My English translation of the OZAP.com article entitled 'Adam Lambert : "Je ne veux pas que ma sexualité fasse de l'ombre à ma musique"' by Charles Decant, 10 December 2010.
Adam Lambert: I don't want my sexuality to overshadow my music.
You might not know his name or his face, but you probably know his song. For two months now, "Whataya Want From Me", the first Adam Lambert single released here, plays on repeat on airwaves and has remained for several weeks in the top 20 digital sales in our country. Penned by Pink, the track is one of the many pieces written by prestigious authors and producers on the first opus of this American Idol 2009 finalist, who is one of the rare contestants of this TV singing contest to have succeeded outside the American borders.
On the occasion of the physical release of his album, "For Your Entertainment", in our country, Adam Lambert has given an interview to Ozap. He talks about this first eclectic album, his homosexuality which has been much talked about in the media on the other side of the Atlantic, and the polemy that ensued his performance at the American Music Awards last year, in which he kissed a musician on stage. Adam Lambert also comments on Christina Aguilera's flop, the comparisons with Lady Gaga, the critics about Kesha, and answers questions, including surprising ones, from Internet users.
"We live in the playlist generation"
Your first album is very eclectic. Did you, at some point, tell yourself that it was a risky bet to not position yourself as an artist?
Yes, I thought about it for a while, but I wanted to do something different. I had enough of albums which are all the same. It really bugs me. We live in the "playlist generation", people create their own music mixes. And it was also very important for me to respond to my fans' expectations who, after American Idol, were very varied. There were grandmothers and teenage girls, boys, fathers, etc. So I wanted to make an album that had something for everyone, because I didn't know how it would be received.
How did the song selection go? How did you manage to get Lady Gaga, Pink, Max Martin and Dr Luke on your first album?
Gaga, Pink, Dr Luke and Sam Sparrow are people that I asked my record label to put me in contact with. For all the others, it's my label who proposed them to me, telling me "There, we have this demo, would you like to listen to it?". So we listened to a lot of demos and I was asking myself each time if I could picture myself singing them or not, and if the answer was yes, then we modified them anyways. I was often changing the arrangements, we worked a lot on everything, actually.
It was a real luxury for a first album...
Yes! And there were lots of tracks that we didn't use. I worked with RedOne, Lady Gaga's producer. We worked on two tracks but they were not as good as the others, so they didn't make it on the album. It's as simple as that.
And what are you planning for your next album?
I already have some ideas. I think that it will be in the same spirit as "Whataya Want From Me", it will clearly be pop/rock.
Is it the success of this song that is pushing you to be less eclectic than on your first album?
You vanted to try a bit of everything and see what would work?
Everything worked out and I like everything that I recorded, but yes, that's about it. I didn't know, I had never done this before. And I didn't have much time, I could't go at it slowly with a single, then an EP, then maybe another single. We didn't have time to do research to find out what was expected of me. And there is so much publicity that comes with American Idol, it's almost as if we were working in reverse and that we had to respond to the expectations of the audience, instead of a new artist that is presented to the public for the first time. It's quite a challenge. But now that the album is released, I can see to what songs the audience is the most receptive, and clearly, "Whataya Want From Me" is the biggest hit of this album, it's a song that people really like. People like this sound with my voice, so I will explore this avenue in more depth. There will be a lot of guitar, that's a given.
"The 2010 American Idol contestants were a bit boring"
This eclectic approach goes somewhat against the advice of the judges on talent shows such as Idol. The contestants have to market themselves within the show itself, to put themselves in a box and say "I'm an R&B singer" or "I'm a country singer". Is this frustrating?
I didn't get the impression that they actually said that in my case, and I was lucky. They understood what I was trying to do, I think. Sometimes, I was really pushing the limits and as a result, they didn't always subscribe to it but hey... One can't please everybody! But I was always very comfortable on stage because I had worked hard on the song choice, the arrangements, the outfit and everything else, so I was confident.
You're not conscious of the fact that you are one of the contestants that changed this show?
I don't think that I changed anything...
Is that a false sense of modesty?
No seriously! I created a lot of buzz, there have been a lot of positive reviews, but I didn't change the show.
But you changed what the judges and the public is expecting of a singing contest TV show contestant...
Maybe, yes. But in an indirect manner. David Cook, the previous year, inspired me. He really raised the bar. I liked the fact that he was really smart in the choice of his covers, his rearrangements. But as far as season 2010 is concerned, the problem, in my opinion, is that candidates were just a bit boring. It has nothing to do with me. Honestly, I think that none of them was particularly outstanding.
You are one of the rare American Idol alumni, and even rarer losers, to have succeeded outside of the United States. What makes the difference?
I'm an alien! (laughs) I think that the care that I put in my image and that my influences are in fact more international. There are influences from British rock, from European electro, the slightly androgynous side also, the glam side, it's not really American. Asian people, for example, love my look. The RCA management saw potential in foreign markets, that's what happened. And I'm delighted to have had this opportunity to do a European tour. I saw younger people, trendier than what I used to see in the U.S.
"Media only talks about my sexuality"
The media has talked a lot about your sexuality last year...
And it still does! (laughs) It doesn't change. It's all the media talk about when they talk about me: gay, gay, gay, gay, gay... Maybe there are other things to say about me, no? It becomes repetitive.
Maybe it will get better with your next album.
Yes, maybe! This album allowed me to introduce myself to the public and the media, to show them what I do. So if I have the opportunity to continue in this business, it won't be necessary to talk about it anymore, because it will already have been talked about. What else can they say?
But you are also very special. There are no other artists like you on the international scene. A young gay solo singer who does commercial pop for all audiences...
It's true that this is what makes things difficult. There is no model to follow. It's a challenge, and it's actually exciting, but there is no pre-determined path and I'm feeling my way a bit. It's not always the simplest or the less risky thing to do, but it's exciting.
Do you find that it's simpler outside the United States? That interviews are less centered around that?
It remains one of the main topics of conversation, wherever I go. But it's OK, it doesn't bother me. When I'm abroad, people mostly ask me why they talk about it so much in the U.S.! And it's normal, because there are very few openly gay artists. I just don't want it to overshadow my music, and this can be the case because of the media, who have a tendency to sensationalize the issue.
"I like to kiss dudes on stage!"
And one has to say that you aren't doing anything to stop it, on the contrary...
Yes, it's true that I'm playing it up. I show it on stage, in the clips. And it's true that some of my critics could tell me: "I don't care about the fact that you're gay, but I don't want to see it". It's very American, all of it. The way I see it, I don't understand why this could pose a problem if they already know that I'm gay... If someone really has a problem with it, then in my opinion it's just pure and simple ignorance. But the good news is that the next generation will be much more open to all of this, so we're going in the right direction. But it's true that I'm complicated and a bit contradictory. I don't want my sexuality to overshadow my music, yet I play it up. But it's mostly to send a message now. I will continue to do what I do, no matter what people think.
Your appearance on several TV shows has been cancelled last year after the American Music Awards "scandal", where you kissed a musician during your performance. Do you think that all publicity is good? If you could go back in time, would you change anything?
No, I don't think that I would change anything. It happened, it's done, and it was... a learning experience. But the fact that there was a double standard was particularly obvious, and as a result it's almost laughable because in the end, my critics have proven themselves that I was right. They thought I did it for the shock value, but honestly it wasn't that deep. I had an urge, I just kissed a musician. I'm a very sexual person, but people didn't know about it from American Idol, which is a family show. And me, I'm not always general audience. And I think that the best aspect of an artist's life is to be true to oneself, and people know how to make a difference between an artist who is honest and someone who's a totally fabricated character. Sometimes, characters do work very well. Lady Gaga is a carefully crafted character, and it suits her very well. Me, I'm Adam and I'm only myself. Take it or leave it. Good and bad. What I did was me. I like to kiss dudes on stage! (laughs).
"When there's a cause that you can support, you shouldn't pass up the opportunity."
Talking about marketing, we recently noticed a large number of pop songs on the same theme: being different, tolerance, etc. I'm thinking about Kesha's "We R Who We R", Katy Perry's "Firework" or Pink's "Raise Your Glass". These are positive messages, and you also talk about these same things in concert when you talk to your fans, but this is starting to really look like a very cynical trend...
I see what you're saying. It's a trend, that's true. But having met these three singers, and being a singer myself, pop is so commercial that when there's a cause that you can support in an honest manner and when you can influence people to make their life better, I don't think you should pass up the opportunity. It's very exciting to be able to do something meaningful, beneficial. Even if it's only a simple pop song, there's an intent behind it, which is to help people to better accept who they are. It's a fairly noble endeavor, no matter who it's coming from.
You have more than 800.000 followers on Twitter. How do you use this account and how does Twitter help you as an artist?
What I like the most is that I can talk directly about everything. If there's a rumor, I can address it. If I need advice on a city that I don't know, same thing. If I want to thank my fans, I do it on Twitter. Sometimes, I use it for my personal life as well, to talk to other artists. I can also share pictures. I love it, and fans know that it's really me. It's not an agent, the record label or someone else. It's me, and it's instantaneous.
"There are a lot of singers who don't really reach the notes that we hear on their albums."
I used my Twitter account to ask people if they had questions for you, and I never had that many replies. The questions were sometimes quite surprising, so I chose a few of them.
What artist would you bring back from the dead?
Michael Jackson... Freddie Mercury...
What do you think of Michael Jackson's posthumous album and about the fact that we don't even know if it's really him singing...
I didn't hear anything and I must admit that I'm not really in the loop. Is it about the voice that wouldn't be his? It's possible... You know, nowadays in studio, you can do a lot of things. There are a lot of singers that don't really reach the notes that we hear on their albums...
This is the most bizarre question that I received (and by far the most bizarre that I've ever asked)... If you could choose between a unicorn and a rainbow-colored cat as a pet, which one would you choose?
Neither. A dog!
You don't like cats?
No, I hate cats! And a unicorn, in my opinion, is very high maintenance! It takes a lot of space, it poops everywhere, you need hay to feed it, and I have no idea what kind of hay they eat! So no, I would get a dog.
"My favorite song of the year? 'Be Good to Me' by Sia."
What song released this year would you have liked to sing yourself?
(Silence) There's a song that Sia wrote, called "Be Good to Me", which I love. She's incredible. She's the one who wrote "You Lost Me" for Christina Aguilera for the "Bionic" alcum. I find this song splendid, both the vocals and the production.
Furthermore, on stage, you do a version of "Soaked", which Matthew Bellamy wrote for you, which is reminiscent of this song.
Yes, for the tour, we removed the percussions and the electric guitar to give it a more symphonic atmosphere.
If I tell you that on stage, you are a blend between Pink and Chritina Aguilera...
Thank you! This is a wonderful compliment. I have a lot of respect for both of them and I think that they haven't been around for ten years without a reason. So thank you, I really appreciate it.
"It's so petty and mean all the time in the pop world."
What do you think about all that has happened around Christina Aguilera's album "Bionic", which was almost dead before it was even released?
Yes, that's about it. I have always been a fan of hers, and even if I think that it wasn't her best album, there were some good songs. I really don't know what happened actually. I think that we give too much power to bloggers. But it's only my opinion.
Some say that she was in a way responsible for her own flop by criticizing Lady Gaga... And she even said in an interview that she had no idea who she was...
Yes, it's true that it wasn't the best thing to say. But at the same time, when some people compared the two clips (Christina Aguilera's "Not Myself Tonight" and Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance", editor's note), it was really a stretch. A lot of people do similar things. If you looked at a music video by Beyoncé Knowles and one by Rihanna, I think that you could also find moments that are similar. And then Gaga, as original and genius as she is, has also borrowed from others. She is very inspired by Madonna. And she admits it. And when you watch the "Alejandro" music video, it's Madonna! It's very tiring to always hear "this person copied this other person". Calm down! Nobody copies anyone. Trends exist, and we can see something in another artist, find it great and get inspired by it. Why would it be a bad thing? It's so petty and mean all the time in the pop world. Relax! You like the song? Then it's all that matters. People keep bad mouthing Kesha for example. She's the nicest girl in the world.
It's true that we get the impression that her personality is not getting across... That there really are a lot of very negative opinions about her...
One must also ask the question, at a certain point, if you were to receive that much negativity, how would you react? And I'm not only talking about her, but about this kind of attacks, it hurts people. And she's very sensitive, so I'm sure that it's hurting her.
But she's stubbornly locks herself within that persona... At the same time, if she stopped, she might be accused of being opportunistic...
That's what you have to do! You have to remain true to yourself, follow your instinct. That's what I did, but I was still attacked a lot in the past year. In the end, I think that people are very hard on celebrities, really. Me, I was this dude in Los Angeles, I was a bit bored, I wanted new opportunities, I went to an audition for a TV show, I did my best every week, I finished in second place, I was able to make an album, I can dress as I want, I do my own thing. And I feel like asking people, but fuck, what would you do if you were in my shoes? I try to make music that people like, I travel...
But to come back to Kesha in particular, she has this image of the bad girl that brushes her teeth with whisky and dresses with clothes that she finds in the trash... It seems so artificial and so marketing...
Yes, maybe a little. But again, it's another example of something that people are taking much too seriously. She doesn't take herself seriously, so why do people do? She's the opposite of Gaga. Gaga is very dramatic, serious, very invested in her character and quite dark. Kesha, on the other side, she says "We don't give a damn, we want to party", and I think that it's important in music, to be able to let go, to escape. That's part of what pop is all about.
Author: Charles Decant