Artist: Adam Lambert
Adam Lambert is one of the few artists who make reality talent shows seem worthwhile. In a sea of indentical, fleeting wannabes, he stood out even during his American Idol days as a talented and provocative artist and extravagant showman. This diligence and glamour has seeped into his music, which often represents the very best medley of his influences and which, more than anything, captures an infectious and jovial sense of fun. It is pop music and unashamedly so, but it’s sophisticated pop music – lavish, thoughtful, sublimely executed, with exquisite attention to detail.
Lambert’s phenomenal vocals in the past are, as always, the driving force behind this album. Trespassing is his second full-length release following 2009’s For Your Entertainment and sources inspiration from 90s music, disco, electronica, and even a little bit of dubstep (enough to provoke but not to destroy). It’s a consuming mixture of songs, all bright sparks and theatrical flourishes designed with maximum visual and aural stimulation in mind. Lambert’s range allows him to dominate no matter what the song style – his voice an energetic thrust for the flamboyant tracks and a solid, powerful fulcrum for the slower songs. Indeed, it is marvellous to hear how he can take tricks and styles familiar to all in the trade and twist them so rambunctiously to fit his vision. Lambert is a showman above all else, and he provides a sumptuous, all-engrossing experience to go with his stunning voice.
The album’s title track is the opener. “Trespassing” is a really fun, vibrant, intoxicating pop track with enough offerings from various genres to transcend genre. It’s rhythmic and compelling, with Lambert’s starry and charismatic vocals bringing more life than anything else going on behind him. “Shady” is terrific, an easy throwback to the funk-infused tracks of the Seventies. The opening is deadpan but intense, with a smooth bass line and exhilarated vocal refrains. As the song progresses, it takes on a classical twist in the form of strings and layered voice harmonies, creating a rich and compelling pop tapestry. “Never Close Our Eyes” comes from a more thoughtful place, but dresses itself in such stylised, gaudy disco beats that you’d hardly notice. Bruno Mars was involved in putting this together, and such is evident in the soulful, considered vocal line, which adds an earthy gravitas to the biting rhythms of the chorus.
The unabashed swagger of “Kickin’ In” is a fine throwback to Michael Jackson, while “Naked Love” is of a more organic persuasion. It feels like a 90s throwback in many ways, with drums rolls and sugary vocals. By Lambert’s standards, it is perhaps a little underplayed or safe, but there’s a flavour of gentle, spirited cheer that makes it refreshing. “Pop That Lock” pares up again, with an eager charge ingrained into its beat from the outset. The chorus isn’t quite as riveting as I’d like, but it is a mark of how meticulous Lambert’s songs usually are that this seems almost underdressed. “Better Than I Know Myself” is a grower. It seems quite distilled at the outset, but builds into a sweeping chorus involving truly astounding vocal heights. The song itself is rather simple and yet it’s uncannily catchy. The sensitivity of the words peters through the polished production, making for an oddly heartfelt track in tremulous clothing.
“Broken English” is tremendous. It’s sophisticated and mysterious, downplaying the vivacious music and using only hints of percussion and backing vocals to create something pervasive. The understated intensity is striking, as it creates an air of intrigue and adventure. “Underneath” is broad and evocative, with Lambert’s voice shining in the minimalist setting. It’s quite ambitious in scope and creates an atmospheric, almost cinematic sound. It feels brooding and nebulous, but this deadened poignancy is brought vividly to life by the power in his voice. “Outlaws of Love” comes from a similar place, but it’s much barer in sound. He sings openly, with no embellishment, with a cold and emotive stance. It almost seems ghostly after all the colour that’s underpinned the album, but it’s a stark and gorgeous reminder of the pure electric talent at the heart of the record.
Trespassing is easily the most enjoyable pop album yet this year. It’s a welcome injection of life and stunning artistic achievement for a sterile scene, from a visionary performer who ought to be celebrated.
Review written by Grace Duffy