We are the champions, no time for losers,
āCause we are . . . the champions . . . of the world.
It took a lot of guts to deliver those lines. The last time Adam Lambert was in Australasia, exactly a year ago, he was standing in for Freddie Mercury, singing live with the two members of Queen still performing, playing to a sold-out crowd at the pinnacle of a world tour. For goodnessā sake, Lady Gaga was even a special guest on stage.
And he nailed it, winning over fans twice his age who could remember when Freddie did it the first time, at 31.
Lambert himself was 30 when he started the Queen tour, only three years after beginning his Queen connection on American Idol with his awesome Bohemian Rhapsody audition, cementing it months later with his showstopping We Are the Champions finale ā accompanied on stage with Queen guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, with whom heād go on to tour.
Lambertās amazing voice and flamboyant style delivered with relentless gay abandon made him famous on American Idol. He finished second, in 2009.
We should point out that the Queen + Adam Lambert juggernaut rolls on, playing six dates in South America next month.
So itās surprising that conversation turned to vulnerability
and self-doubt when he sat down with Same Same to talk about The
Original High, Lambertās new album and tour. (Thanks to Same Same for the story!)
Same Same: The cover of your new album has no sparkles, no glitter, no eyeliner,[Adam laughed]which implies that the whole album is stripped back a bit, and more personal?
Adam Lambert: Totally. It was about the emotion, and it had to be real. I got in the room with these amazing guys and it was a collaboration, throwing the ball back and forth. And what was great was there was a distinct lack of ego. No one said āIām in charge.ā I didnāt either. Whoever had the best idea, thatās what we went with. It wasnāt about who you were, and what youād done, and whatās in your resume.
And you already have a helluva resume. What was it like on your first gig post-American Idol, headlining with Queen?
Look, when they offered it to me I thought of course I canāt pass on this. But in the background I had real fear. Oh, God, are people gonna like it? What are they gonna say? The critics? The fans? Are people gonna accept me taking on the lead role here and . . . and it worked out. And, honestly, I didnāt know that it would. I was very relieved. It felt very like it was a big victory when everybody loved it as much as they did.
The first single off the album, Ghost Town is such a terrific dance track but the words are so bleak, right from the first line: āDied last night in my dreams.ā
Itās a bit dark and different, yeah.
A bit? Thereās just one line thatās approaching positive: Iāve got a voice in my head that keeps singing. Itās the only sign of hope in the whole song.
Yeah, youāre right [he laughs]. As a journalist youāre gonna look at the words, yet the music itself has this uplifting thing about it. Even though itās dark and sexy it has this up thing and thereās a lot of that on the album. This kind of contrast, and, you know, sad, melancholy storytelling. Thereās definitely a dichotomy of the darkness in the lyric and uplifting beat and tempo. I love that.
Which brings us very neatly to Another Lonely Night, which is just awesome. That hook is so triumphant[āyeahā],so amazing[āyeahā]and so pathetically sad.[āyeah, it is!ā and he laughed]
Both those songs fit into this idea of catharsis. I kind of commiserate with the listener who says āI get it, Iām not the only person who feels this way!ā Everybody goes through it. The song has an effect on people; I sing that Iām lonely, and people understand and say āIām fuckinā lonely, too! Thanks for understanding.ā Thatās my experience when I look at the audience during this song.
And the album is a lot about that ā lifeās longing and searching for certain things. And itās OK not to have answers. Itās OK to feel like you havenāt found what youāre looking for. Itās OK.
Travel can be lonely, too, and you do a lot of it. And you canāt travel further than to Sydney.
Oh, my God, youāre on the other side of the world! Travel can be lonely. And I donāt have a significant other Iām travelling with this time.
Iām human. Iām just like everybody else, you know. Everybody wants that one person, you know. Even when youāre enjoying being single, which Iāve had plenty of time to enjoy, you still crave that companionship and that comfort. Sleeping alone is nice sometimes but there are other times when youāre like, ahhh, I just wish I could cuddle. I do an awful lot of sleeping alone, trust me.
That amazing song āThere I Said Itā demonstrates how you can sing soft and gentle but can also belt it ā without losing key.
Iām really excited about that song technically ācause, yes, it goes through all the colours of the voice but itās also really beautiful. For me, Iām singing it to the public: āWorld, what do you want from me?ā In a sense, you know, you say you want the truth but you canāt take it. You canāt have it both ways. You want me to be this, you want me to be that. Letās just take away all the BS and all the smoke and mirrors and keep it real. To me thatās what the songās about. You know, there I said it. Iām not apologising.
A lot of guys would also find empathy here for the fact they havenāt come out and theyāve gotta live a certain life to keep someone happy even though it smothers them.
Definitely. And thatās a recurring theme on the album. A couple of other songs also go into that. Heavy Fire, the last song, is about contradiction, you canāt have it both ways.Why you gotta make me play this game? Just like an honest liar, taking on heavy fire. Itās like Iām trying to be good and true to myself but Iām conflicted.
Yeah, but whatās nice is with a lot of the songs on this album, Iāve been able to make all these amazing statements, and Iāve had an amazing platform over the past six years, I really have, and Iāve gotten to do a lot of crazy things. Iāve gotten to be like bold about it and crazy and over the top about it.
And whatās so exciting now is I feel like all of that informs this music but itās not as heavy-handed as itās been in the past. It feels a bit, I donāt know, it feels like as an artist Iām kind of able to grow and reflect on where I am now.
On stage you present as bold and fearlessāa lot of guys would look at your stage persona and say My God, how does he have the balls to pull that off?![Adam laughs]Were you always that confident in your own skin? How old were you when you came out to yourself ā the hardest coming-out of all?
Oh, yes, it is and I remember it well. There was a lot of inner turmoil. It was scary, and there was definitely a shame I had to work through. I think I was in sixth grade. And realising [he whispers] OK, I think Iām attracted to boys in a way Iām not attracted to the girls. I knew what it was, but back then I had nowhere to go for information, for examples, for role models.
Things have changed a lot. I mean Iām excited for this next generation coming up because there are so many more possibilities of what kind of gay person they can be. There are lots of examples out there. Thereās lots of diversity now and itās visible. So many options, so much information.
When I was in sixth grade we barely had the internet [laughs]. You couldnāt look at anything, there was no information. Now you can look up whatever you need to.
And we have people in the public eye who are out, and proud, gay, bi, lesbian, transgender. Itās really challenging peopleās comfort levels and itās pretty beautiful that weāre starting to understand we need to be open and stop boxing people in. And the next generation gets to see they donāt have to pick a box, they can invent their own.
Even the generation before me had it a lot harder than me. Because weāre becoming mainstream thereās something about our culture thatās being faded out a bit. For a while gay and lesbian culture was such a powerful niche underground creative community. Now thereās the option to live a very normalised life.
Have we lost our edge?
Some of us have! But the beauty of the lifestyle weāre able to live now probably outweighs that.
Adamās The Original High tour visits Aucklandās Town Hall on 22 January. Heās playing a free iHeartradio show at The Civic tonight.