In case you missed Adam's AMAs spectacle, it featured a same-sex smooch, dancers on leather leashes, a whole lot of R-rated groping, and one especially outrageous moment actually bleeped out on the West Coast. Not your typical Idol fare, to be sure, and perhaps more than ABC bargained for...although the week-long hype about the "sexy" performance should have clued execs in somewhat.
Now, was it the best move for Adam to pull all this stuff on prime time TV his first time out? Well, maybe it was a slight lapse in judgment--not because it was racy (I for one was not at all offended, although apparently at least 1,500 irate viewers who flooded the ABC switchboard were), but only because Adam allegedly didn't tip off producers about what he planned to do (he later said he did it "in the moment"), leaving blindsided camera crew members scrambling to quick-cut to widescreen audience reaction shots and panicked staffers in the editing bay working overtime to cut out the "offensive" scenes for the show's tape-delayed broadcasts. It was this perceived secrecy that might have been Adam's undoing--let's face it, you can get away with that stuff if you're Madonna and have been in the game for a while, but as a new artist so hot out the box, it's a real risk. So to this point, I do understand ABC's skittishness a little.
And oh, what repercussions!
Still, regardless of what went down and how Adam's performance was received, the folks at GMA and ABC are, in my never-humble opinion, seriously overreacting here. First of all, Sunday's American Music Awards broadcast was the ceremony's most-watched since 2002, and there's little doubt that ABC has Adam to at least partially thank for that. His performance on GMA--which would have been his first since the AMAs scandal, had it gone on as planned--would have undoubtedly garnered massive ratings (which is undoubtedly why rival CBS morning program The Early Show wasted NO time in booking Adam for its Wednesday episode).
Also, Adam is no fool. He knew after his polarizing "Ring Of Fire" performance on American Idol that he had to rein it in the following week with his much more clean-cut "Tracks Of My Tears." He knew not to don his "private collection" platform boots and eyelid-rhinestones until the Idol finale, after the voting was over. He knew to save his more pronounced pelvic thrusts and sexiest dance moves for the Idols Live Tour, and not break them out during a televised group performance of, say, "Don't Stop Believin'." So did the worrywarts at GMA really think that Adam would pull the same raunchy stunts that he did at nearly 11pm (on an AMAs show that, it should be noted, also included some very provocative performances by Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Shakira, and J.Lo) on a breakfast show? Come on.
So here's the question (and it's the question that is asked every time Adam Lambert does something controversial, which is like, um, pretty much every other day): Will his AMAs controversy and the subsequent GMA fallout hurt his career? Well, maybe, maybe not. On the plus side, if we are to believe the old adage that any publicity is good publicity, then Adam Lambert is the 2009 Artist Of The Year. He's always in the news, and as the first Idol to ever be banned from anywhere, this latest saga is one for the pop-culture history books and will surely draw even more Adam/Elvis comparisons (Elvis's pelvis once got him censored on The Ed Sullivan Show, you know). And the outcries of discrimination and homophobia will only make fans and artists alike rally around him and make him a cause célèbre. For some reason I'm getting flashbacks to when Luke Campbell and 2 Live Crew became free-speech media darlings after being banned from record stores--it had nothing to do with music, as many people didn't even approve of Luke's lyrics; it just was the principle of the matter.
But there's the minus side: This has nothing to do with music, either. Yesterday Adam Lambert released an amazing album, arguably one of the best albums in American Idol history (well, I argue that, anyway), and obviously all of his TV appearances this week were set up to promote For Your Entertainment. But his release week has been sadly overshadowed by all this controversial stuff. Hardly anyone is concentrating on how head-explodingly awesome "Music Again" and "Pick U Up" are, how goosebump-raising ballads like "Whataya Want From Me" or "Sleepwalker" are, or how stupendous his voice sounds throughout.
I was pleased when the last few weeks of Lambert media-blitzing were focused on the much-anticipated release of For Your Entertainment--the A-list collaborators, the leaked song snippets, the lyrics that diehard fans were transcribing and putting up on the Web. But now, during Adam's all-important release week, the music itself is no longer the focus, and that is why I do wonder if any publicity really is good publicity. And this is the one reason why I doubt if all this controversy-courting is such a great idea. It may boost Adam's profile in the short run, but I still think it should be all about music at the end of the day--and I imagine Adam does as well. He and his collaborators worked too hard on his dream debut to have it be ignored because the public is too concerned with all this tabloid stuff. Hopefully Adam will just knock out some fantastic performances on Letterman and The Early Show this week, and then this mess will blow over like every other "scandal" he has been through practically since he auditioned for Idol.
And on that note, I will sign off to go blast FYE in my office. And reprogram by DVR for Wednesday morning...
- Adam Lambert
- American Music Awards