Adam Polaski

Is Adam Lambert's New Album the Next Big Gay Thing?

Filed By Adam Polaski | May 27, 2012 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Marriage Equality
Tags: Adam Lambert, billboard, Entertainment Weekly, For Your Entertainment, Outlaws of Love, pop music, queer, Underneath

adam-lambert-trespassing-cover.jpegLast week, Adam Lambert, the almost-winner from season 8 of American Idol, released a new album called Trespassing. The album hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and a number of media sources are calling it the first #1 album from an openly gay male artist.

The disc definitely deserves its success - it's a fun, summer-ready playlist with pump-up potential. Sure, it's a little uneven, since the second half slams us with ballad after treacly ballad, but overall, I'm excited about Trespassing.

Last week, more than a few reviews praised Lambert for finally making - as Entertainment Weekly put it - "his big gay dance-club album" and "leaving the closet far behind." And yes, the first half of the album plays like something you'd hear in a big-city, glam-pop gay club - if you want to get gay boys dancing, just put on Trespassing.

A handful of other tracks toss a pandering wink to Lambert's gay fans. The very end of "Shady" features a distorted, "not-quite-sure-what-they-said" line: "Shady late, runaway train / Blame the game, quit blaming the gays," and Lambert also tells us that "I'm feeling pretty fierce in my dancin' shoes." On "Underneath," the singer croons, "I'm standing here with no apologies / such a beautiful release / you inside of me / a red river of screams."

Is it selfish, then, that I wish the album was a little gayer? Most of the songs are written to the universal "you," and the few that talk about someone are written with gender-neutral pronouns. Even the "marriage equality anthem" that several reviews have mentioned, "Outlaws of Love," is only peripherally gay; the most blatant lyric in the song is, "Everywhere we go / I'm lookin' for the sun. / Nowhere to grow old. / And always on the run. / They say we'll rot in hell, / But I don't think we will. / They've branded us enough / Outlaws of Love." The only reason we assign marriage equality significance to the track is because Lambert told us that's what it's about.

I don't need Lambert's album to be covered in rainbows, but I wish I didn't feel like he was trying to straight-wash over it. Trespassing reminds me of Lambert's tenure on American Idol, where he made no reference to being gay to the mainstream audience, but the online gay community understood him as the Next Big Gay Thing.

It's like in their quest to produce an album ready for mass consumption, Lambert and his people decided to make the gay stuff more subtle - but not so subtle that the singer couldn't "wink-wink" to his gay fans and speak to the LGBT press about his new "marriage equality ballad."

We see this in "Kickin' In," where Lambert sings, "She puts her shot glass down / she asks for another round / she wants to hit the clouds / honey, are you up there?" The track will easily fit into straight clubs, where drunk girls will assume the identity of the girl who "wants to hit the clouds." But later, on Twitter, Lambert explained, "The 'she' in Kickin' In is about a guy friend of mine. Ya know? That one Banjee fishy queen you all call a she. Mary please. ... I know Banjee and Fishy are sorta opposites but my fav queens are that glorious half and half. they can just flip depending on the song. But it's totally also about that crazy fruit fly who's always stealing yo thunder by last call. Lol."

I hate to be bitching about whether Adam Lambert's album is "gay enough," but I do want to throw the brakes on writers who are trumpeting Trespassing as the gayest thing since Queer as Folk. The album is definitely a leap in the right direction - it's an example of a huge commercial artist like Lambert having the freedom to incorporate gay themes in his next Top 40 single. But something about Trespassing makes me wonder whether Lambert would go any further. In today's entertainment climate, would he consider being even more out, proud, and explicitly queer in his songs?

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