In his American Idol audition, Simon Cowell admitted Adam Lambert was a “good singer” but described him as “theatrical”. Isn’t that what you want from a popstar – a performer? None of this boring singer-songwriter “real music” rubbish.
It’s curious, then, how Lambert’s success in the US hasn’t translated to the UK. Fronting Queen has certainly helped his cause (incidentally, he sang Bohemian Rhapsody in that first audition) and given him more exposure. ‘The Original High’, his third album (released on Warner Bros rather than RCA), is his real introduction to our shores and presents him as a popstar through and through.
‘The Original High’ has been executive produced by Swedish godfather of music Max Martin and producer Shellback. It’s not the first time these three have worked together – Martin and Shellback previously produced power ballad Whataya Want from Me on Lambert’s debut album and the almost Robyn-esque synthy single If I Had You. Now, producing a whole album has enabled the trio to work together to create a cohesive pop package fit for 2015.
Lambert hasn’t eschewed his rock past though. Brian May features on Lucy, a Dirty Diana-esque femme fatale track with an urgent chorus and screeching guitar solo. Equally, there’s another feature from recent Swedish sensation Tove Lo on Rumors – a track that’s not only representative of the synth-heavy electronic production of the album at large, but pairs Lambert with an overseas success and allows him to ride her wave.
Lead single Ghost Town certainly blends the two styles, opening the album with jangling guitars before lurching into a pulsing electronic chorus complete with obligatory whistling. The title track has a similar dance feel, albeit with a lighter, funkier tone. Another Lonely Night may begin as a gentle piano ballad, but soon jerks into a throb of synths. And Underground takes cue from modern R&B for its simmering beats and finger clicks. These tracks are all symptomatic of an artist searching for his place in today’s charts, covering all bases yet succeeding every time – owing largely to his exceptional vocal ability.
What holds the album together is Martin’s hook writing. Every track is a certified banger, equally relevant to 2015 and Lambert’s career. This extends to the bonus tracks on the deluxe edition; the bouncy These Boys is likely not included on the main album owing to Lambert’s sexuality. By the end of the album it does feel like overload: tracks like Things I Didn’t Say, dance track The Light, and Heavy Fire would all be main singles on any other artist’s album, but here lose some impact. That’s merely testament to the high quality pop on offer. ‘The Original High’ is essentially Lambert’s equivalent to ‘1989’ from Taylor Swift – both albums raised the stakes for each respective artist, albeit with a helping hand from everyone’s favourite Swede, Mr Martin.
* The Original High
Listen: ‘The Original High’ is available now.