By Simon Vozick-Levinson
Updated March 11, 2010 at 07:57 PM EST
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What happens to Adam Lambert when you take away the pyrotechnics, the glossy production — in short, everything that makes him the over-the-top phenomenon his fans love? That’s the idea behind the latest episode of VH1’s Unplugged. You can watch a few of the American Idol alum’s acoustic performances at VH1’s site, or right here in this post. So how did he do?

Very well, actually! I’ve never been the hugest fan of Lambert’s music, but even I have to admit that the stripped-down, low-key approach really works for him. It’s hard to fake an unplugged performance. You can’t just scream as a shortcut to emotion, the way Lambert sometimes has in the past, and you obviously can’t rely on studio polish to help you hit those notes. So I’ll give credit where credit is due: There’s a subtle, natural quality to Lambert’s singing here that impresses me. Watching these clips hasn’t made me any more likely to revisit For Your Entertainment, but it has made me respect him a lot more as a vocalist. (Yes, Lambert fans, now is your cue to tell me in the comments section that I’ve been underestimating him all along.)

Watch Lambert’s unplugged “Whataya Want From Me” below, and his unplugged “Mad World” after the jump. Then let us know what you think of his acoustic turn.

“Whataya Want From Me”

“Mad World”

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