Exit interview: ‘American Idol’ runner-up Adam Lambert

05.22.09 8 years ago

Chris Pizzello/AP

Although he had seemingly been a long-time favorite of the judges and the media alike, Adam Lambert was not, in fact, announced as the winner on “American Idol” on Wednesday (May 20) night. That allowed Lambert, two days later, to celebrate that popular “Idol” tradition of reassuring reporters that while winning might have been nice, it wasn’t the most important thing for him.

“You know what? Really, I know it sounds cliched, but I really feel like I won by getting to the Final,” Adam says, who lost to Kris Allen in the “Idol” Finale. “To me, it’s not about the title of American Idol. It was the experience. I made music. And I got to do a different performance every week and I was able to use ‘American Idol’ as a platform to get myself out there and have a career. So there’s no need to dwell on the negative. We should look forward and be excited about an album and the rest of my career. That’s where I’m at.”

And while Justin Timberlake may have brought sexy back, Adam succeeded in a far more difficult task, bringing theatricality back, saving a word which has generally been used as a pejorative regarding “American Idol” contestants in the past.

“I think it’s just all in the name of good entertainment,” Adam insists. “First and foremost, it is about the music, but it kind of packages it in a little bit more of a flashy, more interesting, dynamic way, in my opinion. I think theatricality is just one way of performing and I don’t think it’s a better way or The Way, but it’s my way.”

Citing influences, Adam adds, “Bowie’s a great example of somebody who did it. Michael Jackson’s a good example of somebody that used theatricality and drama. Madonna. There’s a slew of artists out there who do it. I was just really lucky that ‘American Idol’ embraced it, because I think it was somebody a little bit new for them.”

Of course, the phrase “theatrical” has taken on euphemistic connotations for many of Adam’s critics, particularly as it pertains to his sexuality, a  subject he’s very politely declined to directly address. On the conference call with reporters on Friday, the topic was broached only once, to ask Adam if he felt that rumors regarding his sexuality had any impact on the voting.

“Um… You know… Probably,” Adam says. He then paused and laughed, indicating that it was time to move onto the next issue.

Well OK. Did the “American Idol” team ever get in the way of his individual artistic choices?

“The really cool thing about this show is that they’ve been 100 percent supportive of everything that I’ve done,” he swears. “Every aspect of everything I’ve done, from the music to what I’m wearing to how I perform. I would go into a vocal session and be like, ‘I have this idea, can we try it?’ ‘Yeah, sure. Let’s try it.’ Rickey Minor and the band, I’d be like, ‘Well what about this? Can we try something like this?’ ‘Yeah, let’s try it, man.’ It’s been very positive and creative and never once for a second did I feel stifled in any way.”

While the stadium-ready glam-rocker can expect to be one of the most popular draws on this summer’s “Idol” tour, he’s already planning for his first album and staring down the challenge of translating his “Idol” persona to a studio recording.

“We’re at the drawing board right now trying to figure that out,” Lambert says. “My view of the record industry is that it’s a little too specific lately. The labels tend to try to put one box around every artist and keep them in one genre and, to me, I’m so fortunate because I got to use to show to get myself out there, we don’t really have to go about it that way. Obviously we want the album to have a cohesive sound, but I think it can kind of be a collection of different styles with me at the center of it. Everybody knows who I am singing it, so that’s the common thread.”

For “Idol” winners and runners-up, that first 19 Entertainment album has often seems like a hurdle to get over before trying to actually imprint a personality on subsequent disks. That’s a notion that Adam scoffs at.

“I think there’s a little bit of a misconception about the debut CDs. I think that it’s a case-by-case thing,” he says. “In my talks with 19, the label and the management company, we’ve discussed it and I’ve expressed my desire to have a lot of involvement in the process. I’m definitely a collaborator. That’s my strengths. I don’t like to be told what to do and I don’t like to hold the reins all myself. I’m hoping that they pair me up with some amazing producers who are super-talented. I know they have some lined up already. And I think that both in the producing and the writing process, I plan on being present and involved and they are totally supportive of that.”

And is he really OK with finishing second?

“I’m totally OK with it,” he says. “I couldn’t be happier for Kris. He’s a good friend of mine. I think he’s immensely talented.”

He adds, “I don’t have any regrets. I really enjoyed my whole experience. I don’t think I would have changed anything.”

Other highlights from Adam Lambert’s Friday conference call with reporters:

On the idea that he could be responsible for resurrecting glam: “I don’t want to do one specific genre. I’m more about fusion. I like adding little elements of things into the mix. If anything I’m more fond of the ’70s glam feel than the ’80s, even though I have that style of vocal, but we’ll see what happens. I’m kinda experimenting with that. There are a lot of pop artists that are using a ‘glam’ vibe in their music currently, I think I’m actually part of a wave. There just happens to not be many guys doing it right now.”

On whether he’ll have to become a different artist for a CD: “I never really listen to what people say. My thing is that my favorite artists are artists that are theatrical. Obviously when you are doing a recording, things aren’t gonna translate as over-the-top. Doing a live performance of something, it takes on another life. I really enjoy the recording process and it’s gonna represent itself differently. Anybody that bought the iTunes version of what I did on the show could see, ‘OK. I get how he sounds in a recording session versus how he is live. It’s different.’ The live performance takes it to a different level. So I think people are in store for a treat. I think it’s gonna be a really cool album and I’m excited to start working on it.”

On meeting the mentors and celebrity guests: “I was star-struck every time. Smokey Robinson was amazing. Jamie Foxx was amazing. I met Lady Gaga backstage when she came on the show and that was amazing. I can’t even name one. And every single celebrity was coming up to me and knew who I was and that to me was the weirdest part. I was like, ‘Wait a minute. I’m a fan of yours. You can’t be a fan of mine.’ It was so strange.”

On why he hadn’t been discovered previously: “I might not have gone through the proper channels, to be honest with you. The concept of being ‘discovered’ is kind of a dying art. I don’t think anybody gets discovered. I think you have to put yourself out there. I was doing the theater thing, I had a band for a while, and on the side I started writing music and I was just getting to the point where I was probably ready to start spinning music to labels, but then this opportunity came along and I jumped at it. I just think things happened when they were supposed to happen.”

On his relationship with the theater community: “That’s my family. That was my community for years and years. I have so many friends who are in shows in New York and whenever I’m in New York, I plan on coming to see shows and sitting right in the front row and cheering them on. I, in no way, will ever forget my roots, so to speak. I learned so much with theater. Now I’m just in a new journey and learning this way.”


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