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Sonic Boom: First Impressions of Adam Lambert

A song-by-song stream-of-consciousness spin through Adam Lambert's debut album!

Adam Lambert's For Your Entertainment -- it's really quite good!

Adam Lambert's For Your Entertainment -- it's really quite good!

I spend a lot of time watching and thinking about and writing about American Idol—for many lofty sociological reasons, but mostly, really, because I enjoy the show. That said, Kelly Clarkson aside, I rarely listen to any music made by Idol singers once they have graduated from the show. Because, of course, they’re garbage. HOWEVER, my affection for last season’s Adam Lambert transcended my biases against Idol-produced artists. As I watched Adam, week after week, I grew convinced that he would make a record I truly loved. He wasn’t a contestant; he was an artist.

And now—months after his second-place finish to Kris Allen, a show-biz lifetime since the confetti and pyrotechnics ushered Adam off our TV sets—his album is here. (Cue hysteria.) But rather than just listen to it in the privacy of my own home, I have decided to share my inaugural spin of Adam’s much-hyped debut longplayer, For Your Entertainment, with you, dear Reader—because you were here with me through the long season of Idol, because you too have been waiting for this.


Unless you weren’t, or haven’t. In which case: Thanks a lot! Some friend!

No, it’s OK, I forgive you. Let’s look past that ugly quarrel…by listening to the first record from the man who finished second on the ninth season of Idol: Ladies and gentlemen…Adam Lambert’s For Your Entertainment!

[presses play]

1. “Music Again” OK, jumping right in! I’m excited! Well, not really. I’m ambivalent. But let’s get to the music! Hmm. Kind of an electro feel here. Some nice melodic changes on the bridge. Wait, wait…oh…oooh…wait…I love this! This chorus is GREAT. I’m going to listen to this over and over again. It, like, scratches an itch or something. You know that feeling? Like I didn’t even know I had this itch, now here’s this chorus and all of a sudden I can’t stop scratching it? No?

2. “For Your Entertainment” I’ve heard this song before. Not metaphorically. This was on his website or something. This is the single, right? I liked it the first time, and I still like it. He’s doing the crazy vocal acrobatics, which feel a little out of place here. But, on the whole: I like it!

3. “Whataya Want From Me” Ballad, I guess? Slow song. Slower-ish. Man, I just love it right away. I’m an easy mark. Is this the cut Max Martin wrote? Kinda sounds like his style. I love this song, too! This is already the best album I’ve heard from any Idol finalist! And I’m only halfway through the third song! Take that, Phil Stacey!

4. “Strut” Y’know, a few years ago, this sound was really cool—this sleazy, Goldfrapp-y, Gary Glitter-y guitar thing—but now it’s a little played. This is the first skippable track so far; it’s not bad, it’s just….perfunctory? It’s OK.

5. “Soaked” Starts off like Meatloaf, big, weeping, sweeping strings and piano, then Adam goes all theater on us. Woof. I’m tempted to just skip this. This is why theater folk shouldn’t make pop music—this right here is exactly the reason. These tendencies are unconscionable. Let’s just hope he’s got it out of his system.

6. “Sure Fire Winners” Here we go, straight back to the dance music. Kind of Lady GaGa-ish. Is this the song he wrote with her? He wrote a song with her, right? I have to check the credits. This is pretty good. His taste level is obviously really high, but it lacks the twisted-pervert element that makes GaGa so cool. Maybe it’s because you know from watching Idol that Adam’s a really sweet guy, whereas GaGa is a completely enigmatic fetish freak. I love both of them, but GaGa makes this stuff work. Adam has a long way to go before he reaches her level of depravity.

7. “A Loaded Smile” Spacey, ambient, a little Tears for Fears-y. This was definitely his wheelhouse on Idol, these goth-y, techno-y ballads. This is probably the best use of his voice so far. It’s weird how awesome this sort of wailing vocal insanity can be on Idol, and how annoying it is in real life. Although it’s occasionally annoying on Idol, too. So…there ya have it!

8. “If I Had You” Am I really only halfway through this album? Seems hard to believe. I wonder how frequently I listen to albums straight through on first listen. It can’t be all that often. I like to skip around, listen to certain songs over, and then dig in. But I also think albums are too long, generally speaking. Ten songs is perfect; 12 is my max. This one is…14? Great.

9. “Pick U Up” Track 9…time for some filler! Actually, this might be the Max Martin cut. Kinda has his fingerprints on it. So…potential third single!

10. “Fever” Wait, maybe this is the GaGa track? Anyway, this is very Scissor Sisters-y. Maybe this is actually written with the guy from Scissor Sisters? I like Scissor Sisters, but I can’t say I was watching Idol for weeks on end, thinking, “All these hours will be well spent if only another Scissor Sisters emerges from the pack.”

11. “Sleepwalker” Another synthy ballad. Are these really ballads? Technically speaking, I mean. How is “ballad” defined? This is like an electro ballad, like Depeche Mode or The Killers; not, like, a Bryan Adams ballad. Anyway this is amazing. Like, perfect. Dark, cool, catchy, with this sick “Umbrella”-ish echo-y chorus. Mmm. Perfect for his voice; perfect for his whole eyeliner-y, nail-polished Los Angeles Adamness. Just perfect. I love this! I’m back to loving this record! You have no idea how happy this makes me!

12. “Aftermath” Ugh. Forget everything I just said, as we veer into Bon Jovi/Nickelback arena-rock world. I guess Adam is better at this sort of cheesy power-balladry than Daughtry, because Adam is better than Daughtry, but this is so exactly the antithesis of “Sleepwalker.” It’s pompous and patronizing, as if he’s passionately singing from the edge of a cliff, with his arms outstretched and his shirt billowing in the wind. That is an actual (yet unnamed) genre of music: windswept, shirt-billowing power balladry. And I hate it.

13. “Broken Open” Oh, this is “Mad World.” Not “Mad World,” but this is Clive Davis telling Adam to do another “Mad World.” Why not just do “Mad World”? I mean, we’re 13 songs in—it’s not like anyone would care, would they? Texturally, this is really nice—all glitchy ambient, like The Notwist or Postal Service or something—but…so was “Mad World.”

14. “Time For Miracles” Hey, it’s that horrible song from 2012! Thank you, Adam, for stashing this at the end, so I can stop here! Thank you, dear Reader, for reading! Now let’s all go back and listen to “Music Again” some three dozen times!

[presses stop]

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