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Review: Adam Lambert's 'For Your Entertainment' glams it up greatly
Adam Graham / Detroit News Pop Music Writer
What, you expected subtlety?
Adam Lambert's "For Your Entertainment" is every bit the boffo, glam-rock, disco-pop space oddity you'd expect from the "American Idol" standout. It's a bold, assured, boot-stomping romp, and it's so over-the-top it should come packaged in a mirror ball.
For his fans, this won't come as a surprise. Lambert hit the "American Idol" stage earlier this year like a transplant from the planet Glampire: David Bowie funneled through Edward Cullen. Over the course of the show, he proved to be the most exciting "Idol" contestant in years, with a fearlessness stemming from years of stage experience and a shocking caterwaul that could strip the paint off walls.
He also demonstrated his dexterity across a number of genres, whether vamping through Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" or quietly emoting in a beautiful rendition of Smokey Robinson's "The Tracks of My Tears." In what may have been his signature performance, he gave a psycho-sexual, Middle Eastern-influenced reading of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" that would have had the Man in Black either rolling in his grave or rolling with laughter.
He brings that same go-for-broke spirit to "For Your Entertainment," which despite sharing a name with a national chain of record stores, proves to be an apropos summation of Lambert's M.O. "Let me entertain you 'til you scraaaaay-eeeee-aaaaaaayyy-eeeeeee-aaaYYYYYYY-eeeeeee-AAAYYYYMM!" he bellows on the title track, somehow cramming every musical note into one banshee wail.
If the goal is to entertain, he succeeds, as there's rarely a dull moment on "FYE." Some moments are less effective than others -- "Aftermath" is the kind of "keep pushing on" claptrap every "Idol" album seems to be saddled with, and the album is frontloaded with one too many Gary Glitter clones -- but no one can accuse Lambert of holding back.
Credit Team Lambert for pairing him with a host of top-notch, like-minded collaborators, from Lady Gaga (who wrote the daring "Fever") and Pink (who lent a hand to "Whataya Want from Me") to the Darkness' Justin Hawkins (whose proficiency for arena rock cheese is slathered over opener "Music Again") and interstellar English rockers Muse (lead singer Matthew Bellamy wrote "Soaked").
A-list hitmakers Dr. Luke (the pulsating title track), Linda Perry (the moody, spacey "A Loaded Smile") and Max Martin (potential single "If I Had You") weigh in, as well. And Weezer's Rivers Cuomo proves an unlikely partner-in-crime on the joyful "Pick U Up," a bouncy club-rocker with walls of trickling synths laid underneath the fist-pumping chorus.
Lambert is a pot-stirrer -- the fetching spaceboy album cover is evidence of that -- and the album has an in-your-face, unapologetic sexuality. Plenty can be read into lines such as "Open your mouth and open it wide: Let the freedom begin" ("Strut"). "Fever," meanwhile, opens with, "there he goes, my baby walks so slow, sexual tic-tac-toe," which is bound to raise an eyebrow or two from "Idol's" more conservative fan base.
Lambert's greatest asset is, of course, his crazy vocal range, which can soar to dizzying heights but easily lends itself to overkill.
On the album, he displays control over his voice that he didn't on "Idol," and he doesn't over-rely on histrionics. He stays reigned in at times (such as on the electronic outer space ballad "Broken Open") and lets it go when need be.
"FYE" also sparkles with a welcome sense of humor: "My baby clothes made of leather and lace," Lambert sings amid the wild rumpus of "Sure Fire Winners," the best and most unhinged of the album's T. Rex-style glam throwdowns. And he lets out a gleeful laugh at the close of "Pick U Up," a refreshing reminder that yes, this is all meant to be fun.
It goes without saying that "For Your Entertainment" is the most poised debut from any "Idol" to date. Lambert has a vision and has successfully honed a sound that pays homage to his heroes while carving a niche for himself.
More than anything, "For Your Entertainment" bares the stamp of a born entertainer. So sit back, relax and enjoy the show.
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