Album Reviews

Adam Lambert – High Drama

(Rhino) UK release date: 24 February 2023

He made his name on American Idol with a selection of covers adapted to fit his own style. Which is exactly what this fifth album consists of

Adam Lambert - High Drama While Harry Styles remains the most commercially successful pop star to roll off Simon Cowell’s talent TV show conveyor belt, there’s an argument to be had that Adam Lambert has had an even more successful career. Fourteen years after he was runner-up on American Idol, he’s released four successful albums and, of course, found a whole new audience by touring with Queen.

In a way, High Drama is the sort of album you would have expected Lambert to have released after his American Idol stint. He made his name on that show with a selection of cleverly chosen cover versions, which he adapted to fit his own style – which is exactly what his fifth album consists of.

Covers albums are rarely 100% successful – although it’s always interesting to hear an artist’s own spin on a well-known song, over the course of an album it often gets a bit tiring. High Drama is better than most such projects though, helped in no small part by some smart choices, and Lambert’s always impressive voice.

Each song is relatively different to the original too – there’ll be no accusations of karaoke versions here. There are some songs on High Drama that you’d struggle to imagine how anyone can bring anything fresh to them, such as Holding Out For A Hero and Do You Really Want To Hurt Me. However, Lambert turns down the bombast on the Bonnie Tyler classic and gives the song a swaggering, glam-rock beat, with a nod to Goldfrapp. The Culture Club hit too is completely reworked: the reggae beat replaced by a swirling, mysterious synth atmosphere.

There are a few surprises hidden in the tracklisting too. Billie Eilish‘s Getting Older is completely reworked, with Brian May‘s influence apparent in the introduction (the Queen guitarist has produced the album), while Lana Del Rey‘s West Coast loses its languid sheen to become a full-on rocker, with Lambert’s voice at its most powerful.

It’s also obvious that many of these songs are close to Lambert’s heart. The choice of Pink‘s My Attic presumably is a nod to the singer co-writing his debut hit Whataya Want From Me, while the best track on the album, I’m A Man is one that most people may not know. It was originally sung by Jobraith, the first openly gay singer signed to a major label, who died at the tragically young age of 36 of Aids – its inclusion here is a touching acknowledgment of the way that artists like Jobraith paved the way for openly gay artists like Lambert.

There are a couple of misfires – I Can’t Stand The Rain, probably most famous in its Tina Turner iteration, is perhaps one of those songs which has been covered so much that it’s impossible to bring anything new to, while Sia‘s Chandelier loses its pop sheen and becomes a bit too bloated in this more rocky approach.

Yet this is certainly a more successful covers record than most – Ordinary World is at least the equal of the Duran Duran original, and it’s always a delight to hear Lambert camping it up on Mad About The Boy. It’s a fun, if inessential, listen and more proof, if it were needed of course, that Lambert is an excellent interpreter of other people’s songs.

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