Kris Allen vs. Adam Lambert on CD - The American Idol Battle Continues

by Chris Narloch

The American Idol music machine rolls on with each season’s winners and cast-offs desperately trying to extend their 15 minutes of fame with rushed-release CDs that more often than not are underwhelming.

The problem with this strategy is that, much like the show itself, these discs thrust young performers (who in most cases are somewhat inexperienced) on to the world stage. This type of high-profile pressure can crush a budding career before it’s even had a chance to begin.

Last year’s top two, Kris Allen and Adam Lambert, recently released their first post-Idol CDs, which are textbook examples of, respectively, what to do and what not to do if you suddenly find yourself with a recording contract. 

Kris Allenkris

Kris Allen
Unlike Adam Lambert, who is a bad boy with a great voice, Kris Allen is a good boy with a so-so voice. No one was more surprised than I when Allen sailed into the winner’s circle last season on Idol, and yet thinking back after the win, I realized that I had underestimated the ‘po-dunk’ pop-rocker.

Allen’s Idol-ized covers of Kanye West’s “Heartless” and Donna Summer’s “She Works Hard for the Money” were inspired interpretations that seemed to come out of nowhere, and they negated his critics’ claims that he was just a pretty, Christian boy with no talent.

Whereas Adam Lambert’s over-sized talent and ego caused him to crash and burn on Idol as often as he soared into the artistic stratosphere, Allen plugged along and pretty consistently gave his fans exactly what they wanted.

This strategy also works for Allen on his debut, self-titled CD, which exudes the same upbeat, tuneful pop-rock vibe that took him to the top on Idol.

Allen knows his limits as a singer, and he doesn’t overdo it, giving catchy compositions such as “Before We Come Undone,” “Written All over My Face” and “Red Guitar” just the right touch.

Adam Lambertlambert

For Your Entertainment
Sony Music
Adam Lambert is not the boy next door, and for anyone who didn’t already know that, they found out during the American Music Awards, where his sexually-charged, openly gay performance raised jaded music industry eyebrows.

I thought that appearance was pretty cool from a queer perspective — until I listened to Lambert’s CD, which is dismayingly awful. For somebody who clearly wants to push the envelope and ruffle people’s feathers, For Your Entertainment is surprisingly tame.

Although Lambert shrewdly enlisted hit-makers such as Lady Gaga, Matthew Bellamy, and Justin Hawkins to write songs for the CD, even the few lyrics with potential are mostly produced in the same generic-sounding way.

Lambert needs to ‘just say no’ to inferior songs such as “Strut” and “Sleepwalker,” and the first cut, which should be a CD’s calling card, is a disappointing dud entitled “Music Again” that aims for Queen and settles for Mika. Only the disc’s title track and its last cut, “Time for Miracles” (from 2012), actually succeed.

Lambert clearly hasn’t figured out yet how to capture his extravagant talents on CD. (Performing on stage, which this singer has down, is not the same thing as recording in a studio.) Maybe next time out, he should try a live album or a collection of hook-filled covers with that Adam Lambert spin.


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