Picture provided by kind generosity of Diane White – please don’t copy without her permission.
Every now and then, the world is gifted an important musician and artist in a profound way, an artist who inspires, stimulates and fascinates us.These unusual human beings seem to find ways of cutting through all the clutter and to somehow invigorate the mundane in our lives to exciting, new ways of seeing the world and the possibilities we have in it. Their messages speak to us in a way that we can hear and absorb, and it transforms us. Their words and music touches our souls and their courage, determination and successes can prompt us to follow our own dreams, whatever they may be. Invariably, they become our legends.
Some legends such as Frank Sinatra, Freddie Mercury, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, David Bowie and Prince whose music and magic live on, even after their death, are still very much a part of our popular culture. For these legends, language held no barriers regardless of where in the world their listeners may have been. Their contributions made our world more colourful and vibrant, and without them, it would surely be a blander place to live. But from the outset of their careers, none of these artists could possibly have imagined the magnitude of their presence and to be one day classed as an icon. It’s often astonishing to learn of the struggle of these artists. Many, including David Bowie, Elvis and even the Beatles did not achieve immediate success.
Picture provided by kind generosity of Diane White – please don’t copy without her permission.
But we seem to recognise, from the outset, their otherness, their genius, their talent, their hard work, and we appear to crave their success on their behalf. Perhaps that is in part why they achieve it, eventually. Of course, we cannot dismiss their belief in themselves, their courage and the discipline it takes to put themselves in front of us in the first place, or their desire to succeed.
Lucky for us then, that one such artist, in the form of Adam Lambert, a Grammy nominated singer/songwriter and actor, has creatively taken the music world by storm.
I first came across Adam a number of years ago whilst watching American Idol. From the moment I saw him and heard him sing, I knew I wasn’t alone in thinking that he was an exceptional musician and vocalist. Paula Abdul, one of the judges on the show was the first to voice what we were all thinking – Adam was going to be iconic. How right she was! Today, not only does he have a successful solo career, he is also the new front man for Rock Royalty, Queen.
Here’s a taste of him with Queen during their 2016 summer festival tour. This is Who Wants To Live Forever – it always gives me such chills! This song was suggested by Christine Smith, who many of you may know from the fan club, Atop and uploaded for our continued enjoyment by a fan called Kinkykiedis.
Please remember that the videos in this blog are mostly from live video footage taken by fans, and therefore the sound quality isn’t perfect, but you will still be able to hear Adam’s astonishing voice, his fantastic interpretations and how much fun we all had!For his millions of fiercely loyal fans around the world, it was gratifying, indeed, that the musical greats of our time have taken Adam under their wings too. As a result, he has worked with artists such as Pharrell Williams, Sam Sparrow, Max Martin, Shellback, Avicci, Lady Gaga, genius guitarist, Nile Rogers, and of course, Queen, among others. Everyone raves about Adam’s exceptional voice, his professionalism and the fact that he is a thoroughly nice guy to boot.
Listen to this to hear for yourself how phenomenal his voice really is. This song was again suggested by Christine Smith and brought to us by a fan called Riddle601b. This is Adam’s version of Jimmy Hendrix’s Red House:
I have seen Adam perform live as a solo artist and also a number of times with Queen, and all I can say to those music fans who have not yet experienced him, you’re in for a real treat either way. He is one of those artists who sound even better live than on any recordings. So, next time he’s performing near you, do yourself a favour and go see him live.
As a vocalist myself, I appreciate his voice, his level of vocal technique, and mastery greatly. Coupled with the fact that he is also one of the most exciting performers I have ever seen, makes following his career particularly enjoyable.
Fans of Adam Lambert know of his earlier operatic training, which had instilled good singing practice, a keen understanding of his vocal instrument, the proper use of his body’s muscles to support his breath and voice, and masterful phrasing and story telling skills. Years spent singing in musical theatre have honed Adam’s interpretative and communication skills, and his stage craft. This, coupled with a sharp intellect and a seemingly sound intuition, has afforded him a uniquely expert way of interpreting songs. He seems to be able to sing any genre authentically from pop music to rock anthems and everything in between.
Christine Smith suggested this song as an example of how he traverses between genres. This is Whole Lot of Love Reggae style, brought to us by Libracats.
Earlier in 2016, I had the good fortune to hear him sing live in London during The Original High tour, in which he sang songs from his third successful album. I have seen him with Queen a number of times since, but last saw his solo performance in 2013 in Helsinki during a mini tour which his fans called the ‘We Are Glamily tour.’ This was in reference to his Glam Rock propensity.
In both of his solo shows, he sang songs from the albums he was promoting at the time, as well as some covers and of course Queen songs.
I absolutely adore his version of Queen’s Dragon Attack which I was happily surprised to be treated to in Helsinki. Here is Dragon Attack, brought to us by Kinkykiedis, and followed immediately by a song called Shady from his second album, Trespassing.
And this is Evil in the Night from London from his album, The Original High, suggested by Christine Smith and brought to us by Steph Gray.
What has fascinated me ever since I first came across Adam, is the question of what exactly makes his voice so different from other singers’? Why is it that I HAVE to listen to him almost daily? What is the pull? I have promised to dedicate a programme entirely to that question and will do so in due course. And I have previously answered elements of that question in other programmes and blogs, meanwhile, but recently, someone posed the question: is it merely a personal preference?
The answer is: No, actually, there are elements that stand out in his voice that simply isn’t there in others. I’ll come back to this a little later on.
First, here is one of my favourite songs from his second album, Trespassing, from which I have many favourites. This is one of the songs that demonstrates his artistry and the beauty of his voice. This is Underneath brought to us by ExcluAdamLambert:
As I said, I have been lucky enough to hear Adam sing live on a number of occasions and it is always a fantastic experience. He is a consummate and exciting performer and he always leaves you breathless and wanting more. And each time I experience him live, his voice sounds even better than the time before. It seems to be getting fuller, rounder, infused somehow with more dynamics, more harmonics and more overtones as time goes on. I can’t wait to hear what his voice will sound like when it fully matures in another few years from now, since the male voice doesn’t reach maturity until around 35 – 36 years of age.
But apart from his astonishing voice, Adam is a fearless performer. Not only is he fearless as far as his actual performances are concerned, but he is a fearless performer when it comes to singing as well. He is not afraid to really sing and by that I mean: he rarely over-sings or forces his voice, so all you hear from him is great singing. It takes enormous courage to sing as he does because he allows his voice to do what it does best and to convey every emotion and to implement every nuance he’s thinking of at the time. And I don’t mind admitting that I’m highly intrigued about what goes on in his mind while he’s performing! There is such intelligence and awareness in his eyes.
Let’s now listen to Adam’s version of Lady Gaga’s Marry the Night from an episode of Glee, brought to us by Heather Hodgeden. It’s a great example of those elements I’ve just mentioned:
So, I promised to take a look at a few of the elements that may explain why Adam’s voice is so astonishingly beautiful.
First of all, I feel anyone who has ever experienced him, would agree that he makes singing and performing seem effortless and easy. I can assure you, it is not. It is a measure of his artistry and comes from years of practicing notes, phrases and riffs over and over.
While it’s true that a well-trained singer, like Adam, develops a kind of awareness of sound that comes from sensations in the vocal tract, and vibrations of the bones of the head and the mouth, face, and body, Adam also seems able to do that one thing that makes all great singers great: he seems to acutely experience his voice’s effect on his audience. You may be forgiven for thinking that this is a common occurrence, but it is not. This awareness of sound by feel, rather than by auditory feedback, enables the singer to sing under almost any circumstances.
Picture provided by kind generosity of Shelley Naylor – please don’t copy without her permission.
This awareness of sound is crucial to good singing because optimum vocal resonance depends on it entirely, and is achievable only through the singer’s image of sound, together with what he senses when he makes that sound and where he places that sound. And because Adam places sound foremost in his mask (the little triangle that uses your top lips as the base, the sides of the triangle moving up on either sides of your nose until they meet at a point just above your eyebrows), it has the added benefit of creating not only a wonderful tone and timbre, but incredibly clear diction.
But there is one thing that always catches me off-guard whenever I hear Adam’s voice live as opposed to on a recording; it’s his pitch. It’s far higher live than it sounds on recordings. And for singers, pitch is mostly a perception of tone-colour rather than a mathematical element of vibrating frequencies measured in Hertz. But what this means for voice geeks like me, is that Adam’s vocal folds and vocalis must have the ability to lengthen and contract greatly in order to sing at such a high pitch so comfortably.
Listen to this song and you may appreciate his amazingly clear diction as well as how high his voice goes comfortably. This is Somebody to Love suggested by Christine Smith and brought to us by Merryl144.
Another element of Adam’s voice, which you will have clearly heard on Underneath, for example, and which fills me with excitement, is the fact that he uses vibrato, unlike many other pop singers today. It is one of the most important elements in creating pleasing flexibility, tenderness and richness to the tone of his voice. Without it, he will emulate the current popular singing style comprised of what we call ‘white’ sounds or straight sounds, which actually often sounds more like yelling or shouting than singing. But vibrato also does something else: apart from helping to create a wonderful tone and protecting the vocal instrument, vibrato also creates the illusion of a true pitch, which makes for interesting, energetic, effervescent and vibrant sounds.
Voice specialists tell us that a good singer will have an average vibrato of from 5 – 8 regular pulsations per second and I’m willing to bet that Adam’s vibrato adheres to that ideal too. Of course, he sometimes uses straight sounds too, but it’s very obvious he does so as a stylistic element only, and that he consciously chooses to do so, and not because it’s the only way he can sing, as it is for so many other pop and rock singers today.
Listen now to Adam singing the title track from his second album, Trespassing, brought to us by Kinkykiedis, and you’ll be able to hear what I’ve been talking about.
Another reason I feel Adam’s voice is so beautiful, is because he is able to produce sound of equal quality and intensity throughout his range. This is no mean feat: it is something singers work on their entire lives.
Here is a song I can’t resist playing for you because it’s so beautiful and demonstrates so many of the points I’ve raised about his voice. It’s Adam’s version of Stay by Rihanna, brought to us by Hermes K. This is the version he sang in Seoul, Korea in 2013.
I think you’ll agree that was breathtaking. Like all great tenors, Adam is able to really convey the emotion of the song and if you watch the YouTube video, you’ll notice that he is indeed wearing his heart on his t-shirt.
And that is what the human vocal instrument does, more than any man-made instrument: it touches our emotions, our hearts and our souls, and Adam’s voice seems particularly able to do so, more than any other I’ve experienced.
I always have enormous fun at Adam’s shows and Helsinki in 2013 was no exception, despite the freezing minus 20 degrees celcius conditions. But I wasn’t the only one. Two of Adam’s fans camped out for two nights in a row in the snow in front of the venue in order to get to a good spot from which to watch him. So, let me introduce Rosamari and Aliina from Finland. In a Skype chat with me, this is what they had to say:
Fans always travel to his concerts from all over the world, and the next young lady, Alba, a young medical doctor from Spain, chatted to me about her first live Adam Lambert experience:
Most of Adam’s fans are known to me only by their twitter and online names, so finally jeanjenie, as she is known on twitter, from London, another fan for whom Helsinki was a first, talked to me about her thoughts on Adam:
In London in 2016 Adam’s voice again seems to have grown even more in beauty and perhaps singing the challenging Queen repertoire had something to do with it?
I love this song, Runnin, from his second album, Tresspassing. Christine Smith likes it too, and suggested it. It was brought to us by Ki55andTELL, and if you continue to watch the video, you’ll also hear Chokehold and Sleepwalker.
Meanwhile I’ll continue to listen to the wonderful songs he leaves in his wake as his bright star continues to climb higher and higher. There will be many to choose from because Adam never stops working.
Thank you for visiting The Sound Bath. Until next time…