Adam Lambert on ‘Organic’ New Music & the ‘Double Standard’ Outcry Over His 2009 AMAs Performance
6/18/2018 by Joe Lynch
In Billboard’s inaugural Pride Issue, Adam Lambert opened up about carrying the musical torch for the late Freddie Mercury.
And while honoring Mercury’s legacy while touring the globe with Queen has certainly occupied a lot of Lambert’s time, his solo career isn’t exactly on the backburner – even if he has been rather quiet about it to the public.
“Obviously the Queen stuff’s been awesome and I’ve been traveling around the world, but in between these different chunks of touring, I’ve been in the studio, heavily, and I’ve been working on an album,” Lambert tells Billboard. “I’m so excited for people to hear new music and get that out there. It’s coming.”
And while it probably goes without saying, don’t expect the dynamic artist to deliver more of the same when he finally does return.
“It’s definitely a departure from what I did on The Original High,” Lambert says. “It’s hard to sum it up at this point because I’m still sort of tying it all together. Sonically, I’m still exploring, but I think the general thing I could say is that it’s a bit more organic and it’s a bit more retro. If you’re talking genre there’s a little bit of everything — there’s rock n’ roll vibes, there’s funk, there’s singer/songwriter vibes, a little blues, and there’s a lot more soul. It just feels more classic that way, but there’s still a modern edge to it.”
Aside from talking about what’s coming up, Lambert also looked back on his career while chatting with Billboard. As crazy as it seems, this November will mark nine years since his debut solo album For Your Entertainment – and his controversial American Music Awards performance of the title track. Not that his 2009 AMAs performance should have been contentious – all he did was kiss his male bassist briefly during the performance. But the Parents Television Council was outraged, and after numerous complaints, ABC cut him from an appearance on Good Morning America.
“That was the big road block I had right after Idol,” Lambert recalls. “It wasn’t like this premeditated thing where I was thinking, ‘ooh I’m gonna piss everybody off.’ I really wasn’t thinking that. I was like, ‘okay, this is my song, it’s a very sexy song, and I’m gonna have dancers and this is what I want to do.’ I knew that people were gonna notice it, but I didn’t realize that it was gonna be, like, people were angry. I didn’t realize people were going to feel betrayed. I just expected raised eyebrow, you know? I expected the type of reaction that my favorite pop stars have gotten for that type of stuff for years. And that’s what I was so confused about — I was like ‘wait, why am I not allowed to do that when I’ve seen it done? I don’t get it.'”
After he got pulled from GMA, Lambert appeared on a different channel to discuss the outcry – and that network unwittingly proved the inherent double standard when it comes to male-on-male kissing vs. female-on-female kissing for him.
“They asked me about it and they mentioned the Madonna/Britney/Christina [2003 VMAs] kiss. And they showed a clip of that kiss. And then right afterwards, right after that clip, they showed a clip of me kissing the guy that I kissed — and they blurred out our mouths. They went to commercial after that and I looked at them and said, ‘what the fuck?’ And they’re like ‘what?’ And I said, ‘you just illustrated my point that there’s a double standard, like why are we even talking about this? Look what you just did. Is it because I’m a man? Is it because I’m a new artist? Is it because I was on a show where people voted [for me]?'”
While Lambert said moving on from the AMAs was “a bit of an uphill battle,” he notes that he was grateful for the support the industry showed his then-fledging career. “I was still able to put out ‘Whataya Want From Me’ right afterward, and the radio supported it. And it turned into a [Billboard Hot 100] top 10 hit. I was really fortunate that it didn’t kill my career, to put it that way. I was very fortunate. I was really excited to have that hit, and I got nominated that year for a Grammy, and it turned out okay. But it definitely put a bit of a wrench on certain things, as far as live TV — there was a little bit of a worry there, and I definitely had eyebrows still raised at me.”
Fortunately, the powerhouse vocalist sees today’s world as more receptive to LGBTQ representation. “I can guarantee you it’s one hundred percent different today,” he says. “There’s been baby steps made, and baby steps turn into bigger steps. But nine years ago, it was a much different atmosphere.”