Adam Lambert made his American Idol return on Thursday with several purposes: to promote his latest anthem, “Aftermath,” recently released as a dance remix; to help the Trevor Project, which provides a life-line to LGBTQ kids (part of the proceeds from download sales of “Aftermath” will benefit the organization), and to remind the Idol viewers -- and no doubt the Season 10 finalists (now numbering 12) -- what it takes to make it on that stage and in the pop world.
Always the consummate pro, Lambert succeeded on all fronts, delivering an understated acoustic version of the song, greeting each of the Top 13 and the judges with a warm embrace, and after the show, taking a moment to pose with Trevor Project executive director Charles Robbins and board member Joel Flatow of the Recording Industry Association of America backstage, who presented Lambert with a commemorative plaque recognizing his “singular devotion to inspiring and helping save young lives.” Said Robbins: “Adam is someone who has a lot of integrity, people look up to, and kids appreciate that he’s his own person – that it’s not about hiding and being something you’re not, it’s about being authentic and Adam exemplifies that.”
caught up with Lambert after his performance for a quick chat about the song’s message, Lady Gaga
’s crusade, being back at Idol
and his new album. Fans can purchase the "Aftermath" remix on Lambert's official site
THR: You performed on Idol last season with lasers and smoke, this acoustic version of “Aftermath” was far more stripped down. Is that meant to convey the vulnerability of the song? How did you feel about the performance?
Adam Lambert: I felt really good. It was a bit out-of-body, as usual, but I always find that those are probably the best performances. There's something kind of magical that happens when you're completely in another zone. It’s like peoples' energy affecting you from the outside in.
THR: And getting across the message of the song was important to you…
Lambert: Yeah, it's about being honest with yourself and the people you love. We've all been there where we’ve been worried about that moment -- whether it’s having a secret or something to overcome or get past – of chaos that happens right before you make the big step to fix it or to relieve yourself. It's a scary time, it's uncertain, so that's one of the things that I wrote the song about. In my mind, it was about coming out and how scary a step that is. And how once you do make the leap, you go, “Wow, I feel liberated, there are other people like me, all I feel now is love!” Hopefully the message gets out there.
THR: Which ties together nicely with the Trevor Project initiative?
Lambert: It can be about a lot of different things. It's a really interesting song because one of the people I wrote it with was talking about overcoming addiction, someone else said it spoke about family. When I was an adolescent, I was really confused and had the good fortune to be raised in a very liberal, open home, but not everybody is. Back when I was dealing with that, I didn't really have a lot of examples. So that was one of the other reasons why I wanted this song to be a battle-cry, because there's not a lot of people that are championing this type of issue.
THR: One star that is championing the issue is undoubtedly Lady Gaga, who recently terminated her relationship with Target over their LGBT policy. What's your take on her recent actions?
Lambert: I think the responsibility of today's pop stars is to liberate the masses. In that everyone can be whatever they wanna be. You can march to your own beat. It's so hard sometimes in our country because conformity is the way things are pushed. I'm anti-conformity, as you can tell. But Lady Gaga has been doing a great job. I think she’s f---ing fantastic. And it’s something beyond sexuality. She's got a lot of ideas and savvy.
THR: Last year it was Siobhan Magnus, this year, James Durbin is getting the Adam Lambert comparisons. You just met James, what was that like?
Lambert: He's great. He seems like such a nice guy and he sounds great on the show. He's amazing, a total rocker!
THR: And the comparisons, whether welcome or dismissed?
Lambert: I take it as a compliment because I think he's good. And he said the same thing. I do see the similarities with the high rocker thing but I do think we're really different as well. It's like saying me and David Cook are the same just because we’re both guys and singing rock. I think James is much more metal. And if I had to make any sort of observation, I’d venture to say he's more 80s and I'm more 70s. But I think he's really talented.
THR: Who else has impressed you this season?
Lambert: Pia [Toscado] blew my mind on Wednesday night. She is mighty. I was, like, holy Moses! And I love Jacob [Lusk] for being just fabulous. I like this season.
THR: During the commercial break, you took time to say hello to all of the finalists, with the exception of Casey Abrams, who was in the hospital. Does returning to the Idol studio bring back those feelings of anxiety?
Lambert: I was watching on Wednesday night thinking, maybe it's better to not see the show or I might get there and feel like I’m competing! Luckily, I got that out of my head. It's really cool coming back because a lot of the crew is the same. They were like family to me. But yes, competing on this show is such a high pressure, stressful time. If it wasn't for the dynamic I had with so many behind-the-scenes people, I don't think I would've been as comfortable.
THR: You tweeted about recently working with songwriter Ryan Tedder, what else can you tell us about your new album?
Lambert: I think if anything, it might be a little less campy than the last one. With [For Your Entertainment], I really wanted to go high glam; it was always a vibe and a concept I was in love with and I did it for a year. I think evolution is good and I'm attracted to the slightly more serious… not so much fantasy or a mask put on -- which is fun, great f---ing rock-n-roll -- but I’m very drawn to music and artists that are singing from the heart about real things.
THR: Like whom? What are you listening to these days?
Lambert: The new Adele album blows my mind. Last year, that Sia album was on repeat. And I also love electronic music. Really, I listen to a lot of it. The pop music that’s out right now I love, but I’ve become attracted to more organic sounds again. Even if they're electronic, I want them to feel like they came from the earth, tangible, more primal. It's going to be great. It's moody so far, but who knows. I should probably stop now because last time we did this, I said all this stuff about the album and then it was, like, “Oh that didn’t make the album.” So I don't wanna jinx it.