Talk about “No Boundaries”: Adam Lambert made his first big post-Idol splash tonight, closing the American Music Awards with a performance of his debut single “For Your Entertainment” that — to my surprise and disappointment — emphasized shock-and-awe imagery over his standard-operating vocal excellence. To be fair, the entire telecast was racked with sound-mix issues that left even seasoned pros (except for maybe Kelly Clarkson, Lady Gaga, and Jay-Z) sounding distant and tinny, but as someone who saw Adam’s Idols Live tour set twice this summer, the one thing I didn’t expect from the season 8 runner-up was intermittent pitch problems.

Alas, we got those, and a lot more than I’d hoped/bargained for: Adam dragging a female backup dancer across the stage by her leg, as if she were a lace-covered sack of potatoes; Adam grasping the head of a submissive-styled male backup dancer and pulling him into an uncomfortable round of simulated oral sex (while ABC muted the audio to protect us from who only knows what); a tutu-clad woman cupping Adam’s nether-regions; Adam grasping and snapping the leather “bikini area” (for lack of a better term) of a female dancer’s costume; and Adam taking a break from his singing duties for an impromptu game of tongue twister with a keyboardist of indeterminate gender.

Look, as EW’s resident Idoloonie, I was rooting for Adam’s coming out party to the non-Idol set to be a smashing success, something that would propel his saucy, exciting debut disc to the top of the charts in what’s going to be one of the most competitive weeks in record stores all year. And in Adam’s defense, he took what appeared to be a rather nasty and unplanned tumble midway through his set that could’ve potentially thrown him off his game. Also, lest we forget (and it certainly is easy to do so), he is not a seasoned headliner, so nerves certainly could’ve played a factor, too

But the bottom line is that Adam’s AMA performance felt less like a genuine expression of his high-octane sexuality (so playfully erotic when he fondled the mic stand during “Whole Lotta Love” this summer), and more like a carefully planned stab at dominating the post-AMA blogosphere/water-cooler discussion. I’m certainly no prude…the idea of saucy boy-on-boy/boy-on-girl/boy-on-not-quite-sure action does not rattle my cage — certainly not at 10:55 p.m. on a school night. And yet, what’s sad is that unlike, say, a J.Lo or even a Rihanna, Adam could’ve had tongues wagging just from his vocals alone. Instead, that golden voice took a backseat tonight at the AMAs, and I’m not sure exactly who was occupying the driver’s seat.

What did you think of Adam’s “For Your Entertainment” set tonight? Were you turned on or bored or offended by the sexual hijinks? What did you think of the actual vocals? And will the performance help or hurt his first-week sales? Sound off in the comments below, and to get all my Idol musings, follow me on Twitter @EWMichaelSlezak. (While you’re at it, follow EW’s Music Mix blog, too @EWMusicMix; you won’t find a better one-stop shop for all your aural needs. And if you’re a reality TV junkie, do click here and check out this week’s edition of EW’s Réalité…we make it for your entertainment.)

Image Credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC