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Saturday 08 April 2017

Adam Lambert: "Let's just take away all the BS and keep it real"

Posted in: Music
By Ian Horner - 5th August 2015

We are the champions, no time for losers,
’Cause we are . . . the champions . . . of the world.

It took a lot of guts to deliver those lines. The last time Adam Lambert was in Australasia, exactly a year ago, he was standing in for Freddie Mercury, singing live with the two members of Queen still performing, playing to a sold-out crowd at the pinnacle of a world tour. For goodness’ sake, Lady Gaga was even a special guest on stage.


And he nailed it, winning over fans twice his age who could remember when Freddie did it the first time, at 31.

Lambert himself was 30 when he started the Queen tour, only three years after beginning his Queen connection on American Idol with his awesome Bohemian Rhapsody audition, cementing it months later with his showstopping We Are the Champions finale – accompanied on stage with Queen guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, with whom he’d go on to tour.

Lambert’s amazing voice and flamboyant style delivered with relentless gay abandon made him famous on American Idol. He finished second, in 2009.

We should point out that the Queen + Adam Lambert juggernaut rolls on, playing six dates in South America next month.

So it’s surprising that conversation turned to vulnerability and self-doubt when he sat down with Same Same to talk about The Original High, Lambert’s new album and tour. (Thanks to Same Same for the story!)

Same Same: The cover of your new album has no sparkles, no glitter, no eyeliner,[Adam laughed]which implies that the whole album is stripped back a bit, and more personal?

Adam Lambert: Totally. It was about the emotion, and it had to be real. I got in the room with these amazing guys and it was a collaboration, throwing the ball back and forth. And what was great was there was a distinct lack of ego. No one said “I’m in charge.” I didn’t either. Whoever had the best idea, that’s what we went with. It wasn’t about who you were, and what you’d done, and what’s in your resume.

And you already have a helluva resume. What was it like on your first gig post-American Idol, headlining with Queen?

Look, when they offered it to me I thought of course I can’t pass on this. But in the background I had real fear. Oh, God, are people gonna like it? What are they gonna say? The critics? The fans? Are people gonna accept me taking on the lead role here and . . . and it worked out. And, honestly, I didn’t know that it would. I was very relieved. It felt very like it was a big victory when everybody loved it as much as they did.

The first single off the album, Ghost Town is such a terrific dance track but the words are so bleak, right from the first line: ‘Died last night in my dreams.’

It’s a bit dark and different, yeah.

A bit? There’s just one line that’s approaching positive: I’ve got a voice in my head that keeps singing. It’s the only sign of hope in the whole song.

Yeah, you’re right [he laughs]. As a journalist you’re gonna look at the words, yet the music itself has this uplifting thing about it. Even though it’s dark and sexy it has this up thing and there’s a lot of that on the album. This kind of contrast, and, you know, sad, melancholy storytelling. There’s definitely a dichotomy of the darkness in the lyric and uplifting beat and tempo. I love that.

Which brings us very neatly to Another Lonely Night, which is just awesome. That hook is so triumphant[“yeah”],so amazing[“yeah”]and so pathetically sad.[“yeah, it is!” and he laughed]

Both those songs fit into this idea of catharsis. I kind of commiserate with the listener who says “I get it, I’m not the only person who feels this way!” Everybody goes through it. The song has an effect on people; I sing that I’m lonely, and people understand and say “I’m fuckin’ lonely, too! Thanks for understanding.” That’s my experience when I look at the audience during this song.

And the album is a lot about that – life’s longing and searching for certain things. And it’s OK not to have answers. It’s OK to feel like you haven’t found what you’re looking for. It’s OK.

Travel can be lonely, too, and you do a lot of it. And you can’t travel further than to Sydney.

Oh, my God, you’re on the other side of the world! Travel can be lonely. And I don’t have a significant other I’m travelling with this time.

I’m human. I’m just like everybody else, you know. Everybody wants that one person, you know. Even when you’re enjoying being single, which I’ve had plenty of time to enjoy, you still crave that companionship and that comfort. Sleeping alone is nice sometimes but there are other times when you’re like, ahhh, I just wish I could cuddle. I do an awful lot of sleeping alone, trust me.

That amazing song ‘There I Said It’ demonstrates how you can sing soft and gentle but can also belt it – without losing key.

I’m really excited about that song technically ’cause, yes, it goes through all the colours of the voice but it’s also really beautiful. For me, I’m singing it to the public: “World, what do you want from me?” In a sense, you know, you say you want the truth but you can’t take it. You can’t have it both ways. You want me to be this, you want me to be that. Let’s just take away all the BS and all the smoke and mirrors and keep it real. To me that’s what the song’s about. You know, there I said it. I’m not apologising.

A lot of guys would also find empathy here for the fact they haven’t come out and they’ve gotta live a certain life to keep someone happy even though it smothers them.

Definitely. And that’s a recurring theme on the album. A couple of other songs also go into that. Heavy Fire, the last song, is about contradiction, you can’t have it both ways.Why you gotta make me play this game? Just like an honest liar, taking on heavy fire. It’s like I’m trying to be good and true to myself but I’m conflicted.

Being gay and in the spotlight, is there a lot of pressure to define you by your sexuality?

Yeah, but what’s nice is with a lot of the songs on this album, I’ve been able to make all these amazing statements, and I’ve had an amazing platform over the past six years, I really have, and I’ve gotten to do a lot of crazy things. I’ve gotten to be like bold about it and crazy and over the top about it.

And what’s so exciting now is I feel like all of that informs this music but it’s not as heavy-handed as it’s been in the past. It feels a bit, I don’t know, it feels like as an artist I’m kind of able to grow and reflect on where I am now.

On stage you present as bold and fearless—a lot of guys would look at your stage persona and say My God, how does he have the balls to pull that off?![Adam laughs]Were you always that confident in your own skin? How old were you when you came out to yourself – the hardest coming-out of all?

Oh, yes, it is and I remember it well. There was a lot of inner turmoil. It was scary, and there was definitely a shame I had to work through. I think I was in sixth grade. And realising [he whispers] OK, I think I’m attracted to boys in a way I’m not attracted to the girls. I knew what it was, but back then I had nowhere to go for information, for examples, for role models.

Things have changed a lot. I mean I’m excited for this next generation coming up because there are so many more possibilities of what kind of gay person they can be. There are lots of examples out there. There’s lots of diversity now and it’s visible. So many options, so much information.

When I was in sixth grade we barely had the internet [laughs]. You couldn’t look at anything, there was no information. Now you can look up whatever you need to.

And we have people in the public eye who are out, and proud, gay, bi, lesbian, transgender. It’s really challenging people’s comfort levels and it’s pretty beautiful that we’re starting to understand we need to be open and stop boxing people in. And the next generation gets to see they don’t have to pick a box, they can invent their own.

Even the generation before me had it a lot harder than me. Because we’re becoming mainstream there’s something about our culture that’s being faded out a bit. For a while gay and lesbian culture was such a powerful niche underground creative community. Now there’s the option to live a very normalised life.

Have we lost our edge?

Some of us have! But the beauty of the lifestyle we’re able to live now probably outweighs that.


Adam Lambert’s new album The Original High is out now.

Adam’s The Original High tour visits Auckland’s Town Hall on 22 January. He’s playing a free iHeartradio show at The Civic tonight.

Ian Horner - 5th August 2015

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