Butterless toast. Nonalcoholic beer. Mayonnaise. “American Idol” contestants.
What do all of the above have in common?
They’re all bland, boring, low on flavor and as predictable as the weather this time of year.
From Kelly Clarkson to Taylor Hicks to Chris Daughtry, whether they’ve become household names or also-rans, most “Idol” vets are the rock, pop and R&B equivalents of training wheels, safe and dull, exciting only for those who don’t know any better.
Even the biggest star to emerge from the series, country Barbie doll Carrie Underwood, is so middle-of-the-road, she could double as a highway median.
This is what makes 2009 “Idol” runner-up Adam Lambert a welcome departure from the “Idol” archetype.
All attitude and androgyny, with a wild-eyed wardrobe and — get this — a pulse, Lambert comes slathered in eyeliner and Ziggy’s stardust. For a show whose contestants often pack all the spark of a pack of wet matches, Lambert’s a lightning rod.
Seriously, the dude cuts his hair, and it’s like tectonic plates colliding. Recently, Lambert shaved off a swath of his coif, and it actually was considered news by some entertainment outlets.
“I thought it was hilarious that E! Online and MTV and People.com and so on and so forth wanted to report on it,” Lambert chuckles. “But I’m flattered that they find it that important.”
Of course, Lambert’s hair isn’t important at all, but still, it’s more exciting than talking about, say, Bo Bice.
And as the first openly gay “American Idol” contestant, Lambert has gotten even more scrutiny for his sexuality, not that it seems to bother him much.
“I kind of feel like I know there’s a lot of people out there that are homophobic and closed minded, but I also know that there’s a lot of people out there that are open,” Lambert says. “So I think that my level of success is a reflection of where we’re at as a society, and I’m really excited that we have gotten to a point where it’s acceptable to some people — to enough people.”
And Lambert has certainly found an audience. His 2009 full-length “For Your Entertainment” sold close to 200,000 copies its first week out with its operatic pastiche of bombastic rock, electro pop and purring R&B.
It’s a winking, stylistic hodgepodge of a record, powered by Lambert’s brassy, theatrical tenor.
In a way, it’s reminiscent of ’80s pop radio, when there weren’t such rigid bounds between, say, Tina Turner’s femme funk, Dire Straits’ big, bad guitar rock and David Bowie’s well-heeled pop, all of which you could hear right after one another on the same station.
“I think the whole concept of genre is kind of passe,” Lambert says of the heterogeneous nature of “Entertainment.” “I kind of think that we’re living in the post-modern age, and I think that the key to music right now is mixing it all up. For me, I’m doing a lot of pop music with a lot of guitars. So it has its rock edge and it has its pop edge.”
The fact that Lambert’s repertoire has anything resembling an edge to begin with is enough to separate him from his “Idol” peers.
He’s easy to dismiss as kitsch on the surface, but the fact that Lambert is aware of as much let’s us know that he’s in on any perceived joke.
Lambert has named his current road show the “Glamnation Tour,” and it’s an apt tag, for like the best glam rock, Lambert is most serious about not taking himself too seriously.
“I think that’s one of the great things about glam rock and glam pop is that it’s all kind of tongue-in-cheek,” he says. “It has campiness to it, it has lightness to it. It should put a smile on your face. It should make you feel like dancing and dressing up.”
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.Preview
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