The reality show tag is a difficult cross for any musician to bear, and very rarely can an artist break out from the label. Adam Lambert would never have gained exposure and a record deal without American Idol, runner up or not, and yet he remains forever tarred with the reality TV show contestant brush. Disappointing, because he appears to be so much more than that.
‘Trespassing’ is Lambert’s follow-up to his 2009 debut ‘For Your Entertainment.’ Written in the mad rush between finishing American Idol, going on tour and doing a whole host of promotion besides, ‘For Your Entertainment’ seemed to have so little of Lambert’s personality and instead showcased the talent he was working with Matt Bellamy and Lady Gaga, to name a few.
Lambert himself is, it seems, the stand out factor – he has a distinct personality and voice, in both senses, and ‘Trespassing’ benefits greatly from having more of an emphasis on that. He’s the executive producer on the album and a principal writer besides, and so ‘Trespassing’ seems to have found the spark that ‘For Your Entertainment’ sadly seemed to be missing.
He wastes no time in showing that. Title track ‘Trespassing’ is the perfect opening choice – a foot-stomping, hand-clapping snarl of a song. Lambert is out in force on this, swagger evident in his voice and there’s something so joyful and unapologetic about it. Think ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ goes electro-glam and you’ve almost nailed it. Follow-up ‘Cuckoo’ doesn’t leave a chance for anyone to catch their breath – a full out assault, ‘Cuckoo’ is hedonistic and wild. Lambert’s sometimes over the top vocals also work particularly well here; the screams feel perfectly controlled and complement the song without detracting from it.
Lambert has said previously that ‘Trespassing’ is a record to chart his highs and lows, and this is more succinct in the arrangement than an album usually would be. The record can almost be neatly split into Side A/Side B, with first single ‘Better Than I Know Myself’ beginning the slow spiral from the highs of the first half into the darker depths of the second. Initiating a more downbeat, introspective sound, Lambert has a compelling descent into a contemplative second half. ‘Chokehold’ uses S&M imagery to describe an unhealthy relationship, although some of the other songs are slightly less subtle with their lyrics – ‘Underneath’, for example, awkwardly speaks of a “red river of screams” which plays too much to hyperbole.
That’s not say that there aren’t a few disappointments. ‘Kickin’ In’ is repetitive and slightly irritating at times and ‘Broken English’ can’t seem to make its mind up as to what exactly it wants to be.
‘Trespassing’ seems, overall, like simply another stage of Lambert’s journey. He’s not yet making pop music work for him as well as he could and while there are certainly boundaries being pushed – hello, ‘Outlaws of Love’, a beautiful gay rights lament – the album leaves the feeling that it could be so much more. It is undoubtedly fantastic but it seems like we’ve only just begun to see what Lambert can do, given the chance.