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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Track-by-Track: Adam Lambert - For Your Entertainment

I've learned never to judge an Idol contestant on their first album. Each time, it's primarily a producer's effort, filled with songs plucked from the vaults to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. If they're lucky, the artist will get to nudge parts of the album in an interesting direction or two. I adored Adam Lambert on the Idol stage, but what about as a recording artist?

1. Music Again - Kicking the album off in the best way possible, this Justin Hawkins-penned track is a template Lambert would be wise to follow in the future. He promised us that glam rock is back. This song delivers fully on that promise, with a sugary hook and one hell of a vocal performance. 10/10

2. For Your Entertainment - The first single, and not entirely representative of the album as a whole. This sounds very much like a male version of Britney Spears (a male version who can, y'know, sing). It ditches guitars in favor of a straightforward electro stomp. I wasn't completely sold at first, but this is a grower. 9/10

3. Whataya Want From Me - In some ways, this could be considered the most middle-of-the-road, radio-friendly song on the album. Luckily, Lambert's vocals imbue it with enough character to keep it from sounding too anonymous. This would be a wise crossover choice for radio. 10/10

4. Strut - The beat is nice, as are the guitars. The lyrics (often the weakest facet of the album) are the real letdown here. They're just pretty lame, honestly. The chorus has an interesting shout-along melody that displays Lambert's range pretty stunningly, and the song sounds better the louder you play it. 8/10

5. Soaked - A Muse castoff, this ballad was totally underwhelming in demo form, but Adam manages to transform it into something quite dramatic. His vocals get the full workout here, and they're as impressive as they always were. It opens with a dramatic orchestral flourish and never really lets up. The only downside is that it still sounds very much like a Muse song, rather than an Adam song. 9/10

6. Sure Fire Winners - One of my least-favorite uptempos on the album, this seems to nod to the double-punch of Queen's We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions, but something about it doesn't quite gel. It has the glammy punch I like, but isn't nearly as strong as the first track. Still, at least it's identifiably Adam. And the guitar riff towards the end is really nice. 7/10

7. A Loaded Smile - The song that always seems to fade into the background. It's more of a placeholder than anything. It's a pretty placeholder, for sure, and very atmospheric, but needs a stronger melody to be truly effective. It's nice to hear the falsetto, though. 8/10

8. If I Had You - A high octane dance track, this sounds like something that would be popular in Sweden (think BWO, Ola Svensson, etc). And, surprise, it was written by the always-reliable Swedes. Great beat, great lyrics and fantastic delivery. This gets the album back on track with a jolt. 10/10

9. Pick U Up - The second highlight after Music Again, this uptempo (co-written by Weezer's Rivers Cuomo (!)) has a melody that builds and builds until it absolutely explodes at the end. It's a fantastic, gripping production that utilizes Lambert's ridiculous vocals to full-effect. Even the annoying laugh at the end doesn't derail this stunner (friendly note to Adam Lambert: don't ever laugh on a song again. Doesn't work unless you're Janet Jackson) 10/10

10. Fever - Continuing the strong streak, I loved this song as a Lady Gaga demo and I'm happy that they've changed it up for this album. Instead of the classic-rock styling of the Gaga version, the song's been transformed into a Scissor Sisters vs. George Michael electro number, and it works well. Lambert sounds like he's having a lot of fun with this one. The feeling's contagious. 10/10

11. Sleepwalker - You can spot a Ryan Tedder song miles away, and that's really the only thing that holds this one back. Kicking off the string of ballads at the end of the album, this is a strong one, with a big, multitracked chorus. Lambert sounds a lot like Darren Hayes on the ballads. That's a good thing, by the way. 9/10

12. Aftermath - The cheesiest sounding ballad on the album, this sounds very much like a song you'd expect to hear from an Idol contestant and seems the furthest from the sound Adam is aiming for. Still, for this kind of a track, it's above average. 8/10

13. Broken Open - A beautiful way to end the album (before the bonus track), this atmospheric electro-ballad displays Lambert's falsetto at its Mad World best. It's a very promising musical statement that bodes well for his longevity. 10/10

14. Time For Miracles - I won't score, since this is basically a bonus track, but I've gotta say I still really like it. I'm a sucker for these big disaster movie ballads.

Album Grade: 9.1/10

(Editor's note: Fans of Adam Lambert, do yourself a favor and check out glam-rock band The Ark and their albums--We Are The Ark, In Lust We Trust, State Of The Ark, & Prayer For The Weekend. I feel like this is the sound Adam Lambert is going for. He's not quite there yet, but it's fantastic that he's trying. Anyways, Lambert fans would certainly love this band.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like and respect your comments. While I differ slightly on a few things, all and all nice review.

And, great to see some writing from someone that sounds like they actually listened to the entire album, and maybe more than once:-)

I think 9 to 9.5 out of ten is about right... PS. Take a listen to the bonus track "Master Plan" as I think you will find it interesting. Personally, I really like that song too.

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your review, 9.1/10 is great. I have some differences but that is what makes the album interesting. A lot of us have discussed this album and everyone has differing opinions of what their favourites are. It's really quite amazing and I think speaks loudly for this album, there is something for everyone. We all agree on one thing though, the album is excellent and I for one can't wait to have in my pretty hands.

6:03 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Nice to hear from you guys. The mixed bag approach (and I mean that in a nice way) of the album certainly allows for differing opinions, which is a strength of not only the album but of Lambert himself. He's polarizing, and I love that about him. It's also, of course, the reason he didn't win Idol.
Oh, and to the first poster, I definitely did listen to the whole thing quite a few times before sharing my thoughts. It's only fair.

6:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a great review! I love when all the songs are broken up! I really respect your opinion too! Even the ones you didn't love, you stated your opinion respectfully which is all I ask! While I love Strut, Sure Fire Winners and the laugh at Pick U Up I get where you are coming from (except Sure Fire Winner, what's not to love?) Great review though! Best I've seen so far!

6:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good review! While I don't agree on a couple of them, I'm pretty much with you on most. Also, you said exactly what I was feeling about Aftermath. It's just not an Adam song, for me. Especially when bunched in with the others in the album, it's kinda forgettable.

7:59 PM  
Blogger Nunya said...

Excellent review, really. I like that you went into this without any seeming resentment of the hype surrounding Adam, which I believe has tainted some reviews.

6:48 AM  
Blogger Myfizzypop said...

Nick, i haven't actually listened to the album yet but I will. I did want to say that i absolutely adore these track by track reviews - they are some of the most concise and well thought out reviews in the blog-world; quite aces ;)

2:53 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Paul, I'm so glad they're as enjoyable to read as they are to write! I think the album will be right up your alley, btw

5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good review.You seem pretty objective.I have some differing opinions but who doesn't?Totally agree about Aftermath,but I just have to say that I think "Broken Open" is a masterpiece!There is nothing even slightly off about this track.Absolutely beautiful and mesmerizing!

6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great review, thanks, I pretty much agree with you although interestingly, Aftermath is on there cuz its the one Adam actually wrote, with a couple friends and it means the most to him although really song writing is not his strength. I think more than any other Idol, this album is very ADAM, fun, sexy, diverse and downright chilling when he soars. Above all, it really is very Entertaining!!!

9:30 AM  
Blogger Myfizzypop said...

I finally caved in and listened - doing a review today. Am not quite as enthusiastic as you, but definitely a winning album :)

12:51 AM  
Blogger karenc said...

Thank you for a good review and I agree with you. I find your comment about Aftermath sounding least like Lambert interesting though since Adam co-wrote it with his friends Alisan Porter, Ferras and they have been writing together for some time, not just for the album. As someone commented you should also listen to his bonus track Master Plan. One of my favorites.

12:58 AM  
Blogger karenc said...

sorry I left out Ely Rise as co-writer friend of Adam in my comment above.

1:00 AM  

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