Album Review: Adam Lambert ‘Trespassing’
It’s easy enough to pass Adam Lambert off as a cookie-cutter pop star, fully equipped with all of the forced attitude it takes to convince a 13-year-old that he can be their bad boy messiah. After all, with his rise coming through an institution as ubiquitous with the campy and overdone as American Idol, dismissiveness is not an entirely unfounded default stance to take.
However, his reality TV journey is as far as one need look to notice that there is at least something different about Adam. He stood out on the show–which is, admittedly, not a monumental achievement–not only for his look and attitude, but for his talent. There was definitely something there that set him apart from the other contestants.
It’s not completely clear whether Adam Lambert has been able realize his assumed potential, or yet rise above doing exactly what anyone would expect of him. The first half of Trespassing is bubblegum pop with an edge about as sharp as a knife held the wrong way around, and the second act is so loaded with excessive ballads that they seem to lose their grip–though they are sung beautifully.
But maybe this is the real Adam. He doesn’t have to be a rock god, and he really shines as a dance icon on this record, before losing the plot somewhat in the album’s latter half. Fans of Glambert may expect a little more rock and roll than they get here, but there is no reason to believe that this is anything other than precisely the music he wants to make.
And in fact, it is the rock side of him which seems to falter here, though not terribly. His voice is great for rock and roll, but those elements are shoehorned into these songs with exactly the same level of care given to hiphop and dubstep, which is to say not very much, and they are present in approximately equal parts. It comes across as a gimmick added to pop rather than a base of strength from which to project himself. He probably had to include it, but it probably wasn’t needed.
There is an apparent need for Trespassing to build and stress a bad boy image in its lyrical content. Obscenity is thrown in haplessly and sounds a little awkward, serving no purpose but to potentially raise his credibility with people who won’t listen to the record in any case. This album isn’t going to reach any further than his already adoring fans for this specific reason, but some of the swagger that comes with it is likely to be much more effective.
For every moment that seems a bit out of place or contrived, there is a sexiness which hits the target perfectly. Adam exudes confidence throughout, and come the day that he does break free of all expectations he really stands to be a force. He’s not quite at that point yet, but he’s surely making great, big strides.
One negative result of this approach to song creation is that there isn’t a whole lot of breathing room in which the songs can exist as their own entities. The need to include a host of elements both musically and in terms of his image in every single song tends to result in an album that is extremely sameish from track to track. One potential standout is ‘Kickin’ In’, but we’re grading on a curve here and it’s only going to qualify as different in relation to the complete hegemony of the other 13 songs on this record.
Still, this is very strong as a club record, and Adam’s confidence in performing this sort of music is plainly clear. There is a palpable difference between this and his debut, For Your Entertainment, which seems to come down to a sense of command over the music as much as a shift in approach. He has it with dance music, perhaps more than with rock, and in his best moments here he is dominating.
The second part of the album is fairly forgettable, but judged on its first half, it is a great volley of club hits, albeit still catering to a slightly younger crowd than most clubs would let in. It would be equally at home on ABC Spark or in a gay bar, and while not completely appropriate for either, it works. For the niche that it hits it is a fantastic, glitzy party, and a sign that Adam Lambert has found his direction.