GRAMMY®-Nominated International Superstar Adam Lambert teams up with producer Sigala to release new single “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” via BMG. The single, which is the official song of London Pride, is a cover of the 1978 classic disco party anthem by LGBTQ+ pioneer Sylvester about celebrating self, freedom and uniting everyone. On June 23, Lambert will perform the song live on Good Morning America and on July 1, he will headline London Pride.
It has been almost 15 years since Adam Lambert became a household name during his season of American Idol. Instantly setting himself apart with his distinct sound and look, his career has catapulted to the nth degree, becoming a musical icon and challenging the limits of how far an openly gay artist can go. He doesn’t just sing the hell out of a song, he tells a story with his soaring vibrato, emotive breaks, and ability to make any song distinctly his own. Rock, pop, musical theatre, he can sing it all. His fame has crossed generations from interpreting the spirit of Freddie Mercury to serenading Cher with her own song to releasing new and evocative music. Though his sexuality has been discussed, especially during his debut season of Idol, it has never defined nor limited him. He is unapologetically Adam Lambert.
Born in Indianapolis, his family moved to Southern California shortly after he was born. Not being born into a showbiz family, it was the music videos of Madonna and Michael Jackson that would inspire not just his love affair with music, but also with fashion and dance. Those artists gave him the impulse to entertain. Before becoming a pop superstar, he would find his foundation and identity in musical theatre, performing with the Metropolitan Educational Theatre network from the age of nine.
I think I found a lot of confidence in a children’s theatre group that I was a part of. It was not a part of my school growing up, I went on the weekends. I really took to it. It was a great environment for me to develop my artistry and love for entertaining. Within that company, I became more and more confident. However, in school, I was more reserved because there weren’t as many kids with my shared interests. Especially in middle school, we were all going through so many changes, so I felt very much like the odd one out. I knew I was different and that caused me to withdraw. But in high school, I really blossomed as I got involved in more school art programs and found myself surrounded by like-minded people. It gave me the chance to really explore performing arts as a passion of mine.
He would perform in the regular staples of musical theatre, including Hello! Dolly, Music Man, Grease, and Camelot at established theaters in Southern California, before being cast in a European tour of Hair, a production of a musical version of The Ten Commandments with Val Kilmer, to ultimately touring with Wicked. Does he miss the musical theatre world? What show would bring him back to the stage?
I do miss it. It was such a huge part of my life for so long. It really shaped me as a performer and creator. If I were to bring a show back it would have to be something you would consider a rock-pop musical. Rock-pop musicals are what resonate with me most. There are so many I love which makes it hard to choose. If I were to bring any show to the stage it would have to be something new!
And while taking the spotlight on stage growing up, his sexuality would take a moment to come into focus.
It was the late 90s so the mainstream queer representation was in a much different place. There were hardly any artists to look to in the music industry as an inspiration. On TV we had that one guy from the Real World, My So-Called Life, and Will & Grace. Those were my exposures to queer characters and representation. Particularly Will & Grace, being a comedy, created a sense of comfort around the topic for me. My whole family and I watched it together and it made me realize my parents wouldn’t be that shocked when I came out. I waited until I was 18 to come out. I felt like I wasn’t surrounded by any out people, so it was scary for me to consider taking that next step. I wanted to wait until I was done with high school before I explored what coming out would look like. I started by coming out to a few close friends, and then my family a few months later. My mom actually asked me privately, it was a sweet moment, she just asked me point blank and I said yes. It was such a relief because I didn’t know how to quite get there so my mom took the lead which was really lovely for me.
A foreshadowing of Lambert’s future fame, his first auditions for Idol would include “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Believe.” Though Simon Cowell would voice his concerns about Lambert’s theatricality, he ended up giving Lambert a standing ovation after his performance of “Mad World,” the only one he ever gave during his ten-year stint as a judge. It was during his rise on Idol that Lambert would first understand what lay ahead of him.
Midway through my Idol experience, I realized this is really happening. The momentum is building and a change in my career is underway. The year prior to Idol I really felt ready to take some risks and go for it. Before that, I had always seen this as an unattainable fantasy, but by the time I auditioned for Idol, I really felt like I was ready to go for it all.
He would ultimately become runner-up for the 8th season of Idol, even though he would become one of a very small group of Idol personalities that reached A-list status. Yes, Idol gave him his big break, but his brand and talent were all his. His star would rise above the reality TV show and his music would go on to sell millions upon millions of copies.
I would probably attribute some of my success to my professional experience prior to Idol. Working as a performer before the show gave me a good work ethic and an understanding of how the business works. It taught me a certain level of professionalism. It taught me that when the lights go on, you have to deliver. The philosophy has really helped me stay on track. Also, I think that being a queer artist is such an exciting opportunity, to prove the point that there is room for everyone in music. And when I meet young people that perhaps saw me on TV while they were coming to terms with their own identities, that’s proof that what I’m doing has a purpose greater than myself.
Many claims have been made that it was Adam’s sexuality that kept him from winning the title. During his season, pictures of Adam kissing another boy made the media rounds, and Fox cut off media access to Lambert soon after. Shows like The O’Reilly Factor were propagating disgust at the photos, claiming it would have a negative effect on Idol. LOL, where is O’Reilly now? Currently, more and more LGBTQ artists come out every year to applause thanks to open artists like Lambert who had to deal with the negativity of an earlier era of entertainment media. Did Adam get tired of his sexuality being the focus, or does he think it helped progress gay representation in mainstream music?
It’s interesting because it’s a case-by-case thing. It definitely became the main thing I was asked about in interviews for a while, but I found that there were certain journalists who were thoughtful and felt interesting to talk with because they were not new to the subject. Queer and queer-allied journalists who knew what they were talking about always felt more comfortable. Where it got a bit strange was when super-mainstream journalists asked ignorant questions, that’s when it got annoying.
When I first got off Idol, I realized quickly that I was in a position where I could either make a change and help the cause or I could be selfish and just sort of worry about my own career. But I felt right away that it was important to represent the community. I knew I was in a position that not many had access to, so being the only out mainstream pop artist at the time, I knew it was bigger than me. I knew that just by me being my authentic self and not being afraid to show that, it would create ripples and I could help people feel it was okay to be authentic with who they are. I knew in my gut that I was okay to be loud, proud, and unapologetic.
This last season, Lambert returned to Idol to mentor the top twelve on a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-themed night. Just to think how far he has come from his first moments on the show is mind-boggling.
It’s always really lovely to return to the show. It launched my recording career and put me on a massive public stage. I owe a lot to the show and getting to go back and give back is a real full-circle experience. I love being able to help people reach their full potential. Over the years I’ve learned some tricks of the trade and it’s lovely to be able to pass that on.
As a mentor, what is the main thing he would want to impart to a singer new to the industry?
Your team is essential. The people you surround yourself with who are helping you reach your goals are something that you cannot take for granted. It can make or break your career. You have to be sure that you have the right collaborators on board with you.
Adam has gone on to sing alongside the who’s who of entertainment, a list his name now belongs on. What has he learned most from some of these icons?
I’ve learned to trust myself more. Working with people you respect and admire adds to your confidence and is proof that your instincts are on the right track.
With his distinctive voice, his celebration of his sexuality, and his unwillingness to comply with norms, it was only fitting and equally as thrilling for him to join Queen, resurrecting the spirit and talent of Freddie Mercury, yet still in line with his signature Lambert style. Adam and Queen have toured the globe to sold-out audiences with fans clamoring for more – a match made in music heaven. What did Adam learn from his first few rehearsals with the group?
With Queen, I learned quickly that their attention to detail is incredible. They really put a lot of thought into every decision and there is always a clear intention. Coming from the theatre world it’s all about detail and storytelling so I love working with them because there are always great discussions surrounding every decision. Putting a show together with Queen always has a clear intention and we all work seamlessly together to reach our goal.
This year, Lambert released his fifth studio album, High Drama, a collection of covers that include Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,” Pink’s “My Attic,” Sia’s “Chandelier,” and even Noel Coward’s “Mad About the Boy.” It was hard to listen to the album the first time around because the temptation to skip to the next track to see how he could possibly reinterpret some of these legacy songs was just as tempting as listening to the current track on repeat to savor each note.
I feel like just recreating the original is pointless. If I’m going to cover a song, I need to put my own spin on it or else there’s no need to go for it in the first place. I really love taking songs and giving them a new energy that fits where I’m currently coming from artistically.
His personal favorite from High Drama?
I don’t have a favorite! I loved making each song for different reasons. My favorite part of the process was weaving them all together with a sense of high drama!
With his extensive library of music, both original and covered, what song best details where he is at today?
“Superpower” is a nice mantra that was one of the songs from my last album, Velvet. I wrote it as an empowering song for taking back your own power. Making sure that you are in your truth.
As an LGBTQ activist, his philanthropy has been endless. He has given his voice, funds, time, and platform to a myriad of organizations, big and small, and launched his own non-profit advocacy group The Feel Something Foundation (taking the name from the first single from his Velvet album), assisting charities that are moving the needle for communities of all ages and backgrounds, focusing on impacting the LGBTQ+ community in areas of education and arts, homelessness, suicide prevention, and mental health. He puts his money where his mouth is, he is not just attending events and grabbing awards left and right. He is a superhero for our community, using his voice to save the world. And he looks damn good doing it.
His message to our community this Pride?
Obviously, there is a lot of division in our country right now and the Queer community is being used politically, in not always a positive way. I know it’s because we are shining brighter and bigger than ever. We are a cultural movement and those who oppose us are terrified. It’s proof that we can overcome any obstacle that we are faced with. We have done it so many times before and we will continue to face this together. I know this darkness we are combatting right now is something we will persevere together, as we always have. We will continue to do our part to protect our community while living our authentic lives. Also, just have a damn good time this summer! Haha!
For everything Adam, visit AdamLambert.net
[Photos by: Joseph Sinclair ]
Last modified: June 5, 2023