Video Analysis: Adam Lambert’s “For Your Entertainment”


Just for kicks: Let’s see if I can get through this entire analysis without ever using the term “Glambert.”


Well, this is new and different: I’m sliding out of the 1980s and moving all the way up to 2009 with a look at Adam Lambert’s “For Your Entertainment” video, which, for this site, is almost cutting-edge. This is untested ground for me! Exciting!

Then again, when you sit down and think about it, maybe it’s not a huge stretch to go from Duran Duran to Elton John to Adam Lambert.

Given my established pop-culture tastes and my well-known soft spot for boys in heavy makeup (ahoy there, Nick Rhodes), it’s probably not a shock to find I kinda dig Lambert. Though I don’t watch American Idol, I was aware of the Lambertian media juggernaut during the show’s eighth season, in which he demolished his way through the competition like a glitter-encrusted wrecking ball before coming up just short at the finale. (I have since caught many of his Idol performances online, and goddamn, the kid can work a stage.) Then last summer I watched his Behind the Music episode, and somewhere around the part where he earnestly explained how the notion to audition for American Idol came to him while he was tripping balls at Burning Man, I was smitten. Adam Lambert, you’re an American treasure.


Anyway, “For Your Entertainment” is the first single off Lambert’s 2009 debut album of the same name. The video begins in downtown Los Angeles at night. Note how the marquee of the State Theater reads “Ray Kay Video,” which was a pretty slick and sneaky way for the director to shoehorn his name permanently into the body of his work. Well played, Mr. Kay.


The camera pans down right through the earth into a sleazy subterranean nightclub. Crumbling walls, crystal chandeliers, fluorescent beverages served from fancy apothecary jars, boys in tight leather, girls in fishnets, everyone grinding on each other or just writhing against the wall, the usual. Upon watching this video for the first time, my sister noted, “I usually go out of my way to avoid clubs like this.” Me too. We’re old. Lambert slinks into the club and starts singing and dancing up a storm. He’s dressed, as he so often is, like a leather-clad, cane-wielding, spike-shouldered goth Valkyrie. It looks exactly right on him. Not many people could say the same.


(He wore a variation of this snazzy ensemble, with spikes on both shoulders, while performing in Europe last summer as the temporary front man for Queen. Footage from those concerts is available on YouTube, and for Queen aficionados and general fans of glam rock, it’s worth seeking out. Much of Lambert’s own music is a bit too goopy for my tastes, but listening to him flexing his magnificent pipes on Queen’s back catalogue? It’s a kind of magic.)

In between bursts of dancing and slinking, he loiters on the sideline and fondles his snake.


Let’s flash back to his June 2009 cover of Rolling Stone, the issue in which he publicly came out (I know. We were all very shocked), where he lounges about with a similar snake draped over his legs. When asked by 20/20 ’s Chris Connelly what he was channeling in the photo, Lambert replied, “A combination of, ‘I’ll be a sexy rock star and you take my picture’ and the fear of, ‘There’s a python on my crotch.’” Fair enough.


Petty complaint: This video features too many individual shots of pretty women in tight dresses who stand around and writhe orgasmically. I’m guessing a goodly chunk of Adam’s target demographic maybe gets bored pretty quickly with images of pretty women writhing orgasmically. Or maybe I’m just speaking for myself.


Lyrically, “For Your Entertainment” is a little schizophrenic, featuring a string of sexually aggressive, borderline sadistic lines—“imma hurt you real good” and “it’s about to get rough for you” and “give it to you ‘til you’re screaming my name”—followed by a faintly neurotic, desperate-to-please refrain—“I’m here for your entertainment”—that completely negates the preceding sentiments.


Which brings us to the Adam Lambert Conundrum: His public persona is relentlessly sweet and cheerful and non-threatening (the kid’s a hilarious charmball in interviews), and yet he’s a hugely polarizing figure, probably because he’s a wee bit sleazy (note: In my personal lexicon, “sleazy” is never an insult). It’s hard to think of any other well-raised, polite, musical theater-loving Jewish boy from suburban San Diego receiving the amount of vitriol Lambert gets heaped upon him from various corners of the internet. There are probably countless factors at work here, and I’m not qualified to parse them in depth, but I’d guess the bulk of the anti-Lambert sentiment stems from the combination of him: a) being openly gay, b) embracing camp, and c) giving every impression of really liking sex.

Bet you thought I was soft and sweet… Still do, Adam. Still do.


Speaking of soft and sweet… “For Your Entertainment” is the song Lambert sang whilst famously misbehaving at the 2009 American Music Awards. The good folks at AfterElton summed up his performance as “hilariously raunchy,” and I can’t possibly improve upon that description. Here’s Adam being cheerfully unapologetic on the subject when he appeared on Oprah: “The lyric is kind of risqué and risky, and I got risky and risqué.”

Ah, now a couple of women have made friends with Adam’s snake. Obvious Garden of Eden imagery is obvious.


Lambert wanders through the club’s, ah, subterranean jungle(?), where he gets consensually groped by a slew of club kids.


Sure, there are both men and women in the mix, but the women are front and center, while the men tend to hang back in the shadows looking hesitant and bewildered. Like this dude here:


I’m inclined to think the “For Your Entertainment” casting directors should have maybe sought out male extras with more of a demonstrated willingness to grope Lambert. Lambert would probably agree with me on that.

Bless you, Adam. You can take the boy out of the musical theater, but you can’t take the musical theater out of the boy:


And then Lambert performs with his band in the club for a while, taking a moment to nuzzle up against his cute (and straight) bass player, though they regrettably don’t seize this opportunity to play an enthusiastic round of tonsil hockey, as they have on so many occasions. Points to Lambert for his valiant and tireless efforts to bring flashy public displays of titillating boy-on-boy action into the mainstream.


Comments

LisaW said…
this is fantastic....hilarious and dead on. I adore Adam and while Im not even a big fan of this song I love this video....fun fact: the snake in the video is the same snake as on the rolling stone cover AND its named Adam. as recounted by Adam himself in an interview, (Adam Lambert at Amazon, part 2 on you tube (at 3:00).

revlisacat said…
Thank you for this great review! I'm glad you "get" Adam -- I think he can be polarizing to some people because they just don't understand where he's coming from. By the way, he just finished a short tour of Asia and Eastern Europe, finishing up in Helsinki in front of 12,000 screaming fans last night. Do yourself a favor and watch some of the Helsinki videos (lots are posted on youtube) because you will see HOW MUCH he has evolved as a performer, as well as how he still incorporates sexy, sleazy, charming, goofy, intense, etc. into his performance. Also, his performances live are much more rocking than the albums or videos. Make sure to watch the male dancers, too! Party on!
What a great job you did! You really get Adam! There is no one like him! If you ever get the chance to see him live DO IT!!! But I warn you, you will be hooked for life! This man sounds better live than on his CD, how many singers can you say that about......
Morgan Richter said…
Thanks for the great comments, everyone! Adam's a lot of fun to write about...
MalsDoxy said…
um goopy? the recordings don't COME CLOSE to his live performances of these songs, not even in the same league!! he is electric on stage and his songs are infused with more rock than pop and yes Mr Lambert is a national treasure
Pam said…
Thank you for this fantastic review of a fantastic video featuring a fantastic man with a fantastic personality and voice. There is just no one else on this earth quite like Adam Lambert. I love - to various degrees - almost every song from both his albums. How often can you say that? In a few cases, I get your 'goopy' comment, but I'll take goop from Adam Lambert every chance I get!
cathysidol said…
Love your take on Adam and yes I will say it I am a Glambert! It is such an exprience to actually go to a concert and witness his stage presence LIVE , his charisma and out of this world vocals of course are off the charts. I also appreciate his message of Love and acceptance for all.
Unknown said…
Adam Lambert live is ELECTRIFYING to say the least..when he walks on stage, completely hypnotizes the audience..when he leaves the stage, u feel lost as to awaking up from a trance..questioning as to what just happened here? You rush to your room to rewatch the whole thing to reassure that it was not just a dream..Adam did infraction performed & u were there to witness the GREATNESS..
Unknown said…
Auto correct hates me..in fact..
Unknown said…
Adam Lambert live is ELECTRIFYING to say the least..when he walks on stage, completely hypnotizes the audience..when he leaves the stage, u feel lost as to awaking up from a trance..questioning as to what just happened here? You rush to your room to rewatch the whole thing to reassure that it was not just a dream..Adam did infraction performed & u were there to witness the GREATNESS..
Janet Fox said…
Great write-up! I'd love to read your take on his "Better Than I Know Myself" video, which I thought was brilliant conceptually.
ovationimpact said…
Can't get enough of Adam Lambert singing... Bring on album #3 and more videos for you to review.
magsmagenta said…
Thank you for such a brilliant review, I also hope that Adam never changes. I was at Hammersmith to see him with Queen and it was utterly brilliant, but I also love his own music despite it not being my usual genre which is Heavy Metal.
I hope to hear your assessment of Adams other videos too, My other favorite is Better than I Know myself, even though that isn't my favorite song on the album, I much prefer Shady, Cuckoo or Trespassing, Or Underneath or Nirvana if it's a slow song.
Morgan Richter said…
Just to let anyone who has subscribed to these comments know, if you're interested, I have a new analysis of Adam's awesome "If I Had You" video up on this site as well. Click here.
Tomas Porter said…
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