Release Date: Jun 16, 2015
Record label: Warner Bros.
Genre(s): Pop, Pop/Rock, Pop Idol
Adam Lambert shakes off the shackles of the past by returning to his roots on The Original High. No longer with RCA, the label who signed him in the wake of American Idol, Lambert seizes this freedom by reuniting with producers Max Martin and Shellback, the team who gave him his big 2009 hit "Whataya Want from Me," but this is by no means a throwback. Martin and Shellback remain fixtures at the top of the pop charts -- they were instrumental collaborators on Taylor Swift's 1989, the biggest album of 2014 -- and they're a comfortable, stylish fit for the clever Lambert, a singer as comfortable with a glam-disco past as he is an EDM present.
Adam Lambert is so great at glam-rock theatrics that he toured the world as Queen's frontman last year. On his third LP, though, the onetime American Idol runner-up channels the softer corners of his impressive vocal range over radio-friendly deep-house beats (check the excellent "Ghost Town"). Lambert is still larger-than-life on tracks like the power ballad "There I Said It," where he sings the silly line "I'm a grown-ass man" with utter conviction, and the pop-rock highlight "Lucy" ignites with a guest appearance from Brian May.
Adam Lambert does not deal in subtleties. The 2008 American Idol runner-up stormed on to the pop landscape in platform boots, glistening eye makeup and a glossily camp sound to match. On this third studio album, he’s ditched his former label’s plans for a collection of 1980s cover songs in favour of a bouncy journey through a few of the current pop-house revival’s most predictable motifs.
On first flush Adam Lambert was outlandishly specific. In 2009, he exploded “American Idol” from within, a peacock who stood out for his theatrical vocal shrieks and his treating of the show as one long Broadway audition. He came in second, losing to the vocal rice cake Kris Allen, in what felt like a referendum on the unimaginativeness of the American reality-contest voting public.
Adam Lambert shot to fame on “American Idol” for his commanding reworks of chestnuts like “Ring of Fire” and his eagerness to take his voice as high as it could go; he finished second in Season 8, but got a “Rolling Stone” cover story and a gig fronting Queen out of the deal. On his third post-“Idol” album he pulls back a bit, allowing the contours of his voice to shape mature pop songs about longing and desire. The brooding title track ruminates on viewing the past through rose-colored glasses, his formidable voice dropping at times to a near-whisper; his falsetto makes the verses of “There I Said It” build even more deliberately toward the sorry-not-sorry chorus.
Adam Lambert “The Original High” (Warner Bros.) 3 Stars Nate Ruess “Grand Romantic” (Atlantic) 0 Stars There’s a fine line between “over-the-top” and “beyond-the-pale.” And singers Adam Lambert and Nate Ruess make the difference blindingly clear. The “American Idol” star and the frontman of fun. both sing for the rafters, aiming for the highest notes, formed into the broadest phrases, pushed by all the wind their lungs will carry.