There’s no artist that’s had a career quite like Adam Lambert. Since auditioning with “Bohemian Rhapsody” on American Idol, he’s gone on to sell out headline tours worldwide, selling over 5 million singles, as well as, in true full-circle fashion, serve as the frontman for the legendary Queen. Each of his albums thus far have been relatively sonically dissimilar and defiantly individualistic, influenced by a multitude of varying genres including, but not limited to, pop, electronica, funk, and disco. With his latest single “New Eyes,” taken from his upcoming album Velvet, Adam takes the bold, unprecedented step of drawing sonic influences from previously unexplored genres to create music that’s timeless yet ingeniously inventive.
Reflecting on the release of “New Eyes,” Adam gleefully explains “It’s funny. There are different ways to choose singles and there are different ways to put music out, everybody has their own strategy. I’ve been doing this for ten years and I’ve tried a lot of different ways and had a lot of different ideas. I decided on this one to trust my instincts and just put a song out as the first single that felt the truest as to where I was at the moment. ‘New Eyes’ is romantic, it’s about finding love. It’s about being re-inspired to hope and to dream and to see things in a new light. Sometimes it takes meeting somebody special to do that, to sort of revive your innocence and your joy.
“It’s a perfect answer to ‘Feel Something’ where that was kind of pleading to just feel because I started out in a numb place. This song is like, hey, this is where I was, and meeting you has made me see things new again. Now I am feeling something, I’m feeling love. It’s also really just a vibe, it’s just a romantic kind of dreamy vibe.”
The poignantly affecting “Feel Something,” his first release since 2017’s “Two Fux,” saw Adam willingly expose his vulnerabilities in an almost overwhelmingly authentic fashion. “I was just itching to like, give my fans just a taste of what I’ve been working on because it’d be sort of a long time in the process. I wanted to set up where I had been because the album took almost three years to finish. It’s been a long work in progress for many different reasons. You know, for me, I didn’t feel rushed. I felt like I really wanted to take my time and make sure that I had a sound that I was into and had stories and songs that felt real to me.
That song sort of culminated what I had, where I started when the record was starting to be put together. I had kind of been in a rut, I was feeling a bit creatively unsettled and uninspired. I had some business situations that were feeling a little frustrating. I was a bit burnt out in general. So that song is about that it’s about that, it’s about being numb and admitting it to yourself but also admitting to yourself, but I don’t want to be, I really want to feel something. I want more and I’m going to climb out of this place.”
With “New Eyes,” it’s blisteringly evident that he found life-affirming fulfillment through impassioned romance, but his stints as the frontman of the legendary Queen seem to reenergize him in a totally distinct way. “Obviously I’ve been on the road quite a bit during the time since my last album. That always enriches me spiritually and artistically. I always feel like I learned so much from Brian and Roger and I get so much from the fans of Queen that we perform for. And you know, of course, of course, I’ve traveled and had my various nights out here and there and have had various little flings and affairs and trysts and romances. A lot of this album is about connection and relationships. Being a traveling musician, you have a very specific, interesting type of love life.”
That idiosyncratic love life undoubtedly served as a major inspiration for “New Eyes” infectious lyricism. “I was writing the song with Paris Carney and Jamie Sirota two really wonderful people. And I was saying, well, I want to write something romantic about meeting somebody that sort of turns it all around for you. The thing that we also kind of thought about with that lyric is ‘New Eyes’ is like, the person that I’m talking about is innocent and their eyes are new. It’s not that the eyes are new to me it’s that their eyes are new to them too, they’re innocent. They’re not jaded and bitter, and they haven’t been through a bunch of bullshit. They’re like fresh and look at things clearly.”
This revitalization of effervescent energy is likely to influence his upcoming album Velvet. Speaking of the inspiration behind the title, Adam coyly explains “Well, it’s kind of I mean, it’s sort of to each their own. I mean, I think the word kind of evokes a lot of different visuals and feelings. And I think I’ll let everybody sort of come to their own conclusions on it. With each song that I put out, I think the album will sort of unveil itself in its concept and meaning.”
While the concept of the album still mostly an enticing mystery, it’s not hard to imagine where some the sonic inspirations might have come from. “There are definitely moments on this album where you will, you might hear a Queen influence of course, and I think that’s natural this point. I think as a whole, I didn’t necessarily model it intentionally on the sound of Queen, but I did intentionally say I want to do something that feels vintage. That feels a little more throwback.
“I’m such a fan of the music of the 70s and the early 80s. You know, I love pop music as well. And there’s definitely modern production and modern touches. But I just wanted to lean on sort of the music that I grew up listening to and that made me want to be a musician. I really wanted to honor that with this album.”
While working on his new album Velvet, Adam also found time to make a cameo in Bohemian Rhapsody, the box-office smash biopic centered around the story of Queen. Reflecting on his experience and the film’s resonance, Adam said “It was really fun. I mean, I was on the set just for an evening and that was really cool to be there and see it in action. Because I’ve been hearing about the movie for years, with their planning and writing of it, and directors and actors and all that. So I kind of had like an inside track on the process. So to be on set, so like a full circle.
“I thought it was funny that I was sort of the first moment that Freddie really questioned to sexuality was based on my character giving him the eye, I thought that was kind of ironic. I’m so happy for the band, I think the success of the movie is so exciting because they have sort of new excitement around them, it’s kind of reinvigorated a certain element of the brand. I even think that we have, like, younger fans now that are turned on to Queen because of the movie. I’m really excited to get on tour this summer because I think we’re going to see an influx of new fans that we haven’t seen over the past six years.”
That six-year journey was recently chronicled on an ABC documentary entitled The Show Must Go On: The Queen + Adam Lambert Story. “It’s crazy. I always try to put things in perspective. It really helps with clarity and choices you make artistically. But seeing it all in a primetime documentary was a real honor. I’m very flattered and honored that the Queen wanted to make that documentary. I’m really proud and feel very lucky that this opportunity came up and that it’s turned into such a long-term project. I didn’t really think it was going to be, I thought it was just going to be like kind of a little short one-time thing. But it’s really just a gift that keeps on giving.”
Managing a solo career alongside serving as the frontman for one of the world’s biggest bands might sound daunting to most but Adam achieves it effortlessly, pondering on the achievement with a self-assured modesty. “I think it’s quite complementary. It’s like when it feels right, it feels right. This summer I have a tour with Queen, it’s about six weeks long and I’m really looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be great. And that’s six weeks out of the whole year. Everything else is you know, available for me for my solo work.”
Obviously, Adam’s well-versed at covering Queen songs but a recent spellbinding performance of Cher’s “Believe” was enough to bring her to tears. Reflecting on the difference between performing his own work and covers, Adam said, “It’s interesting because it’s two different headspaces. When I’m singing a cover, it’s most likely a song people have heard a lot. There’s something about singing a song that people already know and that you know that they like. It’s an easier job in some ways. But the times when it gets challenging is when you’re singing a song by Freddie Mercury who’s like a vocal God. That people obviously have so much love, that’s where it gets tricky.
“My intention as a singer is not to be compared to him or to compete with Freddie. It’s more to sort of like, just sing a great song for people that want to hear a great song. So it’s interesting, I think with my own solo music, the joy that I get out of it is that it’s my creation. It’s something that I created and made and its mine. It’s my expression and it’s an extension of my experience. Obviously, when I get on stage with Queen, I always try and find my personal interpretation of a song to make it real but as a composer, it’s a totally different world. With this album, I’m really excited to say that we felt that I co-wrote on every single song on the album. They’re all my babies. It’s storytelling that’s specific to me, it allows me when I write music to say what I want to say.”
Before his acclaim and success, Adam found fame on the eighth season American Idol, where he electrified millions weekly with his dazzling and daring performances. “Idol had its own type of pressure. Obviously, it’s on television, in front of millions and millions of people. I think we had like 30 million viewers like each episode or something, by the end. So obviously that was a lot of pressure. With Queen, there was definitely pressure and there still is pressure. But I think especially in the beginning when I hadn’t proven myself with the band yet, I think I felt the most pressure.
“I knew that the fans were going to be skeptical and kind of maybe take a little while to warm up to me. And also, you know, I knew that the band and I clicked right away when we met on the finale of American Idol. But I also hadn’t performed a two-hour show with them. So I was thinking to myself, I hope Brian and Roger are into what I’m doing and feel good about it. So that was double pressure. Seeing them walk out on stage and get so much joy out of performing still to this day, had really rubbed off on me and made me realize how special the opportunity was.”
Reflecting on his journey since American Idol, Adam said, “Over the course of 10 years, it’s just been, it’s been sort of a rollercoaster because the industry’s changed so dramatically. That, that has been very interesting to sort of apply to my experience. I don’t think I would change anything, because I feel like I’ve had a really good journey. I think one of the things that I feel like I’m doing more of now that maybe I wasn’t always doing enough of is really trusting my instincts. It’s the learning experience of trial and error. American Idol was such a big show, going on Idol all of a sudden, I had a fan base, and an audience finally, and I had record labels interested in working with me. My first time out it was sort of like a trial by fire and everybody was watching.
“So any little mistake was going to be noticed more than somebody who’s starting out sort of at zero. It was sort of an extra pressure type situation. At the time, there was no real blueprint, especially for being an artist being an out artist, you know, a gay artist in American pop music. It was, there was nobody else to sort of look at to see how it’s done. I know that I was just being myself but all the people around me business-wise were like well, how do we do this? We don’t know. Of course, that made it more confusing for me to trust my instincts. It was definitely like a learning experience. But at the same time, it was really exciting because there wasn’t anybody else out there it was sort of like an open playing field for me. It allowed me to sort of just guess, which was cool.”
While he seemingly relished in the pressure and the unprecedented nature of the artistic journey, he still encountered uneasiness. “There were definitely moments where it was stressful and then there were moments where I was like, well, this is exciting because it’s new. I knew that, that doing really well in that show, and being in the, you know, pop culture consciousness and, and having the opportunity that I had, I knew that I was making a change for people. There wasn’t anybody else doing it and I took the opportunity to try to make some statements. I stand by those statements because I felt that they needed to be made.”
Ten years later, he’s still not resting on his laurels with his upcoming album Velvet and recently released the single “New Eyes” demonstrating his fierce willingness to experiment and evolve his sound. “With the last album, I intentionally went to Max Martin who I respect so much and I’m a big fan of his work. And I said, I want to make a really modern pop album, and I want to do it with you. We did and it was super contemporary and progressive that way. I definitely had stepped into the contemporary pop lane with my past two albums before that. Yeah, but I think the original high was probably the most sort of forward-thinking. That’s the irony is that now that with Velvet, I’m actually doing the opposite. I’m trying to lean back on the past. As an artist, I always like having inspiration and a world that the project lives in, that’s just how my creative brain thinks. That’s what took so long with this project, just finding the world that it existed in and I think I found it.”