Video Analysis: Adam Lambert’s “If I Had You”

Let’s take a look at Adam Lambert’s “If I Had You,” the third single off of his debut album. The video for “If I Had You” was released in 2010 and was directed by Bryan Barber. There’s less of a plot to it than most of the videos I examine here, but the visuals are fun, the outfits are great, and Lambert is always entertaining to watch. Here we go:

Adam’s sitting in his living room, tweeting up a storm, rallying his troops for a spur-of-the-moment bacchanalia in Griffith Park. What we see of his abode looks spare and modest, all modern lines and minimalist furniture and muted lighting, much like his home (or rather, his “home”) in the “Whataya Want From Me” video. Yeah, nice try, set designers. Like we’re supposed to believe Lambert would be caught dead kicking back in a place this unassuming. I’m 100% certain the décor of Lambert’s real home more suitably reflects his, ah, exuberant personal style. I’m picturing chandeliers made of bones, velvet curtains embroidered with images from 17th century Japanese erotica, high-backed armchairs upholstered in snakeskin, a glow-in-the-dark mural depicting Día de Los Muertos entirely covering one wall. Maybe a live peacock wandering about. And a circus tent, complete with a dangling trapeze, over his bed. This is at a bare minimum.

Note how one of the reply tweets is from former child star Alisan Porter. Yep, Curly Sue is all grown up, and she’s game for cavorting in the woods with Adam Lambert, smart girl.

These two have some history: Porter appeared with a pre-Idol Lambert in the much-lampooned Ten Commandments musical that hit Los Angeles back in 2004, the one that starred Val Kilmer as a singularly improbable Moses (quoth the NYT’s Charles Isherwood of Kilmer’s performance: “He is not a gifted singer”). A filmed version of the stage production is available on DVD, and… yeah, the critics aren’t wrong. It’s pretty impressively ungood, start to finish, though the camp aficionado in me did appreciate the bit in the opening sequence where one of the Pharaoh’s goons chases after an infant-toting Hebrew woman while bellowing “GET THAT BABY!” Still, Lambert and Curly Sue both sing their sandals off, and Lambert scampers around the stage without pants for the first half, so, y’know, it’s worth tossing in the Netflix queue.

So next we have Lambert stomping purposefully through the woods en route to the festivities. The sharp minds at MTV have pointed out that this part bears certain thematic and stylistic similarities to the classic (“classic”) video for Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance,” and gadzooks, they’re sort of right.

I love “Safety Dance,” and I’m only moderately ashamed to admit it.

And I feel absolutely no shame about my love of “If I Had You.” This is the song that kicks off with, “So I got my boots on, got the right amount of leather…”, a lyric so irresistible and so ludicrous that my brain pretty much short-circuits right there every time I hear it, making me unable to focus on the rest of the song. Something about how love is even better than stripper heels and Maseratis, I think. Judging by this video, Lambert’s definition of the right amount of leather is roughly eight times more leather than any other person would deem the right amount. Leather overcoat? Check. Leather boots? Check. Leather pants? Check. Leather fingerless gloves? Check and check. This kid never does anything half-assed, by gum. He commits.

Before long, the bacchanalia is in full swing. Singing! Dancing! Lasers! Fog machines! Attractive people in outlandish skimpy costumes! The spark of inspiration for this video reportedly came from Lambert’s real-life experiences at the Burning Man festival. Here’s the thing: Lambert is so bizarrely charismatic and magnetic he can even manage to make Burning Man sound kind of appealing: Hmm, yes, I see, several days of life-threatening desert heat combined with inadequate sanitation and a shitload of hallucinogens, why, this does sound like a mighty fun time! Tell me more, Adam.

Quick costume change! Hey, he’s whipped out the shoulder spikes again! Lambert is not a small guy—he’s over six feet tall and built like a gladiator, and he tends to dress to exaggerate his size: spikes in his hair, spikes on his shoulders, bulky coats, platform boots. Everything about his public image is cranked up to maximum volume. He’s the Mae West of contemporary pop music, raunchy and larger than life and iconic and hilarious.

Another costume change! Now he’s got dreadlocks, a jazzy silver top hat, a sequined coat, a bunch of dangling jewelry… you know, I can’t even tell what’s going on with the rest of his outfit; I just know that it’s kind of awesome. There are elements to Lambert’s style that defy analysis.

The revelry and mayhem continue. The crowd grows. If this video were a Bret Easton Ellis novel, someone would be found the next day bound to a tree with his throat slashed and his entrails ripped out by coyotes. Since this is an Adam Lambert video, though, the worst that will happen is that everyone will slink home in the wee hours of the morning reeking of patchouli and burned hair, pants missing, shoes sticky with Red Bull and melted banana Popsicles, dehydrated and bewildered but strangely happy.

Apparently this video is chock-full of cameos from members of Lambert’s inner circle, including all his friends from his days performing with the Zodiac Show (Wikipedia editors seem to think Ke$ha is in there somewhere, and hey, they could be right). Disgracefully, the only person I can identify for certain is American Idol’s adorable Allison Iraheta.

One of these days, I’m going to write a long, rambling, brainy doctoral thesis about Lambert’s entire American Idol experience, in which the viewing public received its first balls-out blast of his unstoppable charisma. Ten years from now, this kid is going to be ruling the world. At least odds are good he’ll be a benevolent dictator. Glitter-covered platform boots and peppy dance tunes for everyone!

I adore Adam, but at some level, it’s got to be exhausting to be friends with him. I get the feeling this video depicts a pretty average evening for him. Like, he invites you over for what he claims will be a quiet night of Netflix and wine, and then he gets the idea to go for a moonlit hike in the Hollywood Hills, and the next thing you know, he’s texted a few hundred of his closest friends, assembled his band members, and packed a couple of steamer trunks full of wardrobe changes. Then all of a sudden he’s shooting off fireworks and frolicking with Chinese dragons and singing up a storm, and you realize your low-key evening has turned into a huge, glamorous, all-night event.

Not that I’m complaining. He makes it all seem pretty awesome. This is the magic of Adam Lambert.

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Anonymous said…
OMGGGGG this is hilarious, all true too. And yeah he said he basically invited his real life friends to do it, including his ex boyfriend "Cheeks" whos in the twitter list in the beginning. Surprised you didnt find a hilarous comment for the HR Puffinstuff costume we see briefly. And 10 commandments, I was clips to hear Adam sing and my brain ALWAYS says WTF is Val Kilmer doing lurking in the background. haha

Great job!! thanks
Morgan Richter said…
Thanks, purplegirll! Yeah, the presence of Val Kilmer in Ten Commandments raises the WTF factor to an absurdly high level. I mean, I like Kilmer just fine, but I have no idea what he was doing in it. I'm pretty sure he didn't know, either...
Ellen said…
You're absolutely right, in 10 years he will be ruling the world ! Glad you appreciate the uniqueness & awesomeness of Adam. A standard phrase his fans say is #What Is He Wearing ??? Thanks for this hilarious video review.
genome38 said…
Hilarious! I'll be waiting for that thesis......
Unknown said…
I perfect description of Adam F.Lambert..he is a Magic man. I'm under his spell since 2009..
Sue said…
Love this! You get that Adam loves to play, to out dazzle and laugh... Even at himself!!
T. said…
He makes me want to go out and party in the woods! :) He looks like a hella fun time. Funny writeup but sounds so spot on. ;)
Morgan Richter said…
Thanks so much, everyone!

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