I heart Adam Lambert. There I said it. For a while I was ashamed of my Mrs. Robinson-like feelings for the guy. But after I blogged about his crush-worthiness for Newsweek, I got cards, letters and even some haiku from equally besotted cougar fans. They nearly broke my email.
Gay, shmay. Who cares? Lambert made us feel young. Every time I heard him sing I wanted to get a tat, fill my iPod with some old Bowie or Sex Pistols, maybe wear some glitter. Now, I’m feeling every year of my age. And my once heavily padded shoulders are more than a little droopy.
I’m blaming my ennui on Lambertgate, as many are calling the bizarrely draconian response to the singer’s recent American Musical Awards performance. That’s when Mr. Lambert warbled the hypersexual title track of his debut album, For Your Entertainment. It’s not a love song; it’s not even a good rock song. But if you want to go club hopping and dance, I guess it fits the bill.
Mr. Lambert’s interpretation of the song during his AMA performance was one hot mess, vocally and aesthetically. I actually had to leave the room because I couldn’t watch such an über-talented singer devolve into a pop tart, channeling Dante’s seventh circle of hell. The impromptu man-on-man kiss and simulated fellatio made everything seem even more pathetic.
But the resulting brouhaha made me cringe even more than his performance.
Mr. Lambert was disinvited to three ABC shows: Good Morning America, Jimmy Kimmel Live and Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. I felt like I was living in an episode of Mad Men, circa 1963. It’s a time when characters like Sal Romano, a gay art director in a heterosexual marriage, are forced deeper and deeper into the closet simply to survive. Now, ABC is extending the olive branch and Lambert is making a taped appearance this week on The View.
I hated Mr. Lambert’s vocals, but his stage persona didn’t shock me. Straight entertainers have been swapping spit, grunting, grinding and generally sexing it up for years.
I lived through glam and punk and post-punk and even the spectacle of big-haired arena rock in which bouffant-coiffed musicians all made eyes at each other. I’m old enough to remember David Bowie giving some tongue to Mick Ronson’s guitar and/or loins in what is known as the “electric blowjob.” I remember Wendy O. Williams of Plasmatics fame simulating sex on stage wearing only shaving cream. I heard Lou Reed take a “Walk on the Wild Side,” singing about prostitution and drug use, and Prince crooning about that "Darling Nikki," who was masturbating with a magazine. For crying out loud, I remember the Red Hot Chili Peppers wearing nothing more than strategically placed socks.
As a nation, we seem to be okay with an openly gay man like Mr. Lambert singing angst-ridden eunuch ballads like "Mad World." And we really like it when he interprets sexually charged rock classics like “Whole Lotta Love,” and acts all rock star hot, albeit straight rock star. But really, people: To whom is Mr. Lambert going to give “every inch” of his love? He is an openly gay man and we get kind of queasy when he interprets a hypersexual ditty like "For Your Entertainment" and gives us some man-on-man action. His guy kiss was even blurred by the CBS Early Show. But Britney-Madonna? Guess girl-on-girl is hot.
We may never know the real motives for ABC’s decision. Maybe it was a combination of 1,500 viewer complaints out of an audience of 14 million (Dancing With the Stars reportedly gets more complaints), the power of the Parents Television Council (they actually thought one cancellation was overkill), or the legal shoutout to the FCC made by the Liberty Counsel, a non-profit conservative law firm closely associated with the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, the polarizing evangelist who had it in for the purple Teletubby (the one who had a boy’s voice but carried a purse).
I don’t even quite understand why ABC is making nice now. They did get a pushback by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. And fans took to the Internet threatening a boycott of the network. So maybe this whole thing just boils down to money.
Mr. Lambert took his knocks with good grace. He said that he wishes he would have sung the song better (so do I) and that he didn’t want to disrespect anyone by a performance he admits may have been over the top. (He didn’t have to do that.)
But I can’t help but feel a little sad every time I see him singing another song from his debut album, the beautiful “Whataya Want from Me?" The only reasonable answer that I can come up with is: “We’re still trying to figure that out.”
Joan Raymond is a freelance journalist covering health and lifestyle issues. She has written for Newsweek, the New York Times, More and other national publications.