Album Review: Adam Lambert – Trespassing

Oh how time flies! It’s already been two and a half years since Adam Lambert released his debut album, For Your Entertainment, which was something of a Lambert smorgasbord: a song sampler with every distinct musical style one could conceivably associate with the flamboyant Idol alum. Trespassing manages to be more focused and, yet, somehow infinitely more jarring. Adam has settled on just two sounds this time, unapologetic dance pop and plaintive rock ballads, that split the CD into two halves with questionable effectiveness. Still, it’s a much more memorable listening experience than his first album and carves him a bit of his own pop niche.

The first seven tracks on Trespassing are loaded with raucous fun and a slew of outrageous production choices. The album kicks off with the Pharrell produced “Trespassing” which has a funk-filled bass line and a stomp-clap-clap-stomp break that Bring It On would kill for. It’s also the first of many songs on the album which has a bridge that exists solely to let Adam riff random oohs and ahs. Its total ridiculousness yet undeniable dance sensibility appropriately sets the tone for the first half. And boy, does Adam do ridiculousness with style. Who else would attempt to imitate a cuckoo clock as Lambert does on the aptly named “Cuckoo”? Where else would you find someone, without a hint of reticence, singing the line “I’m cocked and ready to go” over a thumping Daft Punk-inspired beat?

The album’s third track, “Shady”, features Sam Sparro (“Black And Gold”) and Nile Rodgers (a producer who I’m sure I’m supposed to know more about). It’s a little bit funk and a little bit disco with some modern electronic production flourishes. But, most notably, it had a beat that reminded me specifically of something else I’d heard before. Of course, with my sophisticated music knowledge, I eventually figured out it was the DuckTales theme song. Seriously though compare the two for yourself. D-d-d-danger watch behind you!

Written by Bruno Mars and produced by Dr. Luke, “Never Close Our Eyes” was destined to be a pop radio single. It’s clearly been given the once over by Luke’s slick touch and has the flowing melody that we’ve come to expect of Bruno. While the verses are flat and forgettable, it has the ultimate toe-tapping pre-chorus. Where “Never Close Our Eyes” is the safest upbeat song, “Kickin’ In” is anything but safe. The introduction combines a choir synth with every spaceship sound used in Star Trek: The Next Generation which leads into a vocal loop of “c’mon” in a bit of a remix-gone-wrong sense which finally gives way to a Michael Jackson song. Somehow, Adam doing vocal warm-ups of the phrase “kickin’ in” made the track and then at the end the producer had some sort of awful stroke and accidentally played the entire song all at once, yet still all chopped up. I don’t know what happened. But, um, it’s glorious in its insanity. Or as Kelly Clarkson might say, it’s a beautiful disaster.

“Naked Love” is significantly less insane, but easily the most fun track on the album. It’s got a light, fun, day-at-the-beach vibe to it. The kids of One Direction would be flipping their hair to this, even if they might not be able to keep a straight face while Adam sings the hook, “Come on, I want your naked love so don’t you dress it up tonight.” So “Pop That Lock” has a dubstep breakdown and includes the line, “work, bitch.” I don’t think there’s anything else particularly notable about it, but that’s something, right?

With the eighth track, and first single, “Better Than I Know Myself” the album promptly switches gears. Imagine you’re at a party and everyone is having fun and laughing and yeah, there’s plenty of some dubious mixture that’s being called jungle juice or party punch or purple Jesus being consumed. That’s the first half of Trespassing. Then, some dude who was dumped by his girlfriend (who, let’s face it, was way out of his league to begin with) gets a little too drunk and starts switching between yelling about how the world is unfair and breaking down in tears. Yes, you feel bad for the guy and his ranting probably does have a point, but the mood has totally been killed and all you want to do is have fun and maybe get some really greasy chili cheese fries. “Better Than I Know Myself” is that guy.

And yes, that guy does kill the mood. “Underneath” and “Outlaws Of Love” are gorgeously sung with haunting arrangements that show off every inch of Adam Lambert’s incredibly dexterous voice. With the right setting and mood, they might even be moving. Trespassing is not that setting or mood, and both come off as solid songs that morticians would probably find too grave. Still, that’s better than “Broken English” or “Chokehold” for which my only note is “…” They’ve been done before, they’re not terribly exciting and I have no desire to hear either ever again. All these songs are great showcases for Adam’s most valuable instrument, but seem so intent on impressing that they fail to stitch together the big picture.

Overall, Trespassing does a formidable job at giving Adam a voice in music and is destined to keep a lot of people’s ears occupied for a long time, but it might have been better served as two EPs: one for those who wanted to groove in a club and one for those who wanted to wallow in their own sadness. Both are great musical efforts, but, personally, Adele has given me more than enough songs to turn to if I ever feel like embarking in a cycle of despair.


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