LAM­BERT CHANGES COURSE

Adam Lam­bert looks to shake things up by ex­plor­ing the softer edge of songs in his lat­est al­bum.

Los Angeles Times - - ARTS & BOOKS - By Mikael Wood mikael.wood@la­times.com

Since fin­ish­ing in sec­ond place on “Amer­i­can Idol” in 2009, Adam Lam­bert has es­tab­lished him­self as one of pop’s most re­li­able glama­zons: a big, showy voice de­liv­er­ing big, dra­matic songs about big, clearly de­fined emo­tions. That rep­u­ta­tion only grew when he be­gan tour­ing three years ago as the front­man of Queen, fill­ing in for per­haps the most re­li­able gla­ma­zon of them all, the late Fred­die Mer­cury.

Yet Lam­bert, 33, changes course on his third stu­dio al­bum, “The Orig­i­nal High,” due Tues­day. Over­seen by Swedish pro­duc­ers Max Martin and Shell­back, it’s mood­ier and more introspective than the Los An­ge­les-based singer’s ear­lier solo work with soft­eredged songs about grow­ing up and “search­ing for trust in a city of rust.” The disc also marks Lam­bert’s new deal with Warner Bros. Records af­ter a high-pro­file split from RCA, which failed to ex­pand his ul­tra-de­voted core au­di­ence with 2012’s “Tres­pass­ing.”

“There’s a dif­fer­ence be­tween be­ing an artist and be­ing an en­ter­tainer,” he said re­cently dur­ing a frank con­ver­sa­tion in West Hol­ly­wood. “I have both sides to my per­son­al­ity. But with this mu­sic, I was like, I don’t care if ev­ery­one’s go­ing to un­der­stand what I’m singing about. It’s real to me.”

What in­spired that shift?

Some­thing I be­gan to pick up on within my cir­cle of friends over the last few years, which was this feel­ing of dis­il­lu­sion­ment. Dis­il­lu­sion­ment with what?

Peo­ple don’t even know half the time. That’s the thing — it’s like this gen­eral haze, a feel­ing of not be­ing sat­is­fied. You’re look­ing for some­thing, but you can’t put your fin­ger on what it is that’s go­ing to sat­isfy you. That was the first big aha thing I wanted to write about.

I turned 33 this year, and I feel like, “OK, I know who I am now; iden­tity isn’t so much of a chal­lenge any­more.” The chal­lenge is fig­ur­ing out what I want from my life. And from your ca­reer.

Right. Be­fore I started think­ing about all that, my sec­ond al­bum came out, and I was re­ally proud of it, and crit­i­cally it was well re­ceived. But it didn’t quite have the life that I hoped it would have com­mer­cially.

How did that af­fect you?

I was bummed out. I wanted to re­lease more songs to ra­dio and make videos and ul­ti­mately put to­gether a great big tour.

What hap­pened?

A lot of things. I’m not go­ing to point fin­gers, but I think there were some cre­ative de­ci­sions and some busi­ness de­ci­sions that didn’t quite line up. But, you know, there’s no science to this; it’s kind of a guess­ing game. My feel­ing is that “Tres­pass­ing” didn’t pro­vide a strong sense of who you are. It was more about style and about some of the ideas you stand for. But what at­tracted peo­ple to you on “Idol” was your per­son­al­ity. “The Orig­i­nal High” gets back to that.

It’s more grounded. And it’s not try­ing quite as hard. I’m not say­ing my pre­vi­ous work was too try­hard, but it was pur­posely height­ened and styl­ized and the­atri­cal. That was in­ten­tional; that was what I wanted to do. But then I felt like I’d done that. I wanted to turn a cor­ner and go into a dif­fer­ent place. And yet you made the al­bum with Max Martin, who’s known for his work with Tay­lor Swift and Brit­ney Spears. No­body goes to him for a stripped-down, singer­song­writer record.

Even though his ideas are big, and they’re tried and true in cer­tain ways, there’s also so many sub­tle, so­phis­ti­cated lay­ers — lit­tle things he’s do­ing that you have to lis­ten a bunch of times to hear it. What did it mean that he wanted to work with you?

I was thrilled. Com­ing off the last project and leav­ing [RCA], I had this feel­ing of, “Is this it for me? Am I on my way out?” But Max and Shell­back were say­ing, “We be­lieve in you.” And in your ea­ger­ness to show a dif­fer­ent side.

They knew I was ready to shake things up, and they weren’t afraid of any­thing. It’s easy to get wrapped up in what every­body wants you to do. But at some point you have to go, “OK, but what do I want?”

Can that be hard to re­mem­ber?

Not now. But there have been mo­ments of con­fu­sion. I can un­der­stand why. Your fans are very vo­cal about what kind of artis­tic de­ci­sions you should be mak­ing.

They all have an opin­ion. And that’s great — it means they’re in­vested. At the same time, it’s im­por­tant for me to say, “I’m go­ing to do what I want to do, and I hope you like it.” You’re not order­ing your din­ner for the night. There’s no menu. To me that was the prob­lem with the most re­cent Queen tour. It felt like you were ful­fill­ing some­one else’s vi­sion.

In what way was I not be­ing me, though? Their cat­a­log goes so many dif­fer­ent places. One minute I’m get­ting to be su­per-campy and over the top and flam­boy­ant and ef­fem­i­nate, and then the next minute I’m tough and ma­cho. Then there’s a sen­si­tive acous­tic mo­ment, then some­thing huge. And I got to wear all the weird stuff I’d ever want to wear. That was all me, by the way. They let me run with that. It might be in­ter­est­ing for you to find out how much in­put I had. You didn’t feel as though you’d been drafted to fill a pre­scribed role?

No. And I wasn’t di­rected ei­ther. It was a col­lab­o­ra­tion. How much room did you have to…

In­ter­pret the songs? That was tricky. But I wasn’t get­ting a lot of pres­sure from them. I wanted to make sure I had my mo­ments of putting my own stamp on things. But stray­ing too far from the orig­i­nal would feel self-in­dul­gent and sort of sac­ri­le­gious. See, I don’t share that view.

But you’re prob­a­bly not a diehard Queen fan. I knew that in this au­di­ence there would be a lot of peo­ple that were there be­cause they love Queen. And win­ning them over in the first place, not be­ing Fred­die, was go­ing to be hard as it was. If I went too far, it would’ve killed them. In terms of a cre­ative ex­pe­ri­ence, though, that re­stric­tion is kind of a bum­mer.

I un­der­stand what you mean. But at the same time, that’s why it was suc­cess­ful. If I hadn’t found that bal­ance, I don’t think it would’ve gone over the way it did with every­body. I mean, I think you’re in the mi­nor­ity of peo­ple who didn’t like it.

Christina House For The Times

“THE ORIG­I­NAL HIGH,” the new al­bum from Adam Lam­bert, finds the singer in a more introspective state of mind than in his pre­vi­ous work.

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