If you haven’t heard of Adam Lambert, you will soon. He is the flamboyant rocker who recently came in second on “American Idol” in a stunning upset by boy-next-door Kris Allen. Adam, the judges’ obvious favorite throughout the show, is a 27-year-old actor-singer who was struggling to make it in the music business until “Idol” came along. A former cast-member of “Wicked,” Adam worked in various Broadway touring groups and avant garde shows in order to pay his rent. But his real dream was to become a pop-rock star.
Adam has an amazing vocal range and a falsetto so rich in quality that it is imperceptibly different from his chest voice. His incredible ability to control his vocals enables him to hold his high notes seemingly forever. His versatility is unmatched in “Idol” history. With the arguable exception of country music (his rendition of “Ring of Fire” received strong emotional reactions both pro and con, as it was more like Johnny Cash doing Goth music with Middle Eastern undertones), Adam excels in every genre of music. He sings soulful ballads to pop to heavy metal and glam rock, all with ease, style, and pitch-perfect tone.
Week in and week out, other “Idol” contestants appeared on stage in sneakers and T-shirts without sets or lighting design, all of which are in the contestants’ control. But enter Adam, and the show began! One could criticize his attire (and did!) but every week Adam came with an outfit, sets, lighting, and moves that fit his song choice and made his performances both unpredictable and more entertaining. He’s not just a singer; he’s the whole performance package.
Unfortunately, talent has not always been the focus of commentary on Adam. Rumor has it that some on the Christian-right refused to vote for Adam because of his ambiguous sexual orientation. Explicit photos of him making out with other men, attending the Burning Man (an annual event in Nevada which constitutes an experiment in community, radical self-expression, and radical self-reliance), and occasionally dressing in drag, detracted from his deserved praise. Supposedly, Kris Allen’s church pastor urged “all believers” to vote for Kris (though Kris emphatically objected to votes based on religion). Additionally, “Idol” contestant Danny Gokey, who touted his Christianity, had a similar performance style to Kris’. His devout following likely swung in favor of Kris once Danny was booted off the show.
Many deemed it unpalatable if not morally wrong to deny Adam his hard earned votes based on sexual orientation. This should have no place in the “Idol” competition. As Kris explained, this was supposed to be a competition about singing, not a vote for the presidency.
Yet, as soon as the winner was announced and the finale was over, the left-wing media started bashing Adam for not being gay enough. Adam has admitted that the explicit photos were of him, and he has not been at all shy about anything including his sexuality. (To date, interviewers have beaten around the bush and have not put the “gay question” to him directly.) But neither has Adam made his sexuality a political issue…at least thus far. Still, the photos and Adam’s behavior, which are about as “out” as can be, still leave some dissatisfied. As is often the case with leftists, words are more important than actions, and one isn’t truly “out” until he mouths the words “I’m gay.” Adam hasn’t done this and thus will suffer the wrath of leftist activists.
No sooner had he walked off the stage than criticism has befallen him — not for his performances, which were controversial but fair game, but for his alleged “silence” on his sexuality. Indeed, Entertainment Weekly Online dedicated four whole pages to chastising him for failing to announce his orientation. But, making one’s private life fodder for public consumption seems to be something the gay community does often. In the recently released film “Outrage,” the filmmaker assumed that if he outed gay Republicans, they would change their votes on gay marriage. The presumption seems to be that gay marriage is the world’s most pressing issue, and everyone who is gay should prioritize this about all else. To hell with national security, the arts, or whatever else one might be interested in.
Adam has acknowledged feeling pressure from some quarters to use his sexuality and “alternativeness” to influence how America views related social issues. Contrary to helping those in the gay community, they are doing Adam and the gay community a disservice. By pressuring Adam to act differently than his straight counterparts, they separate him out rather than allow him to integrate and be accepted as equal. They are also denying him the right to define himself as he wants to be defined and decide for himself how his talents will be used.
It is unlikely that at age three when Adam starting singing around the house, or at age ten when he first began musical theater, that his goal was to achieve success as a vehicle for gay rights activism. Why does everyone who is gay have to represent a political cause? Why can’t Adam just be a singer and an entertainer like other artists? Both those who withheld votes because Adam’s gay and those who are bashing him for not being gay enough, insist on defining Adam by his sexual orientation. But Adam clearly defines himself by his music.
Politics aside, it is apparent that Adam is not going to be a flash-in-the-pan like previous “Idol” contenders. Adam was the only reason to watch the cheesy show this season. My prediction is that he is destined to be a national star, if not international. Offers are already pouring in, and there’s talk of him touring with Queen, being courted for Broadway leads, and making his own CD’s. Refusing to be boxed into a specific genre as most record labels demand, his first album promises to range from pop to rock to funk with innovative electronics. Additionally, he hopes to do corollary theatrical performances. His goal is to fill an artistic niche of theatrical pop music which is currently female-dominated on the scene, and largely devoid of male artists. It is Adam’s artistic expression and personal style that make him notable, not his sexual orientation. If he does have a political message, it’s one of personal empowerment for anyone who might not fit the mold…sexuality aside.
Those making social criticism of Adam based on his sexuality — one way or the other — should apologize. I myself owe him an apology for using his orientation in the title of this article. However, I doubt if he cares much about any of this. Adam is all about the music, and I’m sure he’s too busy singing to pay this any mind.