On Adam Lambert’s new CD, he sings about barging through boundaries, crossing all lines, and being a flagrant “outlaw of love.”
“No trespassers/Yeah, my ass,” he declares in the title track.
“Walk that walk/Like u don’t give a f—,” he asserts in the next track. “U got a right to turn it up.”
Sound like the fighting words of a righteous activist? True, Lambert’s new lyrics can roil with earned anger on the page. But, once sung, they tell a different story. His vocals exude such confidence, freedom and charm, it makes it seem like there’s no need for the revolution he annnounces. It feels like he’s already won the fight.
In a way, he has. During his days on “American Idol” three years ago, Lambert sang, dressed, and animated himself in a way so joyously individual, and effortlessly nonconforming, it made any statements about his unconventionality redundant. There’s an ease and playfulness to his vocals that have made him the most likable, sure, and witty performer in “Idol” history.
He carried that raucous character over to his 2009 debut CD, aptly titled “For Your Entertainment.” It continued the kind of hair-on-fire singing, and more-is-more arrangements that made him the contest’s greatest ever conversation starter.
For his follow-up, “Trepassing,” Lambert tips the music in a dancier direction, blatantly courting current radio trends. There’s more electronics going on. Some tracks could have been written for Britney Spears. Unsurprisingly, one of her great enablers, Dr. Luke, turns up on the writing and producing credits. So do heavy hitters like Pharrell Williams and Bruno Mars, who keep the beats bracing and the tone pummelling. Williams does best by Lambert in the title track, which smartly riffs off the rhythm of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.”
As serviceably catchy as most of the songs may be, it’s only Lambert’s performance that raises them above radio fodder. His vocal attack remains a dizzying mix of the awesome and the absurd. For “Kickin’ In,” — whose lyrics provide Lambert’s only semi-gay allusion, involving a proposed three-way — he shrieks like someone just dropped a TV set on his toe. In “Underneath,” the album’s sole ballad, Lambert belts the notes with a rock-operatic flourish, like some demented mix of Freddie Mercury, Ian Gillan and Ethel Merman.
The latter cut means to reveal Lambert’s inner life, his secret vulnerability. While in reality he must have some, his deepest value as a singer, and a star, is his riveting certitude. That’s both politically potent (given his role as an out gay man), and artistically riveting: It’s the sound of liberation achieved.