Review: Is Adam Lambert's 'For Your Entertainment' too over the top?
'American Idol' runner-up works with Pink, Lady GaGa, Weezer's Rivers Cuomo and more on major label debut
There may not be a more aptly named CD this year than Adam Lambert’s “For Your Entertainment.” Every note of the season eight “American Idol” runner-up’s major label debut, out Monday, feels like it was handpicked for your listening pleasure.
Seldom has a new artist arrived with such a sure vision of himself and the confidence and chops to deliver on that idea. Lambert does nothing by half measures here. Comparisons to Lady GaGa (who wrote the ’70-tinged glam rocker “Fever”) come to mind, but they aren’t totally fair because American didn’t spend weeks getting to know Lady GaGa as we did Lambert via national television exposure. Each of his “American Idol” song selections peeled back another layer of the onion to reveal his glam side, his rock side, his theatrical side, etc. And the good news is they are all present and accounted for here.
Let’s go ahead and get the other obvious comparison out of the way: Season eight “American Idol” winner Kris Allen, whose set we reviewed here. Allen has a pleasing voice, but his album is more noteworthy for the potential that it shows for Allen. “FYE” delivers a fully-formed artist.
“For Your Entertainment” opens with “Music Again,” a high-voltage pop track written by the Darkness’s Justin Hawkins. It’s campy, loud and over-the-top (just like the Darkness was). If you don’t buy into Lambert on “Music Again,” it’s a good bet that you’re not going to like the rest of the album, so you might as well check out now and save yourself the time. (If you do like it, do yourself a favor and find a copy of the defunct British band’s 2003 album, “Permission to Land.”
But for those who love the outrageous, non-cynical pure joy of the track, dive in: there’s a lot more to enjoy here. Lambert co-wrote three of the tracks here, but he mainly relied on such hi-profile artists to provide the material. “Whataya Want from Me,” co-written by Pink, has the perfect summation of how he views his fans: “I’m a freak/thanks for loving me/you’re doing it perfectly.”
Admitting that he’s far from mainstream so early on in the album gives Lambert the freedom to let his inner Freddie Mercury freak flag fly. Nothing is too excessive, although he never skirts so far outside the pop/rock/dance borders to risk alienating his core. With its pounding piano/ string opening, “Soaked” sounds like one of those overly dramatic themes to a ‘70s comedic thriller like “Foul Play” (Think “Ready to Take a Chance Again”); “A Loaded Smile,” written by “Beautiful” tunesmith Linda Perry (complete with a wah wah pedal), allows Lambert to soar, his falsetto heartbreakingly describing a relationship on the ropes as he delivers the cinematic line, “a loaded smile/an empty glass and one last dance.” “If I Had You” is such a loving throwback to the ‘70s/early ‘80s dance era that it should come with its own disco ball.
The title track—and first single—is one of the weaker tracks here, along with “Sure Fire Winners,” which just sounds like it’s trying to be a post-millennial, glam “We Are the Champions,” although you have to love someone who can deliver the line “I was born with glitter on my face/my baby clothes were leather and lace” with such brio.
With its amalgam of songwriters (including Weezer's Rivers Cuomo and OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder) and producers (nine different producers helmed the 14 songs), “For Your Entertainment” could be a hodge podge of disparate tunes, but through careful song selection, and, more importantly, the personality stamp Lambert brings to each cut, the album holds together as a collected work.
Grab a front row seat and enjoy.