Over the past decade, American Idol has managed to mint just a handful of singers whose talent and popularity actually lived up to its aspirational title: Kelly Clarkson. Carrie Underwood. Chris Daughtry. Jennifer Hudson. Turns out the slope up to that top tier is steep, holding off a long list of mostly forgotten also-rans whose main claim to fame now is in the footnotes of American Idol’s Wikipedia entry.
Season 8 runner-up Adam Lambert, the flamboyant, openly gay singer with the searing, Freddie Mercury-esque tenor, would like to avoid the latter fate. To do that, he continues to borrow heavily from Mercury’s melodramatic muse, along with dance-pop contemporaries such as Lady Gaga, for his second effort, Trespassing.
And like Gaga, Lambert is unapologetically shameless when it comes to singing about his voracious sexual appetites.
On the earnest, Coldplay copy “Never Close Our Eyes,” Lambert longs for a deep emotional connection with someone to last forever. (It’s one of the few such moments on the album that’s not couched in obvious, sexual terms.) “There’s plenty of time to sleep when we die,” he croons. “So let’s just stay awake until we grow older/ … I don’t wanna let a minute get away/’Cause we got no time to lose/None of us are promised to see tomorrow.”
“Better Than I Know Myself” affirms patience and faithfulness in a relationship. On “Underneath,” there’s desire to be known and accepted unconditionally (“I don’t wanna hide any part of me from you/I’m standing here with no apologies”).
The next lines on that track, though, explicitly reference Lambert’s homosexual desire—so explicitly that we can’t repeat the lyrics here.
“Kickin’ In” glorifies getting drunk with a female friend at a club … where she introduces Lambert to a male friend with whom he’s enticed into wanting sex (“She wants to introduce me/To her friend Eddie/ … He got words that rhyme/He got a dirty mind/Persuasive/Am I about to do it now?”). More of the same shows up on the accurately titled “Naked Love,” where Lambert suggests that his lover try him on like clothes (“Take it off/And try me on/The hottest threads/Ya ever worn/So roll the dice/Get lucky tonight/ … Just come on/I want your naked love”). The singer also drunkenly demands that a prospective lover expose himself.
Taken at face value, sex gets coupled with bondage and references to S&M on “Chokehold” with lyrics such as, “And you know I want your chokehold/ … I kind of like the pain.” (Lambert says of those ideas, as reported by Yahoo! Music, “That song’s about being in a relationship with somebody that is not good for you. Kind of how you keep going back for more, even though it’s an emotionally masochistic relationship. [I once called the song] ‘S&M music,’ and I didn’t mean [actual] S&M music! I meant, like, emotional masochism, when you’re going back for more pain. Not actually being tied up—I’m not into that!”)
“Pop That Lock” revels in throwing off any sense of personal restraint (“Tonight we burn it all/Get hot, get tall”). Using two f-words, “Cuckoo” squawks, “Walk that walk/Like you don’t give a f‑‑‑/ … ‘Cause tonight we’re taking over the town, hey/I wanna lose my mind, like a maniac/And cross the line, never looking back/We’re on the loose, getting crazy.” The title track boasts, “Well I was walkin’ for some time/When I came across this sign/ … ‘No Trespassing,’ that’s what it said/At least that’s what I could read/No trespassers? Yeah, my a‑‑/Wait till ya’ get a load of me.”
There are isolated moments in which Adam Lambert tries to delve below the surface, to get past the flesh and into the soul. Mostly, though, he’s merely interested in sexual satiation.
Several songs hint at his willingness to engage in a risky sexual encounter with someone he’s just met. And in this, Lambert perhaps unwittingly reinforces the stereotype historically held about gay men: Namely that they’re promiscuous and sexually voracious, ready to indulge a carnal tryst at virtually any moment.
Then, the album’s last song, “Outlaws of Love,” laments how homosexuals frequently feel judged by others. “We can’t change,” Lambert sings. “Everywhere we go, we’re looking for the sun/Nowhere to grow old, we’re always on the run/They say we’ll rot in hell, but I don’t think we will/They’ve branded us enough, outlaws of love.”
But maybe it’s Lambert who brands himself here. Brands himself as “crazy,” “shady” and, in his words, “being a little bit dark, and a little bit nasty, and a little bit wrong” because “everyone likes to feel a little bit nasty and a little bit wrong from time to time.”
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews.