Adam Lambert’s AMA performance controversy: trying too hard?

I should preface this by stating that I never, ever watch the American Music Awards because I think they’re a joke. Basically, it’s an opportunity for pop artists to pat themselves on the back for selling the most product. It’s the one awards show where Nickelback has an actual chance of winning, and Janet Jackson suddenly seems relevant. But I did tape the show for one reason only: to watch the performance by Adam Lambert, which Kaiser covered briefly. I was mightily disappointed, because the song was rather crappy, and although Adam was one of the few artists who actually sang live, he didn’t sound good at all. Not as bad as Rihanna, but definitely not up to his usual standards. Little did I know that Adam’s racy performance was about to set off a firestorm.

He’s not on “Idol” anymore!

Adam Lambert, last season’s runner up, performed a raunchy performance at the American Music Awards Sunday night, interrupted by a quick tumble on stage.

Lambert alternately had a dancer on a leash, had a dancer’s head grinding against his crotch simulating oral sex, and had a hand on his own crotch. He also made out with a male band member and flipped his middle finger.

And it was on ABC prime time.

[From Huffington Post]

So, was Adam trying too hard to stir up controversy in order to get people talking about him? It’s certainly not a bad strategy with his album’s release date coming up. Look at Lady Gaga’s performance on the same show: she was in a glass box in a nude body stocking, smashing glass bottles on a flame-engulfed piano. People aren’t going to remember the song she performed but they sure as hell will remember her get-up. But I suppose simulating being naked is less offensive than simulating gay sex, at least on ABC prime time.

For his first televised performance since the Season Eight finale of American Idol, Adam Lambert aimed for the kind of controversy Britney Spears and Madonna are known for generating, completely stunning the audience at Los Angeles’ Nokia Theatre and the millions watching the American Music Awards live on ABC with a risqué rendition of “For Your Entertainment.” Rolling Stone didn’t label Lambert the Wild Idol for nothing, and Glambert definitely delivered on his promise of a “sexy” performance as he closed the live show with simulated oral sex from a male backup dancer, a brief make-out session with his male keyboardist and a giant mirrored prop so the audience could see the looks on their own shocked faces. Rolling Stone has learned that producers weren’t informed about the guy-on-guy kiss in advance, and after the show, Lambert told RS the musician he kissed is a straight man.

Lambert also told RS that if ABC decides to cut any parts of his performance for the West Coast rebroadcast, it would amount to “discrimination.” Read the full story here.

The ‘09 American Music Awards featured performances from blockbuster stars like Whitney Houston, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, Green Day, Eminem and Rihanna, but newcomer Lambert was selected to close out the show, and his performance was advertised as “eye-popping” and something you’d be talking about tomorrow.

With an army of dancers clad in gear that looked like it was inspired by the Haus of Gaga, Lambert strutted across the Nokia Theatre stage, dragging some of his dancers outfitted in S&M gear by harnesses and stopping to caress the legs of others — both men and women. As his band turned out the techno-crunch of his debut single from For Your Entertainment (out tomorrow), Lambert bounced around the stage in black leather, hitting his signature high notes. During the bridge, he sat on a chair below a female stripper on a pole, then made his way back across the stage, singing, “Do you like what you see? Let me entertain you until you scream” as the lyrics to his song (”Can you handle what I’m about to do?”) came off like a direct challenge to the audience.

Awards show stages have been the site of some of the most memorable — and controversial — performances in recent years. Britney Spears and Madonna stole headlines for their lip-lock at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, which was also where Madonna turned heads for humping the floor during her rendition of “Like a Virgin.”

[From Rolling Stone]

If I could give Adam some advice, here’s what it would be: we already have one Lady Gaga. You’re better than that. This could have been an opportunity for Lambert to prove, once and for all, that he’s a true talent regardless of who he sleeps with, but instead, he chose to emphasize theatrics and sex over his vocal prowess. To me, the performance was a fail, but since so many people are talking about it today, perhaps it’s more of a mission accomplished.

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49 Responses to “Adam Lambert’s AMA performance controversy: trying too hard?”

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  1. Firestarter says:

    I am sorry, but I guess I am totally out of touch with music, but I find him to be a horrible singer and his look is dated and nothing remotely innovative.

    Comparing him to Freddy Mercury is blasphemous! He will never have the vocal range and talent that Mercury had. To say otherwise is just wrong.

    The performance, IMO, was horrid.

  2. seven says:

    I didnt like it, though im generally a big fan of Adams and think hes as cute as a button. I do think he was trying to hard to shock them and he did. So in a way he acomplished that, were still talking about him, and thats a plus for him i suppose. But hes really talented and neednt try to hard to come off that way 🙂

  3. Ursula says:

    If you are talented, no need to stir up controversy to get people to talk about you. I think Adam was trying to live up to the pre- award hype of his performance as the grand finale.

    I wish I had talked to this kid before he became famous. I would have advised him to keep mum about his sexuality, don’t admit or deny. Leave a no comment. Sing your songs, do your music and later in your career let it be known that you are gay. Now, he is ruined before he can start.

    The gay community is good to you when you are useful to them, once you are no longer famous, they drop you like a hot potato. So Adam, don’t try to please them. Your number one concern are your fans.

    I think am the only one but I find Lady Gaga so irrelevant and tedious I just want to switch her off.

    Firestarter, how harsh! But you are right. I do agree with your comment about Fred Mercury. I liked Adam on Idols, now, not so much. I feel he has taken a wrong turn.

  4. Sarah says:

    Adam was amazing closeminded people are the only ones who are saying he was trying too hard.

    Its an insult to compare his singing ability to Rihanna who had the worst performance of the night.

  5. MARKY-MARK says:

    I guess I sort of understand where he is going with this, but Freddy Mercury had sharpened his teeth by playing and developing a relationship with Fans (of all sexual persuasions)–I don’t think he got in your face until further in his career. Lambert seems to be trying to burn as bright and fast as possible and in a few months when Idol is back on we’ll be wondering why we loved him.

  6. Ana says:

    He seemed way out of his element on that stage which is odd because he always seemed way too big for the one in American Idol.
    His vocals are horrible. I have never liked his singing.
    He does put too much emphasis on the fact that he is gay. I agree that it should be more about his talent than who he sleeps with…

  7. Iggles says:

    His voice sounded horrible. His act was definitely channeling Lady Gaga. Overall, the performance was meh.

    I don’t watch American Idol, so I’m not in love with the kid. Kelly Clarkson won me over in recent years for the great songs she put out — not for appearing on the show. I find Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood to be meh as well.

    It does seem like he was trying to shake up his image, but doesn’t everyone do that once in awhile? I don’t think it was trying too hard. I think he still has miles to go to prove his talent to non-AI fans because I haven’t seen the show and judging from that performance I don’t see what all the hype is about.

  8. Kitty Lover says:

    There are no words, especially while I’m busy PUKING! Please does he think he’s the reincarnation of Elvis or something?? He stunk!

  9. Miss Wanderlust says:

    Robbie Williams “Let me entertain you” + Lady Gaga “LoveGame” = Adam Lambert “I’m here for your entertainment”
    Nice music Mashup but he is not that original….just another so-called “controversial” product of the music industry.
    Let’s be honest he didn’t do anything other than many artist did in the past, grinding, stroking, kissing…..blabla
    Poor guy thinks he’s a BADASS !!!

    He is not the first & only openly gay artist out there from his generation, look at Mika & Sam Sparro they are doing there own thing without yelling it from the rooftop because the straight artist don’t do it either…..they get that there’s nothing wrong with being openly gay and still do there own thing musicwise.

    But then again there is something for everybody and this is the route that Adam choose to walk….i just hope he doesn’t get lost and turns himself into a gimmick, people get quickly bored by that kind of stuff nowadays.

  10. snowball says:

    Sarah, relax.

    I don’t follow Idol, but since he was runner-up, I made the assumption that he was at least a moderately talented vocalist. Um, not so much.

    So this is what happens when Megan Fox and the Heat Miser have a kid?

    I can’t even think of anything more coherent to say about this other than it sucked so big and so hard, Glambert should just be banned from public performance.

    (I dont’ think Taylor Swift was on Idol – maybe you’re mixing her up with Kelly Pickler?)

  11. Pont Neuf says:

    Why do people have to be so close minded? Adam can emphasize whatever the hell he wants, because his sexuality is, to a greater or lesser extent, a part of his identity. I find it funny that, when those two slags Britney and Madonna, who cannot sing at all, kissed, it was scandalous but hot and amusing, but when two men do it, the all of a sudden it’s repulsive and shameful.

    His vocals were a bit uneven, but people cannot say that he still has to prove his talent, and they cannot say that he cannot be compared to Freddie Mercury. Adam can do AMAZING things with his voice. He is one of the few male singers who can belt in the soprano range, and the super high notes were very well executed. Second, Freddie Mercury had years of experience performing in venues, whereas Adam’s experience is very limited in that regard. He isn’t a lesser vocalist than Freddie at all.

  12. Tess says:

    Turning himself into a gimmick.
    Goodby Adam.

  13. Melissa says:

    He has talent..but he didn’t show it last night. It’s a shame that he wants this image he is protraying to be what he is known for…because he had the potential to be known for his vocal talent. I will not buy music of his because I don’t want to support that mess. It’s sad.

  14. Film2TV says:

    It’s not the kissing another guy that got him in trouble. I doubt if it was left at that they would have cared. It was the simulated oral sex and the grabbing of the crotch area etc that got people upset. Why do that? As others have said there are other gay artists out there that are not doing any of this stuff yet they are selling millions of albums. He’s a pretender and a hack who won’t last very long.

  15. R Truett says:

    One word for Adam Lambert’s performance – DISGUSTING! I wish I had never voted for him on American Idol.

  16. Karena says:

    “dam can emphasize whatever the hell he wants, because his sexuality is, to a greater or lesser extent, a part of his identity”

    You are, of course, correct. But by the same token, the fans can also choose to reject him when he takes a course that is sooooo far out of the mainstream as to be vulgar and repugnant. Britney’s stunt with Madonna nearly ruined her career. Madonna is already a has been with no career to ruin. Sooooo I don’t see how comparing that disaster of a performance last night with either of those two wins any point.

    Adam kissed a guy and kissed his career goodbye last night. Such a shame, too, because he truly is one of the most talented artists to ever come out of AI.

  17. wow says:

    He’s definitely trying to hard. I thought the hype around him was that he was suppose to have this amazing voice. It’s okay, but not what I was expecting.

    He does have a point though when he says that female performers have been doing stuff like that (hello Madonna and Brit Brit) for years and it doesn’t cause as much negative controversy as when males do it. He still comes off as if he was intending to cause some uproar though.

  18. dizzybenny says:

    i don’t know if any of you noticed when he was annouced few people applauded and when he finished it was worst.
    i give him credit for singing live but his voice was so horrible he should have went with a track instead.

  19. DiMi says:

    Was it a great performance? No. But he’s a great singer, he he’s a great performer with a great sense of showmanship, he’s going to be successful for years. The raunchiness in his performance was meant to be campy humor. I thought it was hilarious. Don’t take him so seriously. He doesn’t.

  20. Iggles says:

    @ Pont Neuf:
    His vocals were a bit uneven, but people cannot say that he still has to prove his talent

    Yes he does. He’s a new artist. He has yet to sell any of his own albums. He is a familiar face to the American Idol crowd, but there are millions of people who do NOT watch AI. So to the rest of us, he needs to give us a reason to listen to his music. He had a chance to introduce his music to a larger audience and instead we heard mediocre vocals. Not good.

  21. Firestarter says:

    I am not disgusted by anything he did, other than his singing.

    He is so far from being interesting and shocking in my book. Lose the eyeliner, develope your voice a bit more, and maybe I will be shocked. Otherwise, no.

  22. skibunny says:

    He is talented but his performance was so over-produced it became painful to watch. Someone is giving this guy bad advice.

  23. Environ says:

    He new album is so good! I can’t stop playing it. Don’t know what happened to his voice last night but thought the dancing/production was awesome. You can stream his album for free here:

    My favorites are Pick U Up, Sleepwalker, Broken Open, and Soaked but they change daily.

    This album is so good.

  24. Pam says:

    That was not good. He screamed and howled his way through that performance and the theatrics were way over the top. Had a chance to prove his chops and he blew it and it does matter. If the performance had been better I might be interested in his album as would people who were not IDOL fans. He could have impressed all the people who did not get to hear him before.

  25. Environ says:

    That’s what has me the most bummed is that the vocals were so off, if youtube any of his Idol performances you’ll see that he can sing his face off. Anyway seriously ignore the theatrics of last night and check out the album, it is GOOD!

  26. Just a Poster says:

    I didn’t watch Idol last year, and I don’t get the “buzz” about this guy.. IMO he kinda sounded like Ethel Merman.

  27. GracieXDoes says:

    I never liked this guy on AI and I personally thought the above vid was kind of ok. Better IN SPOTS than I had seen on AI. I never understood all the hype over him. He screams too much for my taste.

  28. Environ says:

    Check out the album, I swear to Buddha it is good. Especially the tracks i listed above.

  29. orion70 says:

    sure hope he pays that dancer well.

  30. snowball says:

    Environ, your enthusiasm is to be commended. But no, unfortunately I guess for me, I don’t think he can sing at all and his “showmanship” blows. Aside from the number of letters, there’s a huge difference between being provocative and being tacky.

    Is it legal to stream albums without the record company’s permission?

  31. GatsbyGal says:

    Even gay people look at Adam Lambert and go, “Holy crap, that guy’s mega gay.” I wish he was comfortable with himself without having to put on all these airs. Because I have a very difficult time believing his entire look and personality is anything but a grandiose act. I’m sure he’s a decent enough fellow and we’d all like him for it if he’d only just be himself.

  32. SallySue says:

    Artistically speaking.. it was just a god-awful performance. Horrible vocals.. lacking creativity and inspiration… yuk!

  33. Environ says:

    It’s available to stream for free, not to download which would be illegal. It’s good, did anyone here even listen to any of the album? Look his performance last night was off, but the album rules.

    Please actually listen to it.

  34. lanette says:

    I know he can sing but last night he was awful ,,the performance and all that crap that he did was just awful..a bit disgusting even.

  35. anna says:

    Lady Gaga is Freddie Mercury!

  36. krktoday says:

    I thought his act was disgusting. I sat through that whole boring show just to see him as I am a big fan. I hated his hair, his clothes and his act went way to far. If he was talented it got lost in his action’s. I wish he had come out looking as good as he did in the commercial’s for his appearance. Still I bought his Cd today and I like it. I don’t have to look at him while I listen to it. If he is wanting people to think he is a freak he is doing a damn good job!

  37. skeptical says:

    and the funny thing is.. if adam went all-out Drag Queen he’d be seen as funny and “progressive”

    it’s not that he’s too gay, it’s that he’s not pigeon-hole-gay.

    gotta be masculine or flaming or drag queen.

    adam is trying to put them all together. he’s trying to force our quiet sexism out into the open so it can be dealt with. and he’s gonna burn for it. poor dude.

  38. Zoe says:

    I think it’s hilarious that if a gay man (or person in the entertainment business, period) exhibits any level of sexuality, it’s labeled as ‘putting on airs’ or ‘trying to hard’. What exactly is he trying to be other than himself? People can keep making a big deal about nothing if they want, they always do, but I laugh in the face of the hypocrisy of all the people complaining online and at the station while mass murders and torture are displayed on television every second of every hour and no one says a peep.

  39. James says:

    We all know that he lost idols because the US public are too conservative. He shud’ve won. Simon even said so on Operah a while back.

  40. For Sooth? says:

    I think a lot of us can agree he lost on Idol because he is gay. His vocals were better than Chris and he already knew how to work a crowd. That being said, he was so transparently trying way too hard. It was almost comical the lengths to which he was going. Give it a wee bit of a rest Glambert, you’ll go further that way.

    And to be fair, I hated the theatrics of the Madonna/Britney/Christina kiss for the very same reason. Just sing, and stop trying to slap us around while you’re up there on stage. We’ll only hate you in the morning.

  41. Kimberly says:

    egh it really could go both ways for Adam. He did wear a bad dated outfit, but his behavior on stage was a bit new, for a man anyways. We’ve all see the clothes and make up on guys since the 80’s, so that’s not the shock value. If chicks can whore it up on stage for media attention, why not a guy?

    Give him his 15 minutes it won’t hurt anyone. If he lasts more than 15 minutes then he played the game better then most.

    We all know by now it doesn’t matter if someone has talent, but how they play the music game.

  42. Firestarter says:

    Oh please, this Idol loss debate is STILL going on? He didn’t lose Idol because he was gay. That is just an excuse everyone uses because he lost.If he had been straight, he would still have lost. The fact of the matter is, he lost Idol and that is probably the best thing that could have happened to him. How many Idol winners have gone on to have the success he has had as an Idol runner up? Kelly Clarkson is about the only one I can think of that made it fairly big as a result of her win. Did Carrie Underwood win? If so, then she is another, but the fact is, Idol winners go on to fade away.

    Adam did not lose because he was gay. He lost because the other guy won. Plain and simple.

  43. lastwordlinda says:

    He can’t sing and he looks silly. No originality and he won’t even be on the radar in 5 years if he doesn’t grow up and get over himself. His CD’s will be in the $2.00 bin at Walmart very soon.

  44. Blitz says:

    “Gaga. You’re better than that. This could have been an opportunity for Lambert to prove, once and for all, that he’s a true talent regardless of who he sleeps with, but instead, he chose to emphasize theatrics and sex over his vocal prowess. To me, the performance was a fail, but since so many people are talking about it today, perhaps it’s more of a mission accomplished.”

    Well said. I saw it and I thought the theatrics masked a greater problem. Possibly it’s the AI machinery kicking in, but I found both songs I heard from his debut album positively boring. Heard it before and anything that made Adsam special is gone. Even the studio cut of “Tracks Of My Tears” wasn’t nearly as special as his live performances. In each case it could be just any singer. The theatrics, yeah definitely trying too hard.

  45. peggy says:

    I am a fan for the rest of my life…You have to change your stragedy Adam and let your voice sing nothing else matters….That was a beautiful performace if some of it had been left out and you know what I am saying…forget your gay and quit flaunting it…Your very intelligent and talented so don’t ruin it….2 kinds of humans decent and indecent…lovers and haters…pretty and ugly ….Just act like a human nothing else and enterttain…..

  46. America still thinks that Male on Male kissing is offensive. Big shocker. Pathetic.

  47. ELAINE CASALE says:


  48. I heard that Adam Lambert was a cast on the broadway musical Wicked.

    Thanks for the post. I’m really a big fan of Wicked the Musical. I’ve seen the musical about ten times.
    My favorite character is Elphaba. I like the fact that you can see another side of the story. My favorite part of the musical is when Elphaba flies on her broom stick.

    I go here to view Wicked Lyrics

  49. Jeremy says:

    I thought it was a bit much from him, even if it’s true that women have been doing the same thing for decades. Not that I thought it was too inappropriate, just saw it as a bit of a cheap way to get a bit more attention. It WAS late night television so parents can’t complain and it’s more that I just don’t get how doing that displays any innate talent or entertains us any furthur. Good on him for coming out and all but getting over the top for attention just makes all gays look cheap.