San Diego News Network has once again directed their operatic expertise at local hometown hero, Adam Lambert. This is a follow-up to their article during the Idol season, where a group of experts all weighed-in with their learned impressions of Adam’s singing talents and future potential. Journey with them as the same experts voice in on the album.
San Diego‘s homegrown musical hero featured on 14 tracks
By Valerie Scher, SDNN
Adam Lambert’s “For Your Entertainment” was the most eagerly anticipated debut album by an “American Idol” contestant.
Now it has arrived, much to the delight of Glamberts everywhere. In honor of the occasion, SDNN has brought back the panel of opera experts that rated San Diego’s homegrown musical hero back in May.
This time, the experts are reviewing his new album. The idea is to get some insights into what makes Adam special and see if “Entertainment” really delivers.
Here’s what they think. See if you agree.
Nicolas Reveles, Geisel Director of Education and Outreach at San Diego Opera
Overall impression: One of the joys (and heartaches) of watching “American Idol” is to sense the struggle, anxiety and hard-earned sweat that goes into the performances by young singers. Year after year, they hope and pray that the judges and the audience will give them a pass to instant celebrity, a recording contract and the assurance of a future in music.
This year, especially for those of us who live in Adam’s home town of San Diego, we hoped that those rewards would go to Adam, despite his second-place finish. He’s a good-looking, talented, stage savvy, risky performer. I still hope that he will be the one we’re talking about ten, twenty years from now.
To judge by his first solo album, however, I’d say he has a long way to go. To be fair, I don’t think the disappointment I feel in hearing “For Your Entertainment” is all Adam’s fault. But his face is on the album, it’s his solo debut, and he was the one making the choices (or maybe not). If so, he’s got to choose to surround himself with people who will let him shine. The biggest problem with this album is that it’s way over-produced and obviously compromised within an inch of it’s digital life in order to appeal to the widest audience possible. His wonderful personality, that stunning voice…everything is buried in layer upon layer of synthesized sounds, voices and percussion.
He’s not even given a chance to let ‘er rip like he did in the live performances on “Idol.” That’s where Adam shines, riding the wave of a live audience, letting us see him sweat, taking us in as he scaled the vocal and emotional heights that were so impressive when we witnessed them last season. That’s what I miss in this album. To use an operatic analogy, it’s like the difference between a canned, studio-produced opera recording and a live recording where you can smell the danger of performing in real time in front of real people. “For Your Entertainment” is canned, slick and forgettable, all flattened out and with no dimensionality or real color, things that I think Adam has in spades but is not allowed to fully release in this album.
Adam’s Singing: I love Adam’s singing, but it’s hard to separate the voice from the layers of production that this album presents. Again, it all sort of sounds the same, the voice is unable to really “let loose” or ever separate itself from all those layers. It’s his voice and its presence that we are all clamoring to hear and for me that unique voice is missing.
Favorite track: Stand-outs for me are ”Strut,” “Fever” and “Broken Open.” “Broken Open,” the 13th out of 14 tracks, shows us Adam’s soulful side. ”Strut” is probably my favorite if I have one, but all three of these tracks show us a little bit more of the Adam we came to love on “Idol.” The rest of it is just so much of the same ol’ thing, a sound that we can get from countless other pop singers.
Rating: 2 (out of four)
Leon Natker, General Director of Lyric Opera San Diego
Overall impression: The album is clearly the biography of a relationship. The style is aimed at the club scene with the intention of being able to dance to many of the tracks. It is also very androgynous so that it can appeal to both the straight and gay club scene. For my taste it is overly engineered and does not give Adam the chance to really shine like he can. Many of the tracks are derivative of ’80s and ’90s MTV-style videos but are not clearly trying to be retro in their styling. Adam is still in my opinion a very talented singer with great range and possibility. I wanted to hear more Adam and less of the engineering.
Adam’s singing: His voice sounds clear and healthy. He is obviously doing his own back-up tracks. I think he is capable of singing anything from Broadway legit to pop-rock, which makes him a very rare bird. I don’t believe this album lets him find his own personal voice yet. And I do say “yet.” I think there is a large future for him. He needs to find the producer who is going to trust Adam’s talent and let him shine without all the recording industry gimmicks.
Favorite track: My favorite track is “Aftermath” because you can really hear Adam’s voice and the instruments backing him up without a lot of sonic clutter. The second-best track is “Time for Miracles,” for the same reason.
Rating: 3 for Adam; 2 & 1/2 for the album.
Valerie Scher, SDNN Arts & Entertainment editor and a San Diego correspondent for London-based Opera magazine
Overall impression: “For Your Entertainment” is so loaded with recording studio effects that a more accurate title would be “That’s Synthertainment!” As enjoyable as the album often is, it made me yearn for more Adam and fewer add-ons. A singer this talented doesn’t need material to be gussied up to such an extreme. The focus should be on the singing, as in the best opera productions. The greatest challenge for San Diego’s homegrown musical hero is to find material that’s worthy of him. And though the album includes contributions from such big names as Pink, Lady Gaga and Muse, I hope his next album does even more to showcase his remarkable abilities.
Adam’s singing: Terrific, at least what I can hear of it amid the special effects. In “Aftermath,” for instance, he flaunts his showmanship in soaring high notes and message-laden lyrics that emphasize the importance of being true to yourself. During “Soaked,” he combines a sweet, creamy tone with a command of phrasing, diction and breath control that reflect his local musical theater training. Even in “Sure Fire Winners,” which is hardly an example of blazing inspiration, Adam displays a precision and melodic agility that an opera singer might envy.
Favorite track: Though I like Adam’s husky-voiced rendition of Lady Gaga’s funky “Fever,” and his power balladeering in “Time for Miracles,” from the movie “2012,” the top treat is “Broken Open,” which Adam co-wrote. Nowhere on the album is his voice more beguiling than in this dreamy, melancholy song. It’s as close as he gets to an opera aria and I’m crazy about it.
Are you in agreement with this? Let us know!