Saturday, August 29, 2009

Adam Lambert's Biography Part 3: The Rise to Fame

Adam's American Idol journey started on July 16, 2008, when he and a couple of his friends drove up from L.A. and stayed overnight at his mom's house in Burlingame. Adam was feeling nervous and couldn't sleep. Early the next morning, they went to the Cow Palace in Daly City, just outside San Francisco, where they joined thousands of other Idol hopefuls. That was the beginning of a very long day and Adam was already tired, so he took a nap while they were waiting in line. There were several rounds of auditions before advancing in front of the judges. Adam first sang Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy". He was afraid that the producers wouldn't "get it", but they did and he was finally admitted to the judges' audition chamber, where he sang Michael Jackson's "Rock with You" and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" while the cameras were rolling. Simon Cowell found him "too theatrical, and therefore not current". Randy and Paula strongly disagreed with him. Kara was on the fence, but really liked his voice. Eventually, after some discussions, he got four "yes" votes and a golden ticket for Hollywood.

In November 2008, 147 American Idol contestants invaded Hollywood's Kodak Theatre to compete for a place in the top 36 (these competitions were taped and broadcasted later in February 2009). There were three elimination rounds during that "Hollywood Week". In the first round, contestants had to perform a short solo a cappella song. Adam sang 4 Non Blondes' "What's Up? In the second round, the 107 remaining contestants had to perform in groups of three or four. Adam teamed up with Michael Sarver, Jesse Langseth and Matt Breitzke. They rocked the socks off the judges' feet with "Some Kind of Wonderful" and delivered one of the strongest group performances. In round 3, Adam surprised everyone by singing a slowed-down version of Cher's "Believe", just to show that he could take any song and make it sound new and different. This bold move earned him a spot in the top 36, which were announced during a special 2-hour broadcast on February 11 (although the top-36 list had leaked on Joe's Place Blog at the end of January).

Adam cruised through the semi-finals by performing Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" as part of group 2. He immediately advanced to the final 13 along with Allison Iraheta and Kris Allen, the other two top finalists. Week after week, Adam impressed both judges and audience with his exceptional vocal abilities, but also by putting his own personal signature on all his performances. He payed attention to every detail, from staging to lighting, from hair styling to clothing. He was like a chameleon, changing his looks, his style and his tone of voice to suit each song, making each performance unique and memorable. He was also very strategic, pushing the envelope one week ("Ring of Fire", "Born to Be Wild") and retreating to safer territory the next ("The Tracks of My Tears", "If I Can't Have You"). One of the turning points was his gorgeous and haunting interpretation of Tears for Fears' "Mad World" on April 7. He came close to elimination on April 29 during Rat Pack Standards week, despite an excellent rendition of "Feeling Good", where he confidently sauntered down the pink-lighted staircase wearing a shiny white suit.

On May 8, Adam went back to San Diego for a homecoming visit. He arrived at Mt. Carmel High School in a red convertible Mustang, accompanied by his parents, and performed in front of students gathered in the track field. One female student removed her top and climbed onto the stage before being stopped by security. Adam laughed at the incident. He also visited a local radio station, a military base and his former musical theatre school, where he talked to the children, encouraging them to embrace their difference and pursue their dreams.

The grand finale of American Idol Season 8 was broadcasted on Wednesday, May 20, 2009. The 2-hour show featured several A-list guests singing with the top 10 Idol finalists. Adam performed a glam rock number with Kiss wearing platform boots and sparkly shoulder cages. He also sang "We Are the Champions" with Queen and Kris Allen. At the very end of the show, Ryan Seacrest announced that the winner of AI8 was ... Kris Allen. Adam looked genuinely happy for him, but Kris was stunned and his first words were "Adam deserves this". There were many disappointed Adam fans that night, but Adam himself didn't feel as if he had lost. He had made it to the finale and had become a rock star, which was his goal.

Half-way through the show, photos of Adam kissing another man started circulating on the Internet. The object of Adam's affection was quickly identified as his ex-boyfriend Brad Bell, aka "Cheeks". These pictures fueled intense speculation around Adam's sexual orientation. Everytime a journalist would ask him the question, usually in a roundabout way, he would remain non-committal, insisting on the fact that what mattered was his singing abilities, not his private life. However, he never denied being gay, and never tried to hide it either, even going out in public at an L.A. club holding hands with interior designer Drake LaBry a few days after the American Idol finale. Finally, he put an end to the rumour mill by announcing in early June that all would be revealed in the next issue of Rolling Stone magazine.

On June 10, the much anticipated Rolling Stone issue hit the newsstands. Adam's cover photo was absolutely breathtaking and extremely sexy: it showed him lying on his back, wearing a lacy Versace shirt revealing his chest, tight black jeans and a glittery belt, with a bright green snake wrapped around his thigh, its head pointing directly at his crotch. The 5-page article, written by Vanessa Grigoriadis, disclosed a number of intimate details about him, including his sexual orientation ("I don't think it should be a surprise for anyone to hear that I'm gay"). Adam's responses to the interviewer questions were quite direct, even a bit shocking, revealing a side of him that had remained hidden during the AI8 season. Over the next week, he gave a number of television interviews, including an in-depth one with Chris Connelly on ABC News' 20/20, where he answered questions about his sexuality very candidly.

On June 19, Hi Fi Recordings and Wilshire Records announced that they intended to release the first Adam Lambert album entitled "On with the Show", made up of different tracks recorded before American Idol and dating as far back as 2005 when Adam was doing session work for the company. When the track listing was made public, it turned out to be an odd mixture of very different musical styles, ranging from sappy pop ballads ("Want") to edgy alternative rock tunes written with Monte Pittman for The Citizen Vein and the Zodiac Show ("Crawl Thru Fire"). The first single, "Want", was released the same day, with the full album promised for the summer. Adam and his new recording company, 19 Recordings, didn't particularly appreciate the announcement and released a statement indicating that these early recordings didn't reflect the music that he was currently working on. Adam's fans had mixed reactions, some vowing to boycott the controversial album, others welcoming any new Adam recording, even based on older material. As of mid-September, this album has not yet been released.

Adam signed a recording contract with 19 Recordings/RCA records just a few days after the American Idol finale. He didn't waste any time and started working on his new album right away, taking advantage of the few weeks he had available before the start of the American Idol Live tour. He also managed to sneak in a few recording sessions during days off from the hectic American Idol Tour. He collaborated with well-known producers and songwriters, including RedOne, Linda Perry, Sam Sparro, Greg Wells and Max Martin. He will complete work on his album right after the end of the tour, and it should be released on November 24, with the first single coming out sometime in October.

In an interview with E! Online, Adam indicated that he had recorded a song for a movie soundtrack on July 15, but wouldn't say which one. A couple of weeks later, Bill Masters from Windy City Times revealed that Adam had recorded a track for Roland Emmerich' upcoming disaster movie, "2012", and that it should be used for the closing credits. On August 14, Queen's guitarist Brian May declared on his web site that he had actually listened to the track while visiting Rob Cavallo's studio in Calabasas and that he had been completely blown away: "It's truly sensational. In fact it's so obviously a number one smash, any bookie would be mad to take bets on it. I am not kidding. I'm not easily moved to jelly by male vocalists ... but Adam's voice reaches out with sensitivity, depth, maturity, and awesome range and power which will make jaws drop all around the world. Its an awesome performance. No doubt about it. The world of Rock has a bright new star." This was quite an endorsement from such a well respected musician, and it created a lot of buzz and anticipation. The movie is scheduled to be released on November 13, 2009.

The AI Live tour was a wild ride. Most critics agreed that Adam was stealing the show and getting the strongest reactions from the audience, generating a deafening level of decibels every time his face showed up on the jumbotron. A wide variety of items, ranging from underwear to sex toys, were thrown on stage during his set. Although he found it amusing and often played with a few of these things while performing, twirling bras above his head, wrapping boas around Allison's shoulders or whipping himself with a cat o'nine tails, the whole thing went too far sometimes, like when he was hit on the knee by a dildo in Hamilton. Fans also waited for hours after the show in the hope of getting an autograph or snapping a picture with him. Their screams were so loud that he started wearing purple earplugs to protect his hearing. Learning to cope with this sudden fame is one of Adam's main concerns. He sought advice from a few celeb friends, including Katy Perry, and read Robbie Williams' autobiography. It will be fascinating to watch what will happen over the next few years. There is little doubt that Adam Lambert will become an international superstar.

This post was originally published by The Librarian on the Adam Lambert Reference Centre blog. The original post URL is

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