Call it the Nick Jonas effect. A middling, mainstream teeny-bop icon decides to go all greyscale and reinvent where they’ve come from with some banging synth-pop. It worked for Jonas, it worked for Brandon Flowers, and it certainly works for Adam Lambert.
It’s all the more surprising given Lambert has never quite stuck with us since day one. Like America’s equivalent of Will Young, his pop career post-Idol has been a series of odd detours that never quite befit his talent. The fact that the term “Glamberts” is used for the fandom encapsulates the high-camp bombast that he chose to adopt – don’t even get us started on that Queen phase – so when Lambert declares “Elvis is dead” on the opening track, we admit we’re a little bit thankful.
The Original High feels like Lambert at his most original and most comfortable (dropping a ‘fuck’ in the first three minutes is a point well made, let’s be honest), and it feels like seeing an artist properly work his magic for the first time. This is in no small part thanks to the executive production credits of Max Martin and Shellback, who can make even a whistle-ditty sound club-ready on the shimmering lead single Ghost Town.
The album pulses with one incredible pop jam after another. The title track is a sprint both lyrically and musically to that eponymous buzz, which is more than rewarded by an explosive chorus. And whether it’s a slower jam like the sensual Underground or the spikier ‘bombs over Broadway’ burial on Evil In The Night, it’s all united by the common thread of Adam Lambert’s supreme charisma. There’s a lot to be said when a feature from fellow musical drug-baron Tove Lo feels like the weakest spot on a record, but it’s such a joy to hear Lambert in his solo element on bangers like The Light that anyone else (especially Brian May) feels like an unwanted distraction.
Suffice to say, this black-and-white rebirth is a turning point for Lambert, not least because it’s allowed him to shed all the frills that he may have felt obliged to project under his old image, ready to show us what he’s really capable of. But maybe those high-theatrics were the workout for Lambert; clearly that path has allowed him to become such a muscular performing artist that he can shoulder the burden of a record front-loaded with power-packed chart smashes. That’s where the heady hit from The Original High comes from: knowing that a talent like this has been in front of us all along, but the sense that we’re truly discovering him for the very first time.
The Original High by Adam Lambert can be ordered here.