Appropriately for someone whose goth-glam appearance is the subject of much tabloid fodder, out-and-proud American Idol alumnus Adam Lambert was on his way to get his roots touched up when he spoke to Sydney Star Observer.
“I’m in my house in Los Angeles and, as I’m talking to you, I’m going to drive to a hair appointment,” he laughed. “I can do it, I promise!
“My hair’s looking a bit more natural, so I think I’m going to go back to my technicolour look, with a bit of blue and turquoise in there. You know those black feathers that are almost iridescent? That’s the inspiration.”
Iridescent is also a pretty apt description for the cover of Lambert’s debut album, For Your Entertainment. When the cover art leaked online late last year, it caused something of a stir: sure, Lambert was already out, but the airbrushed, feathered, gaudy picture couldn’t have looked gayer if he was side-saddling a rainbow unicorn.
“I intended it to be campy and fabulous — that old-school glam, Bowie, Prince kind of thing. People used to do that all the time, the provocative rock star look, but here in the States, people were so confused. It cracked me up.”
There’s probably no higher praise that could be given about Lambert’s debut than to say it sounds nothing like an American Idol runner-up’s album. From the sweaty sleaze of the title track (the one that got poor Adam in a spot of trouble when he performed it at the VMAs) to the perfectly-crafted angst-rock of current single Whataya Want From Me, it’s a surprisingly strong, diverse collection.
And with a credible list of contributors on board, it was clear that Lambert’s outstanding performances on the 2009 season of Idol struck a chord with those beyond the usual pop-teen crowd — after all, season winner Kris Allen didn’t have the likes of Muse, Weezer and Pink clamouring to submit songs for his debut.
“It was great that we got amazing people contributing amazing material. It made me feel good — obviously it’s a business thing, but maybe there’s a part of them that really believed in me and what I have to offer,” Lambert said.
Among the contributors is Lady Gaga, who penned the saucy (and very gay) disco strut Fever. Lambert gushed about his studio session with the fashion-forward diva.
“She gets it, she just gets it. She understands the whole business, and she’s not afraid to take risks. We keep in contact, and she’s very sweet.
“Maybe someday in the future we could hang out, write some more, maybe perform together. I would relish that opportunity.”
Perhaps on some sort of genderfucking love duet?
“That’d be great! Maybe she could dress up as a boy and I could sing to her.”
While being an openly-gay ex-Idol is not in itself a terribly unusual thing — the UK has dapper crooner Will Young, while we have balladeer Anthony Callea — Lambert is the first to talk, and sing, so openly about his sexuality.
“Being an artist, it’s important to reflect your personality. I found it really important to be myself and be honest about who I am — and I’m very sexual,” he laughed.
“I happen to be quite a sexual guy, so I thought it was important for me to put that into my art.”
Of course, this openness has occasionally landed him in hot water, never more so than in the aftermath of his performance at the American Music Awards last November, where he pashed a male keyboardist and ground a back-up dancer’s face into his crotch mid-song. Provocative, sure, but no more than previous award show party-lesbian pash-ons by the likes of Britney and Madonna.
To his eternal credit, Lambert remained unapologetic, even as the shit hit the fan in the days after the performance.
“As an audience member for certain scandals, I always think it’s lame when someone caters to that bullshit and apologises when they didn’t do anything wrong. I wanted to stand my ground.
“Female performers and straight male performers have been overtly sexual before, but the minute a gay performer does it, we’re all freaked out,” he said.
One pundit aptly described the media reaction as “the most overblown gay panic this side of Bruno”.
“Totally. I could’ve foreseen a few people taking offence, but that it went so far — and that the network took action about it — that’s what blew my mind. They took me off Good Morning America and all these other chat shows. I thought, ‘Wow, really?’
The storm eventually passed, and Lambert’s talk-show ban was lifted. The day before we spoke, he’d appeared on new American Idol judge Ellen DeGeneres’ program. Of course, the two have more than Idol in common — both have borne the brunt of a predictable ‘moral outrage’ about their sexuality (remember, before Ellen was reborn as America’s daytime TV sweetheart, she was ‘Ellen Degenerate’, with a career in tatters thanks to a very public coming-out).
“Ellen and I talked a lot about coming out, being a gay public figure… I guess in her instance, it kind of helped that she’s not overtly sexual. In many ways, I think that’s what helped her recover.”
Lambert recently revealed to Rolling Stone that he decided to audition for American Idol after ingesting a particularly potent batch of mushrooms.
“I don’t want to be a product my whole life, I want to be Adam. I think if I try and be something that I’m not, it’ll catch up with me. It’s much easier to just be myself,” he explained.
There’s the notion of clearing out the skeletons in your closet before others do it for you…
“Exactly. I’m going to be an open book so that nobody can try and fuck me.
“Or fuck with me, rather!”
In this hyper-connected age, surely one of the first fears to strike anyone experiencing instant fame is how long it’ll take for all your drunken, debauched Facebook photos to emerge as press fodder?
“Well, that all happened right at the beginning. There were pictures out there of me kissing an ex-boyfriend, pictures of me in drag… anything you can imagine. Luckily I’ve never done a sex tape, so we don’t have to wait for that to leak.
“Although maybe I’ll make a music video that looks like a sex tape. That’ll get everyone comfortable — middle America will really love that!”
info: For Your Entertainment (Sony BMG) is out now.
Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Lambert’s performance was at the MTV Music Awards, not the American Music Awards.