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For those who have become enamoured with the exquisite voice of Grammy nominated recording artist, Adam Lambert, 2011 will probably be remembered as the year in which only three vocal highlights from him, enchanted the world.
And what enchantments they were! So, in the order in which they happened, Adam’s trinity of gems:
First of all, Adam surprised his fans during his St Agathe show in Canada in July when he premiered a new, song, co-written with Rune Westerburg, called “Outlaws Of Love.” He promised that the song would appear on his new album, “Trespassing.” In fact the album will be available on15 May in the US and 2 July in the UK.
Secondly, a phenomenal performance, fronting Queen with a medley of their wonderful music, at the European Music Awards in Belfast in November, when they won the Global Icon Award, did much to further awareness of Adam’s amazing talent, stage presence and astonishing voice.
And finally, in December 2011, the world was introduced to his first new single, “Better Than I Know Myself” from his second album, “Trespassing.” The song was a collaboration with Dr Luke, and co-written by Claude Kelly.
But let’s take a closer look at these three gems Adam unleashed on the world: In a previous programme, I took an in-depth look at “Outlaws Of Love.” Several experts examined the song from different angles and also as a whole, and I believe we created a comprehensive and very interesting programme that, hopefully, did justice to the song. To me “Outlaws Of Love” is truly a piece of art that will live on in the world as one of Adam’s masterpieces, and most likely will become part of the sound track to people’s lives, so to speak.
Let’s listen now to how Adam sang the song earlier this year on the Kidd Kraddick In The Morning radio show in America – this version comes to us via YouTube from the show:
Stunning, and very moving, I’m sure you’ll all agree.
The song has a different accompaniment on the album, and here is a short snippet, uploaded to YouTube by one of Adam’s fans, Djidjityyy1:
One of the reasons Adam’s pitch is so perfect and his diction is so faultlessly clear at all times, even early in the morning, is that not only does he ‘sing’ the consonants, but he sings them on the same notes as the vowels they are related to. This may seem like such a little thing, but in fact, it makes an enormous difference in how we experience a singer’s voice as a musical instrument in the process of ‘making music.’ It may also appear to be an obvious thing for singers to do, but I’ve found that most singers in the popular music styles don’t do that – they’ll usually start and end consonants on a slightly different note, sometimes it’s a fraction of a tone off, or they’ll slide up or down to a note, and then it sounds as if they’re singing out of tune – which sometimes they are! And which is probably the reason for rather too much use of auto-tuned voices in the non-classical styles of singing. J
Next, let’s take a look at Adam’s phenomenal performance fronting Queen at the European Music Awards for a medley of three of their wonderful songs: The Show Must Go On, We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions.
I have recently been informed that a huge debate raged between their fans about who is the better singer: Freddie Mercury or Adam Lambert. I have no intension of joining in the fray, but rather, I’d like to look at what these two remarkable singers contributed to the songs.
Personally, I will always associate Freddie Mercury with Queen, and Adam Lambert will always be…well, Adam Lambert. Both flamboyant, both great entertainers and showmen, both great voices, both great musicians, both larger-than-life characters, and both with fantastic stage presence, but that’s where the similarities end, for me at least.
The one thing, perhaps above all others that make them stand out from other performers, is their unique and powerful voices: Freddie’s voice was apparently classified as Baritone, even though he sang mostly as a Tenor. And Adam is undoubtedly a tenor.
So, before we continue, and for those interested in voice types, it might be good to clarify that in popular music, singers seem to be classified into voice types based entirely on their vocal ranges, with little regard for the other qualities in the voice, which makes it so distinctive.
In classical singing, however, the voice is classified by looking at several vocal traits, such as colour, range, timbre, weight, tessitura, resonance, and where the vocal transitions or passaggi lie – the passaggio being the bridge from one vocal register to the next. Even the personality of the singer plays its part in the classification of the voice.
The vocal categories, for example, Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, Tenor, Baritone, and Bass, or their sub-categories – under Soprano you find for example, the Lyric, Coloratura or Spinto Soprano, and so on, or under Tenor you find the Lyric, Heroic or Italian Tenor, etc., – these are typically arranged according to the German Fach system. In opera, roles were, and are, usually written for specific voice types.
Adam’s voice, although we can hear some Baritone colours in it, which I’ve spoken about previously, if we have to give it a box to live in, fits perfectly into the Leggiero Fach, the highest tenor Fach. A great example in opera of this voice type, is Juan Diego Florez’s wonderfully flexible two octave range voice – a good range and perfectly usual for opera singers. Adam’s voice on the other hand, clearly seems to have a much greater range, which is staggering. And according to his wikipedia page, Freddie Mercury’s range apparently spanned an astonishing four octaves! But no matter how high or how low a singer can sing, that doesn’t necessarily make the voice more beautiful, more unique, or more pleasant to listen to – there are many other factors involved, which is why in opera, a voice is never classified using only its range.
Besides, guessing Freddie’s or Adam’s actual range, is just that: a guess. We can only hear their recorded range, which isn’t necessarily their entire range, although very, very few singers will sing to the extremes of their voice in public or on recordings.
Adam has in numerous interviews indicated that he does not like to, nor has he any interest, in defining his range – he is only interested in producing excellent, authentic sound. How refreshing to hear a singer speak like that, because all too often, singers and their audiences seem to be so stuck on the range that lives in the singer’s voice. Of course the voice has its physical limits, but by naming them, we somehow put such restrictions on what it may be able to do. It reminds me of the story of the four minute mile: everyone believed that the four-minute mile was unattainable. But once one athlete proved it achievable, others let go of their limitations too, and then they could do the impossible as well. Of course there’s more to the story than that simple version, but we’ve seen something similar happen in singing also: It wasn’t until 1835 that the first full-voiced high C was attempted by a tenor – even though at the time it was a slightly sharp A in modern terms, but until then, singing that high for any tenor, seemed an impossibility. Today, however, there are operatic tenors, like Juan Diego Florez, and pop/rock tenors, like Adam, who can sing much higher than the modern tenor high C.
So let’s get back to Queen and Adam’s performance in Belfast and to what Adam did with the songs – we already know the astonishing works of art that Freddie produced. But it must have been an amazing experience for Adam, who is a Queen fan and who has often referred to Freddie Mercury as having been a great influence on him as a singer and performer. Equally Queen must have been really excited to have their songs performed by an astonishing singer who could sing the songs in the actual keys in which they were written.
Brian May had this to say about Adam’s voice: ”I’m not easily moved to jelly by male vocalists…But Adam’s voice reaches out with sensitivity, depth, maturity, and awesome range and power which will make jaws drop all around the world…No doubt about it. The world of Rock has a bright new star.”
And more recently, Speaking to Yahoo!’s Reality Rocks, Roger Taylor described their collaboration as “fireworks”, whilst Brian described Adam as: “Something different. He has an extraordinary voice, there’s no way you can get around that – whether you love him or hate him. He’s extraordinary. So we’ll be exploring new ways to do things. We don’t like to just reproduce what we did before; we like to move on and try new ways of doing stuff. So it will be exciting!”
Their song choices for the European Music Awards, however, I feel could not have been bettered. The first song was “The Show Must Go On.” This song is the final track on Queen’s 1991 album, Innuendo. Largely written by Brian May, it tells of the efforts made by Freddie Mercury, as he continued to perform, despite nearing the end of his life. In fact, he was so ill at the time of recording the song, that he could barely walk, and there were real concerns as to whether he would physically be capable of singing it, but sing it he did, and brilliantly so. The song was released as a single in the UK just six weeks before Freddie died.
First I’ll play Freddie’s version of the song and then Adam’s version immediately afterwards:
- on YouTube by Ana94356
- on YouTube by happy1smile1
This must surely be one of the most dramatic and operatic rock songs ever created. And I’m so very glad that the world once again could hear it performed live like this.
I’d like to share just a few of my observations: On the very first line, “Empty spaces,” Adam is asking the question already – I don’t know if he knows that’s what he’s doing but it’s very effective. Whereas Freddie asks it more clearly perhaps in the second half of the phrase, “what are we living for?” A small thing, you might be thinking, but it allows us to see exactly how different these two singers are looking at the lyrics and the notes right from the beginning of the song.
In the next line, “Abandoned places, I guess we know the score,” Freddie’s interpretation seems vulnerable, more resigned perhaps, whereas Adam’s is a little stronger, indicating he may be more ready to challenge the ‘score.’
I also like that Adam sang ‘Does anybody know what we are living for?’ instead of ‘looking for,’ and that he added a delicious little ornamentation on the word, ‘mindless’ in the phrase ‘Another hero, another mindless crime’ – all a different way of thinking about the song that makes his version different from Freddie’s.
On the higher note in ‘Hold the light…’ Adam’s voice, to me, feels a little more comfortable than Freddie’s which seems slightly more squeezed, but equally effective, nonetheless.
And then we come to the fabulous dramatic bit, ‘The show must go on.’ I’ve commented previously about Adam’s ability to present a wall-of-sound type of idea with his voice alone, and here we experience it again. Even though there are instrumental gaps in the singing, we’re not so aware of them, because Adam continues from one phrase into the next. This is something which opera singers pay particular attention to – we don’t sing a phrase or a word and stop dead after it, but we sing it in such a way that it sounds as if the idea continues into the next vocalization, despite being interrupted by instrumentation. Adam does this perfectly.
Adam’s version of this song, was clearly homage to Freddie, whilst at the same time, it sounded as though he was telling of his own struggles as a gay man, just as Freddie did. Although they approached the lyrics differently, I found the way in which both singers sang the following lyrics particularly poignant:
The show must go on, yeah!
Inside my heart is breaking
My make-up may be flaking
But my smile still stays on
Freddie sings his ‘smile’ almost as though he can’t bear to do so any longer, whereas Adam gives us a longer, more pointed and unashamed ‘smile.’
Freddie’s interpretation of this song breaks your heart, especially in view of the fact that he was so near the end of his life when he recorded it. But Adam’s version is no less moving – it’s almost as if he sang it for both of them, and of course, the song gave him the opportunity to show off his incredible range and his remarkable vocal flexibility in a way not many other songs allow him to do. It must have been such a thrill for him to sing this, as we can clearly hear from his ‘woo!’ at the end!
The second song Queen and Adam performed together was “We Will Rock You.” Again, this song was written by Brian May and recorded by Queen for their 1977 album, “News Of The World.” In 2009 the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and it is also the title of the Queen-inspired musical currently on in London’s West End. So it’s another very important song choice.
Again, I’ll play Freddie’s version first, taken from “Queen Live At Wembley Stadium,” followed immediately by Adam’s version in Belfast:
- on YouTube by Queenofficial
- on YouTube by happy1smile1
This is such an arena anthem and as a result, it’s actually not that easy to sing and perform, but if anyone other than Freddie could pull it off perfectly and excitingly, Adam surely did!
And finally, the world was treated to a great performance of “We Are The Champions.” Of course they are: they’d just won the Global Icon Award! This was the second time, however, that Adam performed the song with Queen – the first was during the American Idol final in 2008, the year that Adam was a contestant on that show.
This is Freddie’s version of the song taken from “Queen On Fire: Live at the Bowl” from their Milton Keynes Bowl performance in 1982. And then to show how much Adam has grown as a singer and as performer, I feel it would good to listen to his first performance of it, together with the other American Idol finalist in 2008, Kris Allen, followed immediately by Adam’s performance in 2011:
- on YouTube by Queenofficial
- on YouTube by LexieeLambert
- on YouTube by happy1smile1
Yup, he has definitely become a superstar and don’t you just LOVE that delicious falsetto note Adam slipped in on the word: “few,” in the line: “I made a few.” It seems so innocuous, yet it changes the meaning behind the words so effectively, doesn’t it? Very astute. And for those not sure what Adam’s falsetto sounds like, this is a perfect example of it.
I like the fact that Adam made the songs his own and didn’t copy Freddie in any way, and it’s illuminating indeed to see how he successfully incorporated his own, very distinctive singing style into such well-known and loved songs. Brain May and Roger Taylor were clearly very impressed with Adam – in an interview with the BBC afterwards, this is what they had to say -posted on YouTube by BrianMayCom :
What I found really remarkable is that Adam didn’t intrude on Queen’s glory that night. He wasn’t even introduced. Can you imagine? What other singer would do that? It is a huge relief to me to have it confirmed again so clearly that Adam is indeed a true artist, who serves music in its purest form. He does not appear to need or want any aggrandizement, and that, coupled with his phenomenal talent and the fact that he seems to be a genuinely nice person, is probably the reason he is already a global superstar to his millions of dedicated fans.
Queen has also invited Adam to a few more performances with them in 2012: one in Moscow on the 3rd of July and another in Poland on July 7th which is the date they were supposed to perform at the Sonisphere Festival in the UK, but sadly the Festival was cancelled. Queen, however, clearly value their fans and arranged for two more performances with Adam at the Hammersmith Apollo in London on the 11th and 12th of July. Mention was also made of a third possible date there, as well as another possible concert in Kiev, headlining with Elton John, but that’s unconfirmed as yet on the date that this programme was recorded.
And finally, we come to the third gem Adam bestowed on the world in 2011. On the 20th of December, we heard the first single, “Better Than I Know Myself,” from his second album, “Trespassing.” Here is Adam talking about the song and please do also watch the really excellent music video that accompanies it – courtesy of SuperFreshlySqueezed:
The song and music video are both available from iTunes, Amazon and from Adam’s official website, AdamOfficial.com.
This is a great departure musically from his first album and he explained that this second album will allow fans to see more of the ‘real’ Adam. He shares his light and his dark sides that we all have. He explained that the album is split into the light side, with funky dance music and the dark side, which is more contemplative and more emotionally raw, the lyrics are more personal, and the music more in line with what Adam himself likes to listen to. And so he feels that the album is an invitation to his fans to trespass into his life, so to speak. Hence the album’s title: “Trespassing.”
This is what he has to say about the new album – courtesy of UKGlambert:
In this great interview from Finland, Adam continues to discuss the new album:
There are also 3 remixes available – this one is by Robert Marvin Shearer and uploaded to YouTube by one of Adam’s fans, emsatt1989:
So even though he didn’t tour in 2011 and spent most of the year behind studio doors beavering away on his much anticipated second album, he still somehow managed to wow, and make a strong musical impact on the world. And long may that continue, Adam.
The second single from the album is also now available. It’s called Never Close Our Eyes and was written by Bruno Mars.
Adam recently performed a number of acoustic performances of the single during his promotional tour for the album in America, and this is one I particularly like – courtesy of gnosbt:
The single is already available in America, and will be available in the UK from the 24th of June. But if you live in the UK and you’re a fan, you can start requesting the single for radio play from the 16th of May. To find out how to do that effectively, have a look at the guidelines on the Lambrits website – http://www.thelambrits.co.uk
You can also pre-order Adam’s album, Trespassing, and if you do so from his website, http://www.adamofficial.com, there are all kinds of other goodies available as well, including a limited edition Trespassing Deluxe Box Set.
Thank you for all the fab new music, Adam, we look forward to the album!
The music for the intro and outtro of this programme was composed and performed by Elizabeth Dockrell-Tyler.
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