What Was Adam Lambert Thinking?

Posted on November 23, 2009 at 11:02 pm

I was looking forward to Adam Lambert’s performance on the American Music Awards last night because I was impressed with his ability and stage presence on “American Idol.” The show included some of the industry’s biggest stars, but they saved him for the last song of the night and really built it up as something special. Knowing that his first album has been released to such glowing reviews heightened the anticipation.
So it was a terrible disappointment to see the almost desperate gyrations that were not just awkward and vulgar but a distraction from the song he was trying to deliver. Wearing some sort of outfit that looked like a spacesuit from a cheesy 1950’s sci-fi movie, Lambert made the number into a quick trip through a manual of sex acts. According to a slightly stunned Entertainment Weekly column by a committed Idol fan, the song featured:

Adam dragging a female backup dancer across the stage by her leg, as if she were a lace-covered sack of potatoes; Adam grasping the head of a submissive-styled male backup dancer and pulling him into an uncomfortable round of simulated oral sex (while ABC muted the audio to protect us from who only knows what); a tutu-clad woman cupping Adam’s nether-regions; Adam grasping and snapping the leather “bikini area” (for lack of a better term) of a female dancer’s costume; and Adam taking a break from his singing duties for an impromptu game of tongue twister with a keyboardist of indeterminate gender.

Was Lambert trying to get Britney-kisses-Madonna headlines? Was the Idol contestant making up for lost time playing coy about his sexual orientation until after the Idol votes were in and he came in second? Is there any chance it was a genuine expression of some artistic statement by this very commercially-oriented performer?
EW says it was more likely to be the former:

But the bottom line is that Adam’s AMA performance felt less like a genuine expression of his high-octane sexuality (so playfully erotic when he fondled the mic stand during “Whole Lotta Love” this summer), and more like a carefully planned stab at dominating the post-AMA blogosphere/water-cooler discussion. I’m certainly no prude…the idea of saucy boy-on-boy/boy-on-girl/boy-on-not-quite-sure action does not rattle my cage — certainly not at 10:55 p.m. on a school night. And yet, what’s sad is that unlike, say, a J.Lo or even a Rihanna, Adam could’ve had tongues wagging just from his vocals alone. Instead, that golden voice took a backseat tonight at the AMAs, and I’m not sure exactly who was occupying the driver’s seat.

The Parents Television Council has issued a statement objecting to the performance and called on its members to express their concern to the network, Dick Clark Productions and the show’s advertisers.

“American teenagers – and especially teenaged girls – are literally under siege by the entertainment media. It is outrageous that children today cannot watch a televised awards program for an industry that is built squarely on their backs. Teens comprise a huge portion of music sales, yet this is how they are treated? It is beyond contemptible,” said PTC President Tim Winter.

ABC has already received thousands of complaints, which it described as a “moderate” response, according to the Huffington Post. Lambert “told CNN that his kiss was ‘in the moment’ and that if people were upset about it, ‘That’s a form of discrimination and it’s too bad.'”
The kiss was not the problem. And the objections are not discrimination. The star of a top-rated show that is often watched by families chose to pay less attention to staying on pitch and delivering a top-quality musical performance than to a desperate, clumsy, and crude effort to be shocking.
To send your objections to ABC, use this form. You can reach Dick Clark Productions at 2900 Olympic Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90404
To speak with a representative from the Parents Television Council, please contact Kelly Oliver (ext. 140) or Megan Franko (ext. 148) at (703) 683-5004.

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20 Replies to “What Was Adam Lambert Thinking?”

  1. I love this guy. His charm, his look and his extraordinary vocal talent is something the world has not seen in quite some time. But I am crying seeing his career path going in such an extreme negative direction. I love gay people. There are many I know, love and admire. BUT, this kind of “in your face” gay behavior is appalling. PLEASE ADAM…get a new agent! You’re too good for this!

  2. I feel sorry for his parents. And even more sorry for the youth of America.
    This guy is a cliche already.
    His advertisers should have been all of the major condom companies.

  3. If singers delivering pitch-perfect musical performances is your concern, I hope you have contacted ABC regarding 80% of the performances that came before Adam’s, including those who lip-synced and denied their audience a “genuine” performance. And if overt sexuality is your concern, then again, I hope you contacted ABC regarding all of the routines that came before which had crotch-grabbing, hip-thrusting, ass-slapping, sexual innuendo and the rampant objectification of female artists.
    Think of those poor teenage girls under siege.

  4. Overt sexuality is not new to rock and pop star performances, Sarah. Unfortunately, neither is vocal enhancement through guide tracks or other pre-recorded technology. I encourage anyone who shares your concerns to communicate them to ABC and Dick Clark Productions.

  5. Nell Minow, I’ll use tildes next time to better communicate my sarcasm.
    If overt sexuality is an old standard, then why are you even upset about Adam Lambert to begin with? If you understand that overt sexuality is customary in rock or pop performances, then don’t watch a show that celebrates, among other styles, pop and rock music. Or did you all also contact ABC regarding the performances by Shakira, Janet Jackson, Carrie Underwood, the Black Eyed Peas, Rihanna, Eminem, et al.? If you mind your children watching that, then turn off the TV or change the channel. It’s that simple. Your children aren’t under siege. It’s a free country and you’re free to move on to different sources of entertainment. We call it “scrolling” here online. You can apply it to real life, too, you know.

  6. Oh, the sarcasm came through, Sarah. It wasn’t subtle. I just don’t respond in kind.
    We all use our freedom in different ways, and mine includes expressing my view that this performance was poor as a matter of taste and quality. But I appreciate your sharing your views, sarcasm and all, and welcome your comments any time.

  7. Gosh, Sarah, I thought I was very clear. Let me try again. You made two points, that Lambert’s performance was only to be expected in a genre that often includes sexy and provocative material and that it wasn’t a big deal and parents should just turn it off if they do not want their kids to see it because it is a free country. I agreed with you that rock and pop often include sexy and provocative material and that it is a free country and explained that I am happy to have to privilege to use that freedom to express my view that even within the context of this genre Lambert’s performance was both of poor quality and in poor taste. It was also poor judgment — it has not won him any additional fans and as you may know his appearance on Good Morning America was canceled, showing that I am not the only one who thinks he crossed a line.
    There are many performers who have no interest in an AMA/Good Morning America audience, and I am glad to live in a country where they can express their artistic vision. But Lambert comes from American Idol and thus explicitly has tried for that kind of mainstream success. His performance at the AMA was just childish acting out, inappropriate, and an embarrassment. It was not fair to the fans who supported him through the Idol show. He picked the wrong time and place and he picked the wrong way to try to get edgy. For me, as I explained, his performance was in a different category from the usual booty-shaking. Parents know or should know what to expect from some of the other performers and had adequate notice about whether it was appropriate for their children and young teens. But Lambert did a switch-up that was not fair to the audience. And in my opinion, it failed as a performance.
    So, to recap — you did not think it was a big deal (and yet keep writing about it) or that it was different from the rest of the show or unexpected. I did. We both enjoy the freedom to express our views.
    If you need further explanation, let me know. I am enjoying your comments.

  8. You know, Jesus welcomed children as well as prostitutes into His company. And to those standing around ready to throw stones, He said “do not judge, lest ye be judged.” And “he who is without sin among you…” I’m sure some mothers thought their kids shouldn’t be around a prostitute, or around someone who allowed a prostitute and tax collectors, etc., into His company. They must have sounded like you. He was a radical for His day. That’s not just fancy talk. He challenged people to replace old viewpoints with a new one. I doubt He would have praised Adam Lambert’s performance anymore than He would have praised Carrie Underwood’s, Keith Urban’s or Whitney’s, but I doubt He would have said, “Let’s all complain to ABC now about that lewd and off pitch performance.”
    Which only supplies more proof that organized Christianity isn’t about what Jesus would do, but about what Christians can do in His name.

  9. (I don’t equivocate Adam Lambert with prostitutes, but you seem to, so I thought I would offer that to approach it from your point of view.)

  10. Sarah, leave what Jesus did out of this discussion about Lambert. He went off the road when he used simulated oral sex in his performance. It was a Music Award Show in our homes when families are watching together. I think he was used by the people who put this show together or at least his performance that night. It was in poor taste and as Nell mentioned was done for shock value without warning his public. If this is how he chooses to sell himself instead of his voice then he should perform full time in Las Vegas.

  11. Sarah, you’re beginning to sound a little desperate, and I am not sure why. And you are failing on the four key requirements of an argument: You must always assume the good intentions of the person on the other side, you must be able to state the other person’s case in a manner that satisfies them, you have to be solid on your facts, and you have to be consistent in your points and willing to acknowledge points of agreement and respond to points of disagreement. You are also failing in the key requirement of any kind of interaction, treating everyone with courtesy and respect.
    You seem to be moving on from the original points you made without any acknowledgment of my points, which implies that you have no further argument to make. Instead, you have moved on to an even more shrill and precarious line of attack, bringing in points about Jesus and Christianity that are not really relevant. It is especially interesting that you quote Jesus saying “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” when you yourself appear very quick to judge others.
    I do not think that Jesus meant to say that there were no standards of any kind. On the contrary. And I do not think you mean to say that just because someone has the right to do something means that it is the right thing to do, or that just because someone wants to do something means that he should be allowed to inflict that behavior on anyone else. I do not think you mean to say that anything that is appropriate for adults should be appropriate for children. I don’t even think you meant to say that I was somehow equating Lambert with a prostitute because there is nothing I said that could possibly lead to that conclusion. In other words, you are running out of arguments to rebut what I said and so now you are just making things up.
    My comments on Lambert’s performance are not intended to represent any faith or even all faiths. My objections, as I have stated very clearly, have to do with the quality and taste of his performance, given the context of what his fans were entitled to expect. Unlike you, I do not pretend to know what Jesus would or would not have said. I am just exercising my right under the freedoms you have described, to say what I thought about the performance. And I am wondering why that is so troubling for you.

  12. Oh, okay. Sorry, I mistook this for a place where the people posting were attempting to be Christlike.
    Good luck making it through the eye of that needle.

  13. Ah, more sarcasm. Always a sign of a lack of confidence in your position, so you might want to think about trying another approach next time. And if you are trying to demonstrate Christlike behavior, I think you need to work on humility, grace, kindness, honesty, and courtesy. If you are trying to make a point, you need to work on making a point.
    Just a reminder — Beliefnet is non-sectarian and we respect and welcome all believers and questioners. And just another reminder: Judge not, lest ye be judged. Blessings on you and your family and I really do enjoy your comments.

  14. I take it you fundies missed the rest of the show, in which Janet Jackson grabbed the crotch of one of her male dancers, Eminem rapped about how many rapes and murders “Slim Shady” has committed, and Lady Gaga performed in what amounted to a bodysuit with a large bandaid over her crotch and some electronic bones for decoration.
    ABC hyped the performance throughout the entire show as something that would be shocking. Why are people surprised that it was exactly what they said it would be? Awards shows are always full of sexualized, moderately trashy attention-whoring performances. They’re not a family thing, that’s why they’re almost always rated TV-14 and shown in the prime time to post-prime time slots. (Lambert performed at nearly 11 PM on both coasts – why weren’t children sleeping?)
    You don’t have to like it, but don’t pretend that sexualized performances at music awards shows are something brand new.

  15. Did you watch American Idol last year? They had Flo Rida sing a song that was only about oral sex with scantily clad women dancing! Did you complain or write an article about that? No,Its not really a family show.
    The AMA show was rate PG 14! Parents, sorry,you were warned ahead. TIVO is your friend. Why are you singling out Adam Lambert? The show also contained other objectionable content for children. Janet grabbed a guy’s crotch. Eminem rapped that he had 17 rapes under his belt. Rihanna’s dancers had guns and she sang about Russian Roulette.(But violence is okay, right?) Gaga broke an empty bottle of whiskey. Where is your concern about these acts?
    So to me,your rant screams of discrimination.

  16. Kim, I am sorry my objections seem discriminatory. I am very GLBT-friendly, as you can see if you read more of what I write. I did not watch the entire AMA show, but what I did watch deleted a lot of the lyrics that might have been objectionable for broadcast. I still think that Lambert’s performance was both poor and in poor taste, and misjudged his audience.
    I appreciate your writing and think you make some good points but I think your post is more of a rant than my comment. Thanks again and best wishes for a great Thanksgiving for you and your family.

  17. Marcus, I appreciate your comment, but please read a little more on the site before you start throwing around terms like “fundie.” Just a reminder — the rules of this site prohibit name-calling. Insult is not argument. I am not endorsing the rest of the performances by singling out Lambert. But it seems to me he pulled something of a bait and switch. Eminem and Lady Gaga have been clear from the beginning about who and what they are and who their audience is. But if you will read what I wrote you will see that my point was that Lambert sacrificed what he is best at — singing — just to be outrageous and shocking, delivering something that was very different from what his fans expected in a manner that I thought was cynical and a little contemptuous of the people who voted for him on Idol. So if you would like to comment on that point, I’d be glad to hear your thoughts. Thanks for writing and best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving for you and your family.

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