Video Analysis: Adam Lambert’s “Never Close Our Eyes”

I’m ending my fresh-content drought with a quick look at Adam Lambert’s 2012 music video for “Never Close Our Eyes.” Hit it, Adam!

We open, promisingly, in some kind of grim dystopic future. Lines of dead-eyed young people are herded through a stark white facility. Everyone’s clad in stylishly-distressed cargo pants and leggings and cardigans and hoodies in universally-flattering neutral shades of blush and taupe and cream. You could take screenshots from this video and pass them off as Calvin Klein’s fall collection, and no one would be any the wiser.

Upon first viewing, this actually made me a little grumpy. It’s set in a prisonlike institution in a bleak dystopian society, for crying out loud! Nobody has any business wearing well-fitting knitwear separates! Then I decided to chill out and interpret this video as both a paean to nonconformity and a cautionary tale about becoming a slave to the rigid mores of fashion, and suddenly it all made perfect sense. Lambert, after all, has long been a devoted acolyte of the Wear Whatever the Hell You Want, Especially If It’s Super-Flashy school of fashion, and it’s very likely his idea of a grim future is one in which everyone wears oatmeal-colored turtlenecks paired with gray leggings. He’s on the front lines of a revolution, and goddamn, if he has to fight for his right to host VH-1’s Divas Live while swaddled in a coat made from the freshly-skinned hides of the Fire Gang from Labyrinth, that’s exactly what he’s going to do.

(On that note: It’s blasphemy to even suggest it, because of course no one can possibly fill David Bowie’s shoes, to say nothing of his disturbingly clingy silver pants, but… look, every few years the idea of a Labyrinth remake gets tossed about, which is a terrible idea right there and obviously this should never happen, but if someone’s going to go ahead and do it anyway, wouldn’t Lambert make a splendid Goblin King?)

Back to the video: Lambert and his fellow inmates are lining up to receive their machine-dispensed daily allotment of Tylenol Extra Strength PM Rapid Release Gelcaps®. It’s good to see the faceless tyrannical overseers of this institution have permitted Lambert to keep his eyeliner and high-end hair products whilst in captivity. I mean, they’re not savages.

Instead of taking his medicine like a good prisoner, Lambert crushes the pills in his fingerless-gloved hand, creating a cloud of pretty blue smoke.

So Adam is magical. But we all knew that already, right?

All the prisoners are herded into little glass cubicles to receive funky eyeball scans. Between this and the shots of the omnipresent security cameras throughout the compound, the video is clearly introducing some (very timely!) themes about the perils of living in a surveillance state. It’s also drawing an explicit link—eyes, you know—to the title of the song.

Title aside, there’s no real connection between the video and the Bruno Mars-penned lyrics of “Never Close Our Eyes”, which is just a very pretty song about being with the one you love. This sets it apart from much of the rest of Lambert’s oeuvre, the themes of which tend to fall into one of two categories:

1. Be your own person, no matter what the rest of the world thinks of you (“Trespassing”, “Strut”)

2. Hey, let’s go off and have a lot of really great sex! (“For Your Entertainment”, “Fever”, “Shady”)

(And then there are the occasions where Lambert’s lyrics manage to encompass both themes at once, as in the case of “Strut”: You’ve got something to say, your hands are tied / Open your mouth, open it wide. Now, there’s a lyric that, depending on your mindset, can be interpreted either as a reminder of the importance of self-expression, or as an insight into Lambert’s nightly shenanigans. Because I have a filthy mind, I vote for the latter.)

At the conclusion of all the retinal scanning, it’s time for a bout of synchronized floor-scrubbing. Lambert is a heartbeat away from leading his fellow inmates in a rousing chorus of “It’s a Hard Knock Life.”

I’m a sucker for a good dystopic and/or post-apocalyptic setting (please note the title of this site), so this is all right up my alley. I was mentally checking off the stylistic influences on this video, from Logan’s Run to The Island and all points in between, and then it dawned on me—this is pure uncut Solarbabies. Think about it: You’ve got a gaggle of attractive young people trapped in a grim institution and forced to labor under the oppressive thumb of a dictatorial society, who eventually escape and find their freedom through quasi-mystical means. And, like Solarbabies, it ends with a whole lot of celebratory dancing.

…I mean, Solarbabies is a near-legendary stinker, whereas this video is really quite tasteful and well-made, but the influence is there nonetheless. Full credit to director Dori Oskowitz: Every shot in this video is gorgeously composed, with plenty of lovely imagery and the immaculate production values of, say, an expensive Apple commercial.

The downside to this, though, is that the overall effect is maybe a little too orderly and contained. Dystopic videos work best when there’s a touch of incomprehensibility about the proceedings, mixed with a healthy dollop of madness. A high-voltage, balls-to-the-wall performer like Lambert can handle as much chaos as you can throw at him. Adam, here’s my unsolicited suggestion for one of your future projects: Text Nile Rodgers and ask him to hook you up with his old pals in Duran Duran. Collaborate with the band on a catchy dance tune, then film a gonzo, glorious, nonsensical, awesome music video to accompany it (drag Russell Mulcahy away from his Teen Wolf duties long enough to direct it), in which you all wear head-to-toe designer leather duds while battling mutants in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, a la “Wild Boys” or “Union of the Snake.” You’d fit in perfectly with that pack of glamorous, hilarious bitches. Nick Rhodes, the patron saint of beautiful male pop stars in flawless makeup, would look upon you as one of his own and buy you fancy shoes or a Picasso. There is no possible downside to this scenario.

Because wild boys always shine, Lambert leads the others on a daring escape from the compound. And by “daring escape,” I mean they all hustle out of the building in an orderly manner, unchallenged and unhindered, until they reach a chain-link fence. White-garbed masked guards arrive and spray some kind of white smoky substance at them.

But! All is not lost! Adam whips out his power of Blue Smoky Awesomeness and uses it to neutralize the white smoke. The guards flee in terror.

As an added bonus, the Blue Smoky Awesomeness gives everyone a magical wardrobe change. Farewell, neutral-toned leggings! All of a sudden, they’re off in a Skittles commercial, dancing around and tasting the rainbow of fruit flavors in their snazzy new neon-bright color-changing outfits. 

Yeah, those guards probably aren’t going to stay away forever. Stop dancing, kids. Start running. 

Anyway. That’s pretty much it. Marvelous video. Keep up the good work, Adam.

(General site note: Because I am, as always, roughly two years behind the current cultural zeitgeist, I have just discovered Teen Wolf. To compensate for the disgraceful lack of fresh content around here in recent months, Season One recaps will commence here on August 1st; my optimistic plan is to cover an episode per day until I'm entirely caught up with the current season. This is almost certainly doomed to end in  failure and tears, but I'm going to take an honest stab at it.)

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Anonymous said…
haha I always agree with you and this is no different tho this is probably my least favorite of Adams videoa. In part because its true that it has nothing to do with the song, which again as you pointed out was not written by him so kind of out of the theme and he tried to make it interesting with a fight the man theme but it just wasnt all that exciting although well done.

Yes Adam hit up Nile, he's worked with the best :)

well Adam is working on his next album so hopefully more material to come.

Love your writing, funny as always
RandomMedley said…
This is the most thorough and entertaining review/analysis I've read in two years. Fun with fun and even an explanation of fun. Love the suggestions too.
Morgan Richter said…
purplegirll, yeah, I agree with you that the video, while very well-made, isn't all that exciting. Adam naturally has SO MUCH ENERGY that it's kind of a shame to stick him in such a calm, orderly setting. Still, it's got some lovely visuals and good ideas behind it.

RandomMedley -- Thanks! Adam's just fun to write about.
Anonymous said…
I LOVED your analysis. almost as much as I loved the video and the song. Adam is always up for taking a different view of the subject matter, just as he did in Better Than I Know Myself, and it's interesting and fun. It's too bad there wasn't a video for Shady or Kickin' In, they would have been amazing, I'm sure. Now, if it just had a bunch of naked girls running around in it, God forbid there be naked boys since Adam is gay, and it would have made VH1 Top 20.

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