Reality Rocks

Adam Lambert’s ‘Trespassing’: It’s That Deep

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

I admit that I've developed a bit of reputation as a Glambert, which means probably anything Adam Lambert-related with my byline slapped across it is taken with a grain of salt as chunky as one of Adam's old rhinestone bindis. "Of course she digs Adam Lambert's new album," some skeptics must think. "Lyndsey Parker saying she loves Trespassing is like Oscar The Grouch saying he is a fan of trash, or like Winnie The Pooh giving a jar of honey a five-star review." But seriously, people--listen to me when I say that Trespassing is one of the best pop albums you will hear in 2012.

Or, if you don't believe me, then just listen to the album yourself. I'll wait...

See? I was RIGHT!

On Trespassing, Adam has undoubtedly found his true (multi-octave) voice, gleefully and recklessly abandoning the throwback "rock god" posturing that typified many of his "Idol" performances and several of his first album's guitar-driven, Matt Bellamy- and Justin Hawkins-penned tracks. This, surprisingly, is not a bad thing, despite what a convincingly worship-worthy rock god Adam can certainly be when the mood strikes him. (Rock fans, fear not: The album's three bonus tracks, "Take Back," "Nirvana," and "Runnin'," hit the old techno-rock sweet spot, with the latter almost sounding like an '80s action-movie anthem that'd play in the background while Rocky trains for his Cold War boxing battle with Dolph Lundgren. If that make any sense...)

Anyway, this doesn't mean the album doesn't rock in its own wonderfully Daft Punky way. Trespassing is a full realization of the new Lambert signature sound: a rare strain of electropop that manages to be both mindlessly hedonistic and sublimely sophisticated at the same time. This is hypermodern-but-retro, glossy-but-not-too-glossy superpop, and it is a sound that really fits Adam like a custom-made Skingraft leather jacket. (He co-wrote 12 of the disc's 15 tracks.) If this album doesn't earn Adam some genuine critical raves, then I am sorry, but too many biased critics are rolling their eyes at the "'American Idol' runner-up" listing on his résumé, and not actually listening to his damn album.

Trespassing IS that deep, to loosely borrow a familiar Adam catchphrase: It's a split-personality'd record, almost a concept album, exploring the two sides of one of current pop culture's most polarizing and fascinating figures. It's all very side A/side B (how fitting, then, that Trespassing is coming out on vinyl), with the first half frontloaded with funky-fresh partystarters and "side B" comprising a comedown soundtrack for the bleary morning after. I admit I'm partial to "side A"--after all, I can't resist a Hi-NRG rollerdisco jam, and literally the first SEVEN remix-ready Trespassing tracks have me digging in my childhood closet for my old quad skates, the ones with the rainbow-print shoelaces and glitter custom pom-poms and Pegasus wings velcro'd to the sides. (Seriously, Adam needs to host his official record release party HERE.) But both halves of Trespassing still come together as a whole, somehow more cohesively than Adam's genre-hopping first effort, For Your Entertainment, ever did.

"Side A" of Trespassing kicks off with a true statement of intent, the Pharrell Williams-co-penned title track, in which Adam boldly announces, "Wait till ya get a load of me." (He ain't kiddin'.) Adam's recent reunion with his old "Idol" duet partners Queen is an obvious touchstone here, with "Trespassing's" bowel-rumbling disco bassline, canned handclaps, and gang-chanty intro bringing to mind Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust" and "We Will Rock You"--but other supercool drill-team staples come to mind, like Toni Basil's "Mickey," Frankie Smith's "Double Dutch Bus," Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation," and even the Go! Team, the Ting Tings, and Sleigh Bells. And there's a heavy-breathing breakdown in the middle that features some of the sexiest panting since Donna Summer's "Love To Love You Baby," or at least since Madonna's "Burning Up," Kinky's "Más," or the Faint's "Posed To Death." And that's just THE FIRST TRACK.

From that point on, it's a Mr. Lambert's Wild Ride through klubland. The Bonnie McKee co-write "Cuckoo" is the sound of Kylie Minogue, Sylvester, and La Roux chugging a case of Red Bull and getting in a time machine, setting the dial to 1992, and heading to a rave. "Shady" is the song that the Scissor Sisters wish they'd written (Sam "Black & Gold" Sparro actually holds the co-writing honors here), a dynamite disco floorfiller featuring wocka-wocka '70s-porn-soundtrack guitar from none other than Chic's Nile Rodgers (who's worked with the fabulously glam likes of David Bowie, Madonna, Duran Duran, and Grace Jones). The house-music epic "Never Close Our Eyes" (co-written by two other Midas-Touched hitmakers, Bruno Mars and Dr. Luke) probably has David Guetta cancelling all future recording sessions with the proposed guest allstars for his next album, and deciding to hire Adam to sing on every track instead.

And it gets better (no pun intended). There's "Kickin' In," my favorite Trespassing cut as of this writing (my favorite does change hour to hour, listen to listen), a Michael Jackson-esque thriller that couldn't utilize the cowbell any better if Christopher Walken himself were involved. "Naked Love" is basically the sound of pure joy, a put-your-hands-in-the-air Love Parade anthem (courtesy of Benny Blanco) that reminds me a bit of You Can Dance-era Madonna and makes me forget all my troubles for precisely three minutes and 23 seconds. And "Pop That Lock" is just such a jammmm, I keep imagining "America's Best Dance Crew" routines, particularly ones by Fanny Pak, being choreographed to mastermixes of it.

"Side B" is admittedly a quieter and less immediate affair, almost sounding like a separate companion EP and certainly not promising the sexyfuntimes of the album's first half. But these sultry, blue-eyelinered-soul tracks provide the superior showcase for what made Adam Lambert a superstar in the first place: that voice. Interestingly, it's the ballad here that was the album's first single, "Better Than I Know Myself," that fits in least with the disc, almost seeming as tacked-on as "Time For Miracles" did on FYE. That doesn't mean it's not a great song, but it's too similar to Adam's 2009 hit, "Whataya Want From Me," and Adam has obviously evolved since then. Compared to other fierce new tracks like "Kickin' In" and "Pop That Lock," "BTIKM" almost seems tame. And we all know, Adam is not tame.

Other ballads on "side B," however, are some real next-level stuff. "Broken English," also featuring writing by Sam Sparro, is a dreamy, languid, slow-building slow-burner that brings to mind later-period Scritti Politti and the hypnotic, slinky instrumentation of Adam's iconic "Ring Of Fire" performance from back in the day. "Underneath" is a haunting ballad that exposes Adam at his most stripped and vulnerable. "Chokehold" is reminiscent of Duran Duran's sexy adult-pop classic "Come Undone," except with vocals about 13 octaves rangier than Simon Le Bon's. And then there's the exquisitely sad, dust-in-the-windy "Outlaws Of Love," a gay marriage anthem that may be Adam's boldest musical move yet, as he faces the media's constant probing into his lovelife and addresses it on his own terms, in his own voice.

And that's an important point to make here. While an artist's sexuality should never be the centerpiece of his or her career, Adam, as pretty much the only openly gay mainstream pop star out there, has never been able to escape that tag--and sadly, he probably never will. That's just the way the world works. And a path through the world of rock 'n' roll would have been an especially uphill one for him to take. But in the dance world, homosexuality is usually a non-issue, and it is often even celebrated and embraced. So I optimistically expect that Adam will be welcomed into the EDM community with open, glowstick-waving arms, particularly with an album as awesome as this one firmly establishing his crossover cred. And then hopefully, the rest of the world--i.e., music fans of all persuasions--will free their minds, and their behinds, and the rest will follow.

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