Neo-glam drama spurs the 'Idol' alumnus's new album and upcoming Queen shows
By Melinda Newman
Special to MSN Music
Adam Lambert admires fellow celebrities who always come across cool as a cucumber and never voice an opinion that could offend others, but he freely admits that he is not from that school. "I am not a member of that pageant," he says with a laugh during a recent phone interview about his sophomore major-label album, "Trespassing," out May 15.
His fans wouldn't want him any other way. Since he burst into national consciousness on Season 8 of "American Idol" in 2009, he seemed predestined for fame with his Elvis Presley-meets-glam looks and soaring rock tenor. Following 2009's platinum "For Your Entertainment," Lambert is back with "Trespassing," an emotional, musically layered albums that references such influences as Queen, Michael Jackson and Scissor Sisters without ever seeming derivative.
Lambert talked to MSN Music about his Twitter habits, turning 30, and his message to any folks who aren't crazy about his playing with Queen.
MSN Music: In an age of people cherry-picking singles on iTunes, you purposefully created an album that is meant to be listened to as a whole and that takes us on a journey. Why?
Adam Lambert: That was definitely the goal. The track listing, the order of the songs, was really important. I agonized over that for a couple of weeks. There's definitely a light-to-dark progression. I realized that when I was looking at the songs I loved the most that were going to make the album. It's bipolar here: There's an upbeat, fun, funky, dance side and there's this kind of darker underbelly. For a minute there I questioned it. I thought, was that two albums or is that one? And I realized it's just three-dimensional. It's life.
The album opens with the title track, which is a really aggressive thumper full of bravado, but by the time we get to "Underneath," you're just craving someone who will understand you when all that veneer is stripped away.
What I'm trying to give to the listener [are] things to inspire them and strength and pride and confidence and fun. What I love about it is I think all those songs, whether upbeat or the darker ones, reflect the human experience and what we go through as people. The back half of the album, what I'm trying to connect there is, "Hey, look, I go through all this s--- and I can still be fierce and I can still be strong, but yes, I go through things and I have my doubts and I have my issues." I hope the listener can say, "So do I, me too."
Photos: Adam Lambert In Focus Gallery
"Never Close Our Eyes," your current single, was written and produced by major hit-makers Bruno Mars and Dr. Luke. Was it hard to get your head around that they had written something for you?
When I first heard that there was a song that Bruno had written, I was like "Uh ... I love him!" He's amazing! I'm such a fan. I think he's an immense talent and a great writer, and I was just excited to work with him. I fell in love with the melody. Dr. Luke came into the picture a little later, after the song had been written, so that was like a double whammy when I found out that he was interested in producing it. I was like "OK, let's get this going because it's going to be a good one!"
You tweeted about this album through its whole life, including the delays. Any concerns that people may think you were having trouble getting it right?
It wasn't necessarily trouble. It was like at the first cut off, yeah, I had an album, but I sort of stumbled into another writing process and said, "Wait a minute, I want to do this with this person." A lot of it was creative, but a lot of it had to do with logistics. There's a lot of dimensions of figuring out how to release an album internationally and what the plan is and all these political things and financial things and all the behind-the-scenes stuff that a fan probably doesn't give a crap about.
Nicki Minaj briefly quit Twitter recently. Have there been moments where you've wanted to step back?
There have been moments where I thought to myself, "Oooh, I shouldn't have said that." It's so immediate and instant that sometimes you can tweet without thinking and you have to find the discipline in that. But I love so much how I can interact with my fans and they have a direct communication with me, I wouldn't give it up.
From very early on in your career, you've been able to not censor yourself. How do you do that?
I don't really know where that came from. I think that's just kind of the person that I am. I think if all of this had been happening when I was 22 or 23, you'd see a lot more filter ... Sometimes I wish I could learn [to] filter [laughs]. I look at some people in the field, in the celebrity machine, and I often think to myself, "Wow, they're really good at always saying the right thing and looking perfect and acting perfect," and hat's off to them. That's a skill. I am not a member of that pageant.
You recently turned 30. That's a milestone. Do you feel any different
I definitely think that right now I'm kind of stepping into the next chapter in a lot of different ways: I have my new album and all that that entails, and I'm in a very happy, stable relationship right now for the first time in a really long time, so that feels very new ... I think looking for love and that connection motivated a lot of my actions over my 20s, and so when you find that type of partnership, certain things fall into place.
You have four dates with Queen this summer. How are you preparing to take over for Freddie Mercury?
I've definitely been listening to stuff. We're going to do some rehearsal in the U.K. in June. We have a nice amount of time blocked out for that. I think mentally I've been so preoccupied with the album, I haven't been psyching myself out too much [laughs] ... There's definitely a high expectation. The European Music Awards [MTV's Europe Music Awards] [were] a great warm-up. I realized how great the guys were and how excited they were to be up on stage to be playing their music and how excited they were to do that for fans who were still wanting to hear that. I definitely heard little rumblings of doubt or "It's not Queen without Freddie" and all of this negativity, and I kind of feel like, "You know, it's up to you whether you want to just enjoy some great music by a great band who want to bring it to the people or do you want to start questioning all this and comparing." To me, that kind of defies the idea of it all.
How do you want fans to feel after they finish listening to "Trespassing" from start to finish?
It does get a bit heavy at the end, so what they'll probably want to do is hit repeat and go back to [the song] "Trespassing" again. Cycle through it one more time [(laughs)]. I just want people to feel that they got to know me better; that they got to trespass into my world and kind of enjoy me trespassing into theirs.
Melinda Newman is the former West Coast bureau chief for Billboard magazine. She has covered music and entertainment for the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, MSN, AOL Music, Hitfix.com, Variety, People Country and other outlets. Recent interviews include Taylor Swift, Susan Sarandon, Pink, Jeff Bridges, Brad Paisley, Foo Fighters, Katy Perry and Carly Simon.