“Like it or not, the words ‘openly gay’ are ALWAYS going to precede my name in the media. But I don’t carry that heavily. Everyone else does.”
Adam Lambert is incredibly relaxed about dealing with the question he must be tired of answering, especially after he made history as the first ‘openly gay’ singer to top the US Billboard Chart with his second album Trespassing earlier this year.
Adam Lambert can carry controversy easily on his shoulders
“What’s the big deal? I came out of the closet when I was 18, went through all the necessary struggles, and after that I didn’t talk about being gay, I just was.”
"I don't know what came over me"
He admits, though, that part of his growing fame and success has meant working out how much responsibility he has to less confident gay people watching what he says and does.
“When it first started, I didn’t know where to go with it. I didn’t know if that minority group even wanted me to be their representative publicly – it seemed almost… presumptuous.
“Then I worked out you can’t please everyone, so you’re better off being you, ultimately, and it was important for me to assert myself as an artist first and foremost.”
“’Openly gay” always precedes my name in the media, but that’s not the public. They objectify and sensationalise it much more than anyone else. I understand. It’s a hot topic. We’re in the middle of a civil rights movement, so I understand why it’s important, but not to everybody.”
If Lambert is sanguine about his position, he has also been mischievous, not least the 2009 AMA Awards, when he couldn’t help but stun American viewers with his racy performance, including a lip-lock with a male dancer (following Britney and Madonna’s previous clinch) and a bit of crotch action that got edited out of the delayed broadcast. So was this a planned headline-grabber? He chuckles…
“The choreography was planned, but the two things that everybody freaked out about were definitely spur of the moment.
“I don’t know what came over me. I was in the audience and I saw Rihanna and Gaga’s performances, and I thought ‘I’ve got to bump it up a notch’, because I was so inspired by their performances. The whole night blew me away.
“It did me some harm and some good. It freaked some people out, but the conversation it started was fruitful.
“It was the first night after Idol, the chance for failure was really high, and I do think creatively and artistically I bit off a little more than I could chew.”
"It's a game"
Lambert could be forgiven for riding high after the 2009 series of American Idol, where he came second to his roommate Kris Allen. As he says, “There were a lot of different experiences before Idol, but it definitely put me on the map.
Does he look back with resentment for the way it turned out – he was the favourite to win until some pictures of him with another bloke mysteriously made their way into the public domain the week of the final – or gratitude? And who are Simon Cowell and Co to tell someone as trained as Adam Lambert how he should be performing?
“I got to sing every week, work the system, it’s a game. As somebody who watched the show, I was always yelling at the screen, disagreeing with the judges, and their opinions are valid, but it’s so subjective, and what you hear sonically is really different on TV.
“I took it in, but I kind of took it with a grain of salt, and ultimately I had to trust what I wanted to do.
“Had I auditioned earlier, I wouldn’t have got past the first hoop. It took me a long time to define my identity. I was a very insecure young adult, I went through a lot of growing pains, different professional experiences before that, working in theatre and lots of entertainment gigs, so that all thickened my skin.”
And without Idol, there would have been no Adam Lambert touring with Queen, whose members Brian May and Roger Taylor first encountered their guest frontman during the series finale. Was Lambert brought up on a diet of their singular brand of glam-rock?
“I didn’t really know so much about them,” he remembers. “My dad had their album, so I heard things. My way of getting into 70s rock was Andrew Lloyd Webber – through theatre, Jesus Christ Superstar” … Lambert gets even more animated talking about this lot (“Evita… so good, so good”). And my dad was excited we could finally find common ground, then he sneaked out his concept version, which was a bit more rock, then suddenly we were at David Bowie.”
"Not intimidated, just in awe"
Lambert found Queen again all by himself as a student in LA – “slightly arrested development, smoking pot, drawing and listening to 70s rock” – and became fascinated by Freddie Mercury – “his stage energy, his power, I thought ‘I want to sing like that.’”
Lambert’s path to Queen was a steady one, auditioning for We Will Rock You in Vegas, using Bohemian Rhapsody as his audition tape as he ploughed the boards pre-Idol, and then suddenly, there were the veteran rockers themselves, performing alongside him.
“I wasn’t intimidated, just in awe,” reports Lambert. “Brian and I had a lovely interaction, he’s a cool dude, then we sang We Are The Champions, and we had talked about doing something in the future… Something needed to happen,” he finishes, impressively calm about his unique summoning to one of the rock world’s most high-profile plinths.
Creating his own music has helped Lambert keep it all in balance, particularly the new stuff.
“The last 3 years, I’ve been able to put my feet back on the ground, and work out where I fit in.
“I’m very polarising, people either love or hate me, and I like that.”
Away from the stage, is it a life of revelry and hedonism in the tradition of the rockers he admires so much? Nope, in fact it’s all a bit 21st century.
“I’m in a great relationship right now, and we tend to stay in with friends. I’m very boring, I’m afraid - I’ve had my share of partying.
“My friends keep my feet firmly on the ground, and I value in them, above all things – honesty, directness and taste.”
Trespassing is out now. Watch Never Close Our Eyes below...