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An Afternoon with Adam Lambert Plus Session

An Afternoon with Adam Lambert Plus Session

By: Kevin Kusisto

Until he walks through the door, I haven’t thought about Adam Lambert in years.  The onetime American Idol golden boy earned international fame in 2009 and released two solo albums in the years since, but I haven’t listened to either of them.  Now I’m sitting in a Warner Brothers Records building in London, preparing to hear the third, The Original High, with the man himself. 

Until he walks through the door, I haven’t thought about Adam Lambert in years.  The onetime American Idol golden boy earned international fame in 2009 and released two solo albums in the years since, but I haven’t listened to either of them.  Now I’m sitting in a Warner Brothers Records building in London, preparing to hear the third, The Original High, with the man himself.  

Lambert in real life looks like Lambert from the TV and magazines, which is to say airbrushed.  The man is a walking Ken doll, and it’s a little uncomfortable, actually.  He could use a blemish or two on his face to pull his appearance out of the uncanny valley.  The man seems nice enough, though.  He jokes and stammers and makes small talk, which suggests he is a human and not an android (despite appearances to the contrary).  For a global pop star, he’s also refreshingly unpretentious, introducing the album with some candid exposition about its production and themes.  

The title refers to the pursuit of happiness.  “Everyone tries to recapture the feeling of their first time,” Lambert says, drawing a titter from the room of supposedly professional music journalists.  The title track, which deals with this theme most explicitly, is the first song to be played.  To my ears, it is totally a pop song.  I can’t say much more.  There is a thumping dance beat, and Lambert sings about “chasing the original high.”  Yep, I think to myself.  That is totally a 2015 pop song.  According to Lambert, it incorporates elements of “throwback 90s electronica.”  This means little to me, but I don’t know how to write about pop music very well.  Therefore, I will use his phrases like I know what they mean in the context of pop music.  

Here goes: “The Original High” is a less sugar-coated sound than Lambert has traditionally employed.  He has removed the theatrical, cartoonish bubblegum pop that permeated his first two records; in its place is a darker, more confident and ambitious vocal presence.  The elements of throwback 90s electronic provide a pulsing backdrop for Lambert’s most expressive vocal range yet.

For all I know, that’s an accurate representation of the song.  

 

After Lambert plays the second song, the single “Ghost Town” (chorus: “my heart is a ghost town”), the seemingly benign music journalists shift into Freud mode.  “How long have you been single?” one asks, as jarringly out-of-the-blue as you might expect.  Lambert says 2-3 years.  “I’m dating my album,” he jokes.  “Have you ever been in love?” another wag asks.  He says yes.  “How many times?” is the follow-up.  It’s surreal.  These seem like really personal questions to be asking.  Lambert just rolls with it, though, admitting that he has “really bad game” when it comes to love.  This causes a journalist to ask if he’s ever tried online dating.  

I was not expecting these questions, I’ll admit.  Global superstar Adam Lambert says no, he’s never tried online dating.  He wouldn’t know what to put for the profile information.

I say, “I think you could just put ‘Hi, I’m Adam Lambert’ and you’d be done.”  Lambert laughs at this.  I have now made Adam Lambert laugh.  I’m sure that I have vicariously checked an item off someone’s bucket list.  Not mine, but someone.  Still, this moment provides me with a lot of motivation, as it is probably the most significant thing I’ve done in my life.  If I don’t strive to reach greater heights, my epitaph will likely read MADE ADAM LAMBERT LAUGH ONCE.  

Lambert plays several more songs.  They are all kind of generic, and I don’t even have pop-music phrases to parrot this time.  If you like pop and/or Adam Lambert, I think there’s stuff to like.  One exception, though, is the song “Lucy,” which features Brian “I Was In Queen” May on guitar.  The collaboration isn’t the most surprising, since Lambert recently completed a world tour with the surviving members of Queen, but it’s still awesome.  May, who also has a PhD in astrophysics because he wasn’t satisfied being better at all humans at only one thing, lays down the law with a squealing guitar solo that’s totally the highlight of the entire album.

Afterwards, Lambert roams around, shaking hands and talking with the press.  I shake his hand and ask him if he’s gotten over losing American Idol.  He says he was over it from the start.  It got him global exposure and a record contract.  This logic is hard to argue with.  After all, remember what happened to the winner of American Idol Lambert’s year?  Remember what his name even was?

Yeah, nobody else does either.

Adam Lambert seems like a nice guy, as long as we’re sure he is in fact a human and not a perfectly-designed machine wearing a fleshy coating over its robo-skeleton.  His album is probably good, too, if you like that kind of thing.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go do something with my life more significant than making Lambert laugh.  My posthumous reputation depends on it.

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