Adam Lambert's 'For Your Entertainment': How It Rates, Track by Track
(Written by Justin Hawkins; produced by Rob Cavallo)
Even cynics who think American Idol is the head horseman summoning the music-industry apocalypse will have a hard time denying the total awesomeness of this track, written by The Darkness' Justin Hawkins. The beats drive harder than Jason Statham in The Transporter, and Adam gets to showcase both his saucy rocker growl and his uh-huh-he-did-it falsetto while celebrating a love relationship — and his love relationship with music. (For some reason I can't shake the image of a Wall-E-esque video where Robot Adam has his humanity awakened by a fellow android. Is that weird?) Bonus points to the Idol Who Launched a Thousand Bra-Flings during this show's summer tour for having the cojones to kick off his album with the line, ''I want your body, mind, soul etcetera,'' then rhyming it with ''And I ain't ever met nobody better-er.'' Could that addition to the lexicon succeed ''unfriend'' as New Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year 2010? Here's hoping.
''For Your Entertainment''
(Written by Claude Kelly and Dr. Luke; produced by Dr. Luke)
Raise your hand along with me if you think the title track to Adam's debut disc was a peculiar choice as lead single. Dr. Luke takes the trademark howl we learned to love on Idol's eighth season and gives it more artificial flavoring than the late, great McRib; lyrically, the submissive, puppet-y refrain (''I'm here for your entertainment'') seems at odds with the overarching theme of Adam as dominator (''Take the pain, take the pleasure/ I'm the master of both''). To be fair, it's catchier than 90 percent of songs currently on Billboard's Hot 100, but Britney's ''3'' shouldn't be the benchmark to which La Lambert compares himself, should it?
''Whataya Want From Me''
(Written by Pink, Max Martin, Johan Shellback; produced by Max Martin and Johan Shellback)
I'll admit I wasn't feeling the 30-second snippet of this track that leaked to the Internet earlier this month, but now that I've consumed the entire enchilada, I can say that the whole is definitely greater than the disembodied part. Plus, in the wake of Adam's widely panned AMA performance, the plaintive lyrics could easily be construed as one man's plea for patience from a music world that's ratcheted the expectation-meter well past the breaking point: ''Just don't give up, I'm workin it out/ Please don't give in, I won't let you down/ It messed me up, need a second to breathe/ Just keep coming around, hey whataya want from me?'' Come to think of it, could this track be to Adam what ''Beautiful'' was for a post-''Dirrty'' Xtina?
(Written by Adam Lambert, Kara DioGuardi, Greg Wells; produced by Greg Wells)
Adam's first cowrite on the record starts with a mood-altering beat that propels you along as surely and steadily as a moving walkway at an international airport, and lyrically, he mines the ''speak your mind''/''strut your stuff'' territory championed by diva predecessors from En Vogue to Madonna. What fascinates me is how, as the song's relentless energy slows to a crawl on the bridge, the tension builds like a rubber band getting stretched to its breaking point — ''I'll be your mirror/ Darlin let your hair down/ Show me what you're workin' with/ And let me see you...'' — making the eventual, combustive cry of ''Struuuutttt'' all the more satisfying. After saddling him with ''No Boundaries'' at the Idol finale (I know, I know...just when you'd almost forgotten it), Ms. DioGuardi certainly owed him this one.
(Written by Matthew Bellamy; produced by Rob Cavallo)
You want drama? Try the burst of Middle Eastern-inspired piano and strings that open this ballad by MUSE's Matthew Bellamy. While the song eventually settles into more of a dreamlike, floating-through-the-sonic-atmosphere vibe, Adam's pouty-lipped delivery of the melancholy chorus — ''And you've had enough/ Searchin' for love'' — proves both haunting and beautiful. I know it's not exactly an obvious choice for a future single, but it certainly proves the Idol runner up can sing his smoky-guylinered face off.
''Sure Fire Winners''
(Written by David Gamson, Alexander James, Oliver Lieber; produced by Rob Cavallo)
Fun fact: Cowriter Oliver Leiber was the man behind Paula Abdul's ''Opposites Attract,'' ''Forever Your Girl,'' and ''(It's Just) the Way That You Love Me.'' (Indeed, all roads lead back to Idol!) Also fun: Hearing Adam wail the genius line, ''I was born with glitter on my face/ My baby clothes made of leather and lace.'' As I noted when I weighed in on Adam's FYE snippet leaks, this one's clearly an homage to Queen's ''We Are the Champions,'' right down to the ''dun-dun DUN, dun-dun DUN'' beat and the chorus declaration of ''we are/ we are/ we are the sure-fire winners!'' And it's also a perfect marriage of Rocker Adam and Electronic Adam. Woot!
''A Loaded Smile''
(Written and produced by Linda Perry)
Much like Kris Allen's ''I Need to Know,'' this ethereal ballad may not have the immediate commercial hook to make it a sure-fire hit, but that doesn't mean it's not one of the best tracks on the album. (It's my co-third-fave song on FYE, in fact!) Sure, the melody is initially a little hard to grab hold of, and the lyrics (''Walking hand in hand you are all I ever want/ And when you're not around yeah, don't even notice that you're gone'') cryptically hint at Adam contemplating inebriated infidelity (''a loaded smile/ an empty glass/ and one last dance''). But a bit of advice for young Adam: A peek into the mind and soul of a neophyte artist grappling with love and fame and all its pressures is a helluva lot more interesting (and sexy) than ''shocking'' simulated fellatio. Who wants to second that motion by pressing repeat on ''A Loaded Smile''?
''If I Had You''
(Written by Max Martin, Johan Shellback, Savan Kotecha; produced by Max Martin & Johan Shellback)
I dug this trashy dollop of Euro disco a lot better when it leaked as a 30-second preview on overseas iTunes outlets. As a whole, the melody never really gets to where you hope it might be going, and Max Martin strip-mines Adam's voice of its basic personality, as if he was producing the latest anonydiva's backing track. Oh, and let's just let the lyrics speak for themselves: ''From New York to L.A. gettin' high, rock-n-rollin'/ Get a room, trash it up till it's 10 in the mornin'/ Girls in stripper heels boys rollin in Maseratis/ What they need in this world is some love.'' Did something get lost in the Swedish-to-English translation maybe?.
''Pick U Up''
(Written by Rivers Cuomo, Greg Wells, Adam Lambert; produced by Greg Wells)
I keep trying to convince myself a Rivers Cuomo-Greg Wells-Adam Lambert writing session would've had to yield something that's, at the very least, interesting, but this just sounds like a reject from Stevie Nicks' The Wild Heart sessions, except with lyrics like ''It's a trip/I'ma flip.'' Oh sure, everything's cranked up real loud-like, but it can't disguise that a mangy dog has snuck its way under the dining-room table and threatened to distract from a meal that's otherwise been wavering between rock-solid and downright excellent.
(Written by Lady Gaga, Jeff Bhasker; produced by Jeff Bhasker)
Some folks have suggested that Glambert might be the male counterpart to outré pop princess Gaga, and while I'm not sure that is (or should be) the case, their first collaboration (and my favorite track on FYE) seems destined for the upper half of Billboard's Hot 100 before Idol's ninth season winds to its inevitable conclusion. The instantly memorable melody (and those echo-y drums that recount Missing Persons and their ilk) plays up Adam's nasty-sexy-glam persona in the best possible way (''sexual tic-tac-toe,'' anyone?), and damned if the multiple layers of his vocals on the chorus don't provide an express ticket to aural ecstasy. I know some of you already got your H1N1 shots, but get ready to catch this ''Fever'' all winter long.
(Written by Ryan Tedder, Aimee Mayo, Chris Lindsey; produced by Ryan Tedder)
Yes, it's another Ryan Tedder Thunderous Drumbeat Production (trademark pending), but boy-oh-boy this track sure is purdy, and divinely radio-worthy for the eleventh batter in the rotation on a major-label debut record. (Personally, I'd rank it in a two-way tie for third-favorite track, alongside ''A Loaded Smile,'' and behind only ''Strut'' and ''Music Again.'') Lyrically, this one conjures up some vivid imagery that you know will make for a super-compelling video clip: A dark and stormy night, with our conflicted Goth hero left a'wandering in the wake of a night of unbridled passion, and... Lemme just stop typing, in the likely event my mom reads this gallery. (Complete your own fan-fic in the comments below!)
(Written by Adam Lambert, Alisan Porter, Ferras, Ely Rise; produced by Howard Benson)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, baby. How you doin' tonight? For me, for you, for me, it's just ai'ight for me, dawg. But you did your thing.
(Written by Greg Wells, Adam Lambert, Evan Bogart; produced by Greg Wells)
At once reminiscent of ''Mad World'' as well as ''A Loaded Smile,'' this otherworldly ballad plays up Adam's ability to send his listeners into an almost dreamlike state with that gorgeous falsetto of his. I like the stuttery, Sci Fi blasts of guitar and static that cut through the gauzy melody and provide a jarring contrast to Adam's vocal. One of the riskier tracks on the record, but in this case, the gamble pays off with fascinating results.
''Time for Miracles''
(Written by Alain Johannes, Natasha Shneider; produced by Rob Cavallo)
As I mentioned in my Oct. 19 review of the 2012 soundtrack cut, listening to ''Time for Miracles'' is kind of like watching a volcano on the brink of eruption. There's a lot of bubbling and buildup and anticipation, all leading to the point where things finally explode in a torrent of heat and magma and glory notes. That moment arrives at the 3:30 mark, as Adam exits the bridge and tackles the chorus once more (with feeling), riffing magnificently over the melody as a tidal wave of strings swells up around him. And while the Adam-volcano parallel is an obvious one to make — after all, there's no use denying the American Idol season 8 runner-up possesses a voice that's its own uncontainable force of nature — the epic scope and execution of ''Time for Miracles'' never seems forced or ridiculous. Hey, what else do you from expect a track that heralds the season's big-budget disaster flick?
For Your Entertainment
Check out EW music critic Leah Greenblatt's full review of FYE here.