November 25, 2009 / 2:08 PM / 9 years ago

Adam Lambert makes a splash, but risks losing fans

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Adam Lambert’s racy public outing as a solo artist at Sunday’s American Music Awards has grabbed headlines and helped send downloads of his debut album soaring worldwide.

The “American Idol” runner-up won publicity with his sexually charged performance for his first CD “For Your Entertainment.” But he risked hurting his career by alienating fans, and did little to show newcomers his biggest selling point — his voice, music industry watchers said.

“On a night when some of the biggest names in music performed — Lady GaGa, Jennifer Lopez, Jay-Z — the only person anyone is talking about is Adam Lambert,” Entertainment Weekly music reporter Michael Slezak said.

“But for me, the real risk is that in his first appearance to the world, Adam runs the risk of being dismissed as a one-note, shock-tactic artist, as opposed to being known for the music,” Slezak told Reuters.

More than 14 million people watched the gay, glam rocker close the live AMA telecast on Sunday with a performance that included dancers in bondage, Lambert kissing a male keyboard player, and pushing the head of a male dancer into his crotch.

The telecast drew more than 1,500 complaints to ABC and caused the network to cancel Lambert’s planned Wednesday appearance on its news and chat show “Good Morning America.”

Lambert, appearing instead on “The Early Show” on CBS, defended his performance and said he had not intended to cause controversy.


“I admit I did get carried away, but I don’t see anything wrong with it. I do see how people got offended, and that was not my intention,” he said.

He said other sexually explicit performances attracted little or no attention.

“If it had been a female pop performer doing the moves that were on the stage, I don’t think there’d be nearly as much of an outrage at all,” Lambert said. “I think it’s because I’m a gay male.”

Asked if he would apologize because children may have seen his performance, he declined. “It was almost 11 o’clock at night,” he said. “I’m not a baby-sitter. I’m a performer.”

The furor seems to have boosted early prospects for his album as he seeks to establish himself in an industry grappling with a 40 percent drop in album sales in the past 10 years.

Released Monday through Sony Music Entertainment, “For Your Entertainment” was No. 4 on iTunes’ U.S. album download chart by Tuesday night, No. 1 in Finland and No. 3 in New Zealand.

“It seems like a win-win to me” said Steve Knopper, author of “Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age.”

But Knopper added that Lambert still has much to prove “and in order to make money in today’s music business, you have got to be a strong concert performer.”

Lambert, 27, took a flair for showmanship, a penchant for eyeliner, powerful vocals and sexual ambivalence all the way to the finals of top-rated U.S. TV show “American Idol” in May.

Knopper said it was too early to tell whether Lambert’s AMA tactics would bring long-term success.

“If in a year from now we are not talking about him, it won’t be because of his performance at the AMAs or his vocal performance, but because he can’t hack it in the business.”

Additional reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst in New York; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Will Dunham

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