There’s almost nothing I love more than a celeb-related scandal, and there’s almost nothing I hate more than a blatant double standard. In the wake of American Idol alum Adam Lambert’s much buzzed about performance at the American Music Awards last night, I’ve got the best of both worlds, all wrapped up in one sequined and provocative package.
They say there’s no such thing as bad press. Truer words have never been spoken – especially on the night before your debut album hits stores. Both looking and sounding like the second coming of David Bowie reminiscent glam rock, the leather-clad Lambert slinked and slithered his way across the stage, grabbing the undivided attention of his unsuspecting audience and submerging them headfirst into a sexually-flexible rendition of his album’s namesake and debut single, “For Your Entertainment.” His backup dancers, dressed to the S&M nines in strips of bondage leather, served as both usable props and erotic backdrops to Lambert’s performance, which involved gratuitous displays of simulated oral sex, crotch grabbing (to put it nicely) and a mini-make out session with a (rumored to be straight) male keyboardist. Wow. Idol alums looking to distance yourselves from the family-friendly machine, take notes – THIS is how it’s done.
If Lambert was out to get our attention, he definitely succeeded. He dominated not only headlines, but the blogosphere and the twitterverse as well, as critics and fans found themselves on opposing sides of a boldly drawn line in the sand. In what must be a disappointing case of deja vu, considering the way Kanye’s drunken outburst upstaged her after the VMAs, even the unrelentingly shocking Lady Gaga’s performance took a backseat to the newcomer’s explosive closing number. “Can you handle what I’m about to do?” Lambert sang, as if his lyrics were issuing a direct challenge to the audience, promising in another verse “…I’m about to turn up the heat.” As eyebrows raised across the nation, only one fact was for certain: love it or hate it, this was entertainment.
So here we’ve got a sexually charged performance on stage at a music awards show. What’s the big deal? This is nothing new to pop culture history – Madonna’s been pushing the envelope for decades…literally. Her heirs to the throne Britney and Christina both rushed to follow suit as soon as they were legal, even joining forces at one point to create one of the most talked about “inappropriate” moments in award show history onstage at the 2003 VMAs. The backlash against Lambert’s latest antics seems to have taken on a different tone, however – one that seems to be laced with underlying hints of sexism and homophobia. My Facebook news feed was a hotbead of it. “Adam Lambert…gross.” one friend wrote. “That s**t is only hot when girls do it.” Another friend was even more put out. “That Adam Lambert performance made me want to take a shower!” she raged. “If I wanted to see that kind of thing, I’d go to a gay strip club or something!”
I’ll admit – there were parts of the performance that were a little too Skinimax for me, too. The stripper pole/disappearing finger action was a prime example. However, I fail to see how being sexually explorative through musical performances is “only hot when girls do it.” Rihanna has been performing in bondage gear for at least two years now. Madonna has been pretending(?) to masturbate onstage for longer than that. Let’s not even get into Christina’s “dirty” phase. Why is it that when a man, much less, a gay man gets involved, things have suddenly gone too far? “Female performers have been doing this for years – pushing the envelope about sexuality – and the minute a man does it, everybody freaks out,” Lambert said in an interview with Rolling Stone. “We’re in 2009; it’s time to take risks, be a little more brave, time to open people’s eyes and if it offends them, then maybe I’m not for them.” Maybe not for others, but as far as I’m concerned, it makes me happy to see a troublemaker burst onto the music scene with an opening act that’s almost like a threat. There was no Monday morning apology, no carefully worded press release from the budding glam-rocker, only a defiant shot at both censorship and a double standard that was long in need of being challenged. Just what I like to see. The buzz definitely got to me – I downloaded a copy of his soon to be infamous single this morning. All that remains to be seen is if Lambert meant what he sang, and intends to make music dangerous again.
After all, he’s here for our entertainment.