Last season, David Cook became the first rocker to win American Idol, succeeding where Constantine Maroulis, Bo Bice, and even Chris Daughtry had failed. Idol-worshipping rock fans, myself included, rejoiced at the time. But then David's disappointingly Nickelbackian debut album came out, which made me reluctantly realize that David Cook was really only a "rocker" WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF AMERICAN IDOL. Sure, compared to the nervous-giggly David Archuleta or the bubbly-blonde Brooke White, David Cook (and Carly Smithson and Michael Johns, for that matter) practically sounded like Motorhead or Slayer. But in the real world, he didn't really ROCK.
Here's the deal: Real rock 'n' roll is supposed to have some element of danger to it. It's supposed to make people feel a little bit uncomfortable, make concerned PMRC parents fear that their susceptible kids are heading straight to Hades for listening to such decadent, demonic rubbish.
Just think about all of the rock stars over the past decades who've generated shock, awe, disgust, and debate...
Now, I'm not saying that Adam necessarily belongs in same league as any of those legendary artists. Not yet, anyway. But I will say that--judging from his extremely polarizing "Ring Of Fire" performance last week--Adam Lambert is a real rocker. Because he shocks people. He gets people's attention, and sometimes gets people downright angry. He makes those who are faint of heart and feeble of mind squirm in their support hose--and that's a good thing. Because that is what real, relevant, radical rock stars, from Mick to Marilyn, do so well.
The bottom line is: Yes, Adam's "Ring Of Fire" was possibly the most controversial performance in Idol history. But on a related note, it was also the BEST performance in Idol history.
Best. Performance. Ever. Because it rocked. I tend to believe that only someone dead from the waist down or neck up would think otherwise.
Adam rocks because he stays true to himself, like a real rock 'n' roll rebel. If that means freaking out Randy Travis with his goth manicure; or refusing to "go country" on Opry Night (despite that fact that I really do believe maverick Johnny Cash would have appreciated Adam's slinky, Jeff Buckley-inspired remake of "Ring Of Fire"); or belting it out like the Darkness's Justin Hawkins on helium, so be it. Sure, Adam's screechy, Axl-esque wail, particularly on a trippy Egyptian country cover, is not everyone's cup of psychedelic mushroom tea...but come on now, some of the most distinctive singers of the rock genre--Mick Jagger, Robert Smith, Richard Butler of the Psychedelic Furs, Bob Dylan, Thom Yorke, Kurt Cobain--would've never even made it past the early AmIdol audition rounds for being too "weird." So give Adam points for not sounding like a studio robot and fearlessly letting his freak-flag fly high, week after weirdly wonderful week.
I just hope Adam's mellow, unplugged "Tracks Of My Tears" performance this week--complete with polish-free fingernails, preppy suit jacket, and slicked-back matinee-idol hairdo--wins over more conservative voters still waking up with nightsweats from last week's "Ring Of Fire." I personally prefer the freaky-deaky Adam, but I understand, strategically, why Adam toned it down this week. It was a smart, salvaging move on his part.
- David Cook
- Adam Lambert
- American Idol
- Constantine Maroulis
- Chris Daughtry