Yeah, yeah, winner wouldn’t bother me in the slightest, but it also might be a handicap to him.) He needs to be culturally recognized, and not JUST for kissing his bassist (although being part of the national conversation that Thanksgiving had to have been far more good than harm.)
He needs to be the punch line of jokes with no further reference, or the subject of impersonation without any need for identification. He needs to so much a part of the world consciousness that when he releases his next album, people will be ready for it, and the reviewers will snatch it up. He needs to be A-list.
Is he? Well, he’s achieved the punchline and impersonation, but he’s so out there that even B-list would be enough for that. I don’t know if he’s full-on A-list, but if he isn’t, he’s on his way – they don’t use Idol as much as they used to, there ARE paps and gossip mags and, yes, people are interested in his personal life who aren’t his fans.
And this week is a case in point. Because, like stardom and success, celebrity level is a matter of perception. If someone is perceived as A-list, they ARE A-list. And to attain that perception means careful planning and choosing of events.
Adam can support his friends in fashion shows and series premieres, because it’s always valid to support friends. Adam can attend benefits like the Elton John concert because that’s an appropriate cause for him now that he’s dipping his toe into politics. But he was very selective for his Grammy afterparties – he only went to two, and both were fairly exclusive. Because he may not be entirely A-list yet, but he’ll never get there if he is percieved as B-list. And that means not doing B-list parties.
Last year, Perez had an A-list event – Katy Perry arrived elephantback. This year, there was no one top level. Meanwhile there was Jake Shear’s star-studded book event the next night, followed by Lady Gaga’s – two parties with music elite attendees. And, just as in the exclusive Grammy afterparties, Adam’s presence there was taken for granted. He’s not some interloper from a game show, he’s not a wannabe. He’s a genuine pop star now, with peer recognition and two bona fide hits.
I don’t know if Adam is general A-list yet, but I think he’s music A-list. And that’s exactly where he needs to be.