Last week was a very busy one. Adam started his European tour fronting Queen (with the most amazing, positive reviews I’ve ever seen), he appeared on American Idol as a judge, AND we finally got the news we’d really been waiting for – who his new label was, and even a tentative date for both his next single and his 3rd album.
I have to say it was a spectacularly well-timed announcement. Between the New Year’s Eve show and the debut of the tour, plus an appearance on a popular German Christmas show broadcast all over Europe, Adam’s profile there couldn’t have been higher. Meanwhile, he was to appear on Idol that very night, and that news was all over the American media, so he was about as high profile as he could be here. And they did it with two different articles in Billboard just to make it more interesting.
(Basic facts – Label is Warner Brothers Music, single is due out in April (about a month or so after the Queen tour ends) and album is “early summer.” Interestingly, the program for the tour says that same thing about the album, producing a lot of discussion. To brag a little, I expected something along those lines for first single since last summer’s tour got extended to September.)
This news was a tremendous relief to me, at least. I will never forget that very busy week in mid July, 2013. First we found out that RCA wanted Adam to do an album of 80s covers, then we found out from a tweet or two that Adam was going to be on Glee, and then his letter showed up in The Hollywood Reporter.
And the bottom fell out of my stomach. No, I didn’t want him to do an 80s cover album – that would be career death – but I’d held a lot of hope in the facts that he, unlike other Idol finalists, still had a label and he was making a third album. It was a comfort to me in the days after Trespassing fell off the charts, even though RCA did as little as possible to help it. And now he wasn’t signed, just like several others – some of whom are still unsigned. Even those who are, are signed to independent labels who have no clout for radio play. Adam needs to be on a major label.
We were happy enough about Glee and he was working on his album anyway, and he didn’t seem bothered by any of it, but we were worried. And there was NO NEWS. NONE. Not a hint, except for a cryptic tweet about “Waning Buck Moon” ten days later. People did make the connection (not me. No bragging here) but it was only guesswork.
Things were certainly happening. He did Glee, dyed his hair a lighter brown, got more tattoos. He went to clubs, had a big Halloween party and a big birthday party. And continued to say nothing. If there were tantalizing tweets by others, they were deleted. He popped up in NYC after a casino NYE show, looking rather, well, gleeful, but no clue about why. Most guessed signing news.
We assumed he would have to shop around to the other labels. When one of his fellow Idols from his season got signed, people groused until they found out it was a tiny indie. When another announced a third album, others got upset until reminded HE was putting it out himself. It did help when someone else (not an Idol) announced a new label and a new single at the same time – and the press release showed he’d been signed for a year previous. So it wasn’t odd to wait to make an announcement. So maybe Adam was already signed and we didn’t know. We could hope. People took all sorts of clues from artists he recommended – maybe small divisions of a major label, working with friends. Maybe his Cherry Tree Print suit meant more than his sense of style?
And then. Then he just disappeared. Nothing on Twitter, nothing on Instagram. Nothing until we got a couple of Instagram vids from, of all places, Stockholm. Those were quickly deleted, but not before we all saw them. It turned out, he was working with Max Martin – something we’d been hoping for all through the production of Trespassing. And that was a huge injection of HOPE. Max Martin produces hits. It’s what he does. He produced “Whaddya Want From Me” and “If I Had You.” AND he doesn’t deal directly with artists. He works with labels. MAJOR labels. His time doesn’t come cheap. Adam had to have been signed with someone big.
At least, we held on to that hard, despite naysayers. We also got distracted because that summer’s Queen+Adam Lambert tour was announced. We knew we’d get a couple months of great music. We still wanted information, but, well. Leather and lace and tight pants. 🙂 We got a few more clues – a WB exec told an Adam fan at a random concert that they were excited about having Adam there, and the WBR twitter started to follow him. We began to take it as a done deal.
So the announcement could have been a bit of anti-climax. We’d been pretty sure about WBR, and many of us predicted an April single and an early summer album just from the timing of the tour and the statement in the program. Instead, it was better than we ever hoped.
Because Adam didn’t have to shop around. WB came to him the day after. They wanted him that badly. They knew he was a potential superstar and they wanted his voice and his creativity in their stable. Which seems to say that he really DID walk away from RCA – that it was his choice to leave instead of being dropped. Which makes sense – however it sold, Trespassing did achieve a historical #1.
My own guess, btw, comes from the phrase “creative differences.” Now, this is pretty much a buzz word that can mean anything, but they were using it a lot. Here’s the thing. Record labels wield a lot of power over artists. They can drop an artist for almost anything. They can hold onto a finished album and never release it, holding the artist in limbo (see Jordin Sparks.) And an artist can’t leave until a certain number of albums are released – and Live, Holiday and Greatest Hits albums don’t count. And it’s much harder to get a song on the radio without a label, so artists might be reluctant to disagree. So it wouldn’t be unreasonable for Adam to make the 80s cover album and then hope to make an original next. It would probably sell well enough to do that, although I still believe it would have harmed his career.
Instead of telling him to make the album and maybe give him a vague promise to release a fourth original album, they let him go when he wanted to go. I, personally, believe, with no real proof, that Adam had a creative differences clause in his post-Idol contract, so when they offered him something he knew would hurt him, he COULD walk away with no repercussions. Or maybe DMG got him out the way they got Katy Perry out, or maybe when he proved too stubborn to make that cover album, RCA called his bluff – and he wasn’t bluffing. I like the great contract idea but any of these are good.
Because other major labels don’t come calling the day after an artist is dropped. But also – it means that Adam knew he would be signed – if not by WB, then by someone else. He was not going to be in limbo, or make an album himself. He could get the best possible deal. Oh, I suspect the contract negotiations took longer than one day, but he could rest easy from that day forward. And since he walked away without knowing WB was waiting for him, he still showed enormous courage.
Okay, fine, he had a decent back-up plan. You know. Fronting Queen. Still.
Future is looking really bright right now.