Adam Lambert has managed to consistently exceed expectations since he was discovered by American Idol. Week after week during Season 8, he changed his chameleon-like persona with every musical genre. So it’s with delirious anticipation that his fans await his debut album, “For Your Entertainment,” which has a release date of November 23rd. The cover art for the new CD was just released and Adam does not hold back or deign to make safe choices.
He gazes out from that cover with his baby blue eyes rimmed with black, his head tilted to the right, a shock of deep sapphire hair blown to the side. A fingerless-gloved hand caresses his surreal, flawless face. The background is space, a smokey purple haze of stars and galaxies. Too much for middle-America? Think about it. Adam is sending up his own image and ’70’s and ’80’s tacky glam chic but he is also paying tribute to his musical heroes. The cover is very much David Bowie meets Prince.
(Links to both “For Your Entertainment” and “Hunky Dory” album covers appear under “Resources.”)
The Bowie Connection
Bowie’s 1971 “Hunky Dory” album features the singer in an eerily similar pose, hand pressed to his pale, androgynous face. A real clue to Adam’s intent may be found in reviews of the Bowie album. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic wrote that, “Hunky Dory” had “a kaleidoscopic array of pop styles tied together only by Bowie’s sense of vision: a sweeping cinematic melange of high and low art, ambiguous sexuality, kitsch, and class.”
Adam has said that his new album will be “quite eclectic.” He told People Magazine, “There are songs on there that are anthems, there are songs that make you want to dance, there are songs that touch you, hopefully, with more emotional, insightful, deeper lyrics. There are songs more in line with a rock sound. There are some that are more pop-oriented.”
“Androgyny. Rock ‘n Roll”
Adam commented on the debate over his cover art on Twitter: “Thank you to those of you who appreciate and understand that the album cover is deliberately campy. It’s an homage to the past. It IS ridiculous. For those that don’t get it : oh well. Glad to have gotten your attention.” He signed off with, “Androgyny. Rock ‘n roll.” (79% of AOL voters hated the cover and 74% said they wouldn’t buy the album but AOL is notoriously conservative, not exactly Adam’s target audience.)
Controversy is Adam’s middle name. He is, after all, besides being a gifted singer, a showman, and the cover of the new album certainly illustrates that. He is playing with us and our expectations of him. (Compare Adam’s cover art to American Idol winner Kris Allen’s self-titled album. Kris is posed in stadium seats wearing an ill-fitting black leather jacket. Notice that his wedding ring is prominently displayed on his left hand.)
“For Your Entertainment” is definitely “campy.” It mocks our assumptions and prejudices. It’s a statement about the Rorschach test that is Adam Lambert. Individually, we each see in this talented performer what we want to see.
In the end, it’s not really what’s on the cover that matters, it’s what’s inside that counts. We’ll just have to wait until November 23rd to find out if the quality of the album’s content outshines the provocative, attention-grabbing, boldness of its cover.