Monday, November 23, 2009

Adam Lambert: DID YOU SEE THAT??

Okay: The Voice was a little rough but that was TOTALLY NOT THE POINT.

25 yrs ago Motown celebrated its 25th anniversary on TV (pretty novel at the time) and Michael Jackson blew everybody's mind with his moonwalk. This weekend Motown celebrated its 50th anniversary, and coincidentally everybody’s mind got blown again– but not by Motown. That happened on the American Music Awards, of all places.

America, meet Adam Lambert. Again.

Wow. Wow wow wow. ABC Television did its best to “bleep” some of those visuals but Adam was operating waaaay over their heads. The producers gave him the finale – maybe because they figured the kiddies would be in bed by that time? – which comes with the weight of its own expectations, on top of the promise of the boy’s sheer talent. The pressure on Adam was significant. But he is a pro – seizing the moment, recovering a slip seamlessly, layering shock on top of surprise.

Do I like s&m as a subject of art? Not especially. And yes, there’s an unapologetic s&m theme, both in the lyrics and unsurprisingly in the choreography, but Adam Lambert’s message to his audience is not just about sexplay. Imagine all those people who haven't seen him since he "lost" Idol? The next message they get from him is the unequivocal “For Your Entertainment” (pardon the paraphrase, I'm going from memory) -- you thought I was so soft and sweet ... it's gonna get rough for you ...
If that song isn't a shot across the bow of everything everybody thinks of American Idols, nothing ever could be. I DID NOT GET ON TV TO BE AN AMERICAN IDOL, I GOT ON AMERICAN IDOL TO BE ME.

I applaud him for every career-risking (career-making) step of it, and damn you I WON'T even stumble, I'll roll with every hazard you throw at me... That was breathtaking. In part because it was on the typically bland and pandering American Music Awards. If his much-celebrated vocal technique was a little ragged last night, well, we can forgive him: his vocal performance was quite secondary to his arrival as a significant cultural force.

Bono's had rough vocal nights that made people cry. (Hell, he's had laryngitis!) Springsteen has had rocky technical nights that he carried on sheer passion. And that's what Adam did, on adrenaline and voracious creativity. And you know what? that kind of go-for-broke, to-hell-with-pretty attitude onstage is where his rock'n'roll lives... there’s a little bit of punk in that brand of audacity. It proves his cred, for all the clubby buzz about the album.

The guy’s got ****ing stones, man...

The queer community's gonna be, Yay, Adam, standing up for us! and the artsy community's gonna be WHOA, Adam, what a throwdown! and the AI tweenies are gonna be too embarrassed to say they don't really get it to each other, but they might just ask their moms why Adam's got those boys on a leash ... and the rest of us rock'n'roll grown-ups are just gonna say, okay, the boy's got more balls than I was willing to give him credit for. AND THEY WILL ALL BUY HIS RECORD. Even if some of them have to smuggle it into the house (like my dad wouldn't let me go see Rod Stewart only after he saw him on Midnight Special in pink spandex. I guess a lot of little girls won't get tickets to Adam's first tour. LMAO)

Wow, again. That was insane. That was the "insanely good" his fans wanted it to be, but even they couldn’t have expected this. He didn't have to prove he could sing pretty. The whole world already knows that. What he needed was to break through every last box that people thought they could put him in. The enemy of the Artist is the very idea of "nice." People now know ... or at least, suspect ... that as gentlemanly as he may be, his art has no intention of being nice.

Watching him sing made it clear for me that he wasn't after all singing about S&M, he was singing about his art, about creative freedom, and the imagery was his symbol for the rough and dangerous ride ahead (and okay, yeah, he also likes naughty sex). I am so thrilled for him, and proud of him, and a little protective of him -- because he was naked out there, man -- that was 110% of him.

This morning I caught his little post-show interview with Access Hollywood. Completely calm, assured, a little cheeky, and utterly unconcerned about any viewers he might have alienated. “If you were offended … then maybe I’m not for you.” Shrug.

I think we are witnessing the making of a superstar. Done and done.

The legend begins…

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