Does current American Idol contestant Adam Lambert give you a tingling flush of deja vu? A similar sensation came over this indie-pop diehard yesterday as I watched a clip of the putative AI front-runner emoting his way through “Tracks of My Tears.” Something about his quavery tenor put me in mind of none other than Antony Hegarty, English-Irish frontman of the art-folk experimentalists Antony and the Johnsons. That Tim-and-Jeff-Buckley impression of vocal kinship hit me even more forcefully with Lambert’s haunted, mournful rendition of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World.”
I thought Lambert reined in his penchant for playing-to-the-galleries pyrotechnics to heart-stirring effect, though admittedly, Hegarty’s voice has a darker timbre than Lambert’s, and on stage, his Daniel Johnston-like twitchiness contrasts jarringly with the Idolette’s musical-theater showmanship. No doubt about it, though: Both are prodigiously gifted, soulful singers.
But decide for yourselves, Music Mix-ers. Give a listen to Antony Hegarty, especially on the aching “If It Be Your Will,” from the Leonard Cohen documentary I’m Your Man, or his duet with Lou Reed on “Candy Says.” Or compare the two singers via the embedded video clips below. Could Hegarty’s career choices herald an alternative, artistically risk-taking path for Lambert in the event that the AI brass ring eludes him? Has he already given us a taste of that future with his offbeat, Middle Eastern-flavored “Ring of FIre”? If you vehemently disagree, say so. If you hear traces of Meat Loaf or Cat Stevens in either singer, all well and good. Sound off to your hearts’ content.