Before his first album even hit the shelves, American Idol alumnus Adam Lambert made headlines across North America for his sexy performance at the American Music Awards (AMA) Nov 22.
“I’m a sexual person, that’s who I am,” Lambert says. “I’m just trying to be honest about who I am as a human being.”
His AMA performance was hot, drenched in SM imagery and oozing with raw sexuality. Among the highlights, Lambert led one of his backup dancers around stage on a leash, seemingly ground the face of another into his crotch and kissed the crap out of his straight male keyboard player on live network television.
The director cut to a wide shot of the kiss and the network snipped the simulated oral sex scene out of its east coast rebroadcast altogether. The next morning, ABC cancelled Lambert’s scheduled appearance on Good Morning America.
Though CBS’s The Early Show promptly stepped in and booked him, they too censored Lambert, blurring his man-on-man kiss even as they reran Madonna’s staged lipsmack with Britney Spears from the 2003 MTV video music awards.
“The Madonna image is very familiar and has appeared countless times, including many times on morning television,” a CBS spokesperson told the LA Times. “The Adam Lambert image is a subject of great current controversy, has not been nearly as widely disseminated and, for all we know, may still lead to legal consequences.”
“That’s weak,” says Lambert. “Someone didn’t give it some real thought when they did it.”
Still, he says, it’s only one performance.
“Definitely what I don’t want is people assuming that’s how I intend to do every performance or that’s how I plan to conduct my career as an artist,” he told Xtra West’s sister magazine fab a few days after the AMAs.
“If anything can be learned from my presence on American Idol, it’s that I like to keep people guessing,” he says. “That’s how I performed on the show.
“And on my album, track to track, it’s very diverse. It’s kind of an eclectic mix of music. That song [“For Your Entertainment”] is the one song that is very seductive, kind of dark and sexual. There are other songs on there that explore other themes.”
Though Lambert told fab he isn’t planning to put people “in bondage fashion” for other songs or performances, he said he has no intention of apologizing for his AMA performance, either.
“I’m not going to apologize, I promise. I don’t think what I’ve done is wrong. I want to be myself and I feel like that was what I was doing on stage the other night.”
That was last month.
In the ensuing weeks, Lambert did Ellen and the ABC talk circuit, essentially apologizing to anyone who wanted a pound of his flesh.
He massaged the politics of public opinion in the interest of preserving his relationship with ABC and its parent, the Disney Company, one of the largest entertainment corporations in the world.
Lambert was clearly the victim of a series of double standards following his AMA appearance — a performance that was quite tame by straight pop standards.
“It was campy, it was ridiculous, it was over the top, and it was me playing the role and experimenting with the ideas of dominance as a performer. But [leather and SM] is definitely not something I explore in my personal life,” Lambert insists when asked about his own sexuality.
“I’m actually kind of vanilla, I really am,” he says. “I like real connections with real people and intimacy.”
Still, the decision to release “For Your Entertainment” as the lead single off his debut album was a deliberate one.
“I just wanted to do something unexpected and different and break out from the expectation a little,” he told fab. “You come off Idol and there’s this expectation that you’re going to be [this] mass appeal, mass marketed, family friendly, granola, easy listening, easily digestible thing. And that’s definitely not me as an artist.
“That was one of the [reasons] that I gravitated towards ‘For Your Entertainment’ — it’s different, it’s edgy. You know, I am a sexual person. I am avant-garde and I like edgier things and I like experimenting with that imagery and I really was looking forward to that opportunity.”
Lambert says he’s surprised at how shocked everyone seems to be by his AMA performance — especially given his penchant for nudging the envelope on Idol.
“I mean, I kind of went for shock value on Idol. Did you guys not see me with rhinestones around my eyes and platform glitter boots on the finale? I kind of thought I had stepped it up and bought myself that leeway.”
It’s been a while since a very visible male performer has publicly experimented with androgyny, Lambert notes. “It’s just not current anymore. I’m trying to make it current again. I’ve always been attracted to that. That’s my thing.”
He says his management and his record label have both been supportive.
“I don’t deal well with oppression,” he says. “I like to get things out in the open and be honest — and me. I want to be myself. I feel like that’s what I was doing the other night.”