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Adam Lambert on Becoming the Voice of London Pride, Nail Polish, and Queen

Adam Lambert on Becoming the Voice of London Pride, Nail Polish, and Queen

Adam Lambert
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

His new song will be the theme for London Pride, and he has made his first movie, has created his own nail polish, and will soon return to Queen for a North America tour

I will just get this out of the way right up front: I’m an unabashed Adam Lambert fan. So if you’re expecting this column to be unbiased, then click on something else.

I don’t watch American Idol, so I’ll confess to that too, but my ears perked up when I heard that he did a rendition of one of my all-time favorite songs, “Mad World” (a song originally performed by Gary Jules in 2001), when he was competing on the show and was the runner-up in 2009. That song is epic, just like Lambert.

More recently, Lambert did his version of Duran Duran’s “Ordinary World” on his current album, High Drama. That is another song that is close to my heart. While recovering from severe depression and anxiety through 2015, I played this song over and over again. “And as I try to make my way, to the ordinary world, I will learn to survive.” I did, and although depression lingered with fits and starts for over seven years, Lambert’s version came just in time for me to say that now I have truly learned to survive.

High Drama also includes a stirring rendition of “Holding Out for a Hero,” a Bonnie Tyler classic. To many, Lambert is a hero since he’s given back repeatedly to the LGBTQ+ community while his star has soared after he was outed during his American Idol appearance. He persevered, and his second album Trespassing in 2013 debuted at number one on the Billboard charts, making him the first out artist to achieve that milestone.

During the past 10 years, Lambert’s outspoken pride in being gay has served as a beacon to millions around the world. Two years ago, we reported on Lambert’s work on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community. In 2019, Lambert launched the Feel Something Foundation, which focuses on promoting LGBTQ+ human rights by assisting other charities that are moving the needle for communities of all ages and backgrounds.

The launching of the foundation was the result of Lambert’s career traveling the world, meeting global members of the community, hearing their stories, and witnessing firsthand the difficulties LGBTQ+ people continue to face in all areas of life.

At the Cannes Film Festival last month, Lambert did a benefit performance at the amfAR Gala, where he brought down the house with performances that included that stirring rendition of "Ordinary World."

What Lambert’s masterful remakes do is reignite long lost memories, evoke a time, person or a place, conjure up thoughts of surviving, and all the while being mesmerized by his unequaled voice.

When I had the pleasure of speaking with Lambert, that’s the first question I asked, meaning, what’s the criteria of choosing the songs that he reimagines? Is it that they have a message, or is it the tune that attracts him to it? “I think it’s a mix of everything, the message, the tune, and the artists,” Lambert explained during a recent phone call. “For High Drama I went with the unique sounds of Billie Eilish, Pink, and Duran Duran."

"All of the songs I choose are from genuine and true artists who have a unique style," he added. "I pick songs that might be part of my story, something I have lived. And I pick songs that I know I can put a twist on. That’s what I really love about doing these songs, is getting creative, and spinning the songs into something new.”

That’s what he did for his latest addictive new single, “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real),” the 1978 classic disco party anthem by Sylvester, an out and proud singer-songwriter who gained stardom during the disco era in the '70s and early 80s. The song was a commercial success for Sylvester. It’s been called his greatest record. Tragically, Sylvester died of AIDS complications in 1988. I told Lambert that I’m old enough to remember the song, but I never knew the person behind it.

“I’ve always loved the song, and I am really excited to put my style behind it,” Lambert said. “I have always been fascinated by San Francisco in the ’60 and ‘70s, and I saw a documentary about the intersection of the queer and hippie communities. Also, I was fascinated by the performance art of the Cockettes, which Sylvester was a part of for a few years. The modernized version is a tribute that honors Sylvester. He was way ahead of his time in terms of his attire, flamboyance, and his performances. He was such a pioneer, and I only hope that my version maintains the original soul of the song.”

The song will serve as the anthem for London Pride on July 1, where Lambert will perform. “The song speaks to celebrating self, freedom, and uniting everyone, so it’s the perfect song for Pride," he said. "I put together an hour-long show that will be held in Trafalgar Square, and I’m so excited to do this.”

I asked Lambert that in his wildest dreams did he ever imagine, when he was younger, that he’d not only be a global superstar but such an iconic member of the LGBTQ+ community? “I moved to California when I was 6 years old, and while everyone has their dreams of what they want to do when they grow up, it’s rare that those dreams become a reality,” he said.

“When I came off American Idol, I had to focus on that part of me [being gay] and make sure that I always consider how I represent my identity and our community,” Lambert continued. “You quickly figure out that you need to be authentic, honest, and unapologetic about who you are. For so many people, it takes such courage to be themselves, particularly for younger LGBTQ+ people in areas of the country where it’s much harder to come out and dare to be who they are.”

Lambert added that his goal is to effect change in any way he can. “We’ve come so far, and the division in this country is especially hurting our community. We need to dig our heels in and stand up and support each other." And he had a specific message for the drag community: “We have your back. Drag is one of the most beloved art forms there is. Anybody that feels outrage, please know that you are loved and admired, and we are with you.”

Lambert is also gearing up for a North American tour with Queen after a four-year hiatus. I asked if he will ever get tired of performing with the legendary band. “Oh, not all,” was his obvious answer. “Queen is about lifting people up, and the audience goes through the roof at every concert as we perform those classic big hits. It never gets old, and it's an honor to keep Freddie’s music alive. And I just love seeing the guys like Brian [May] and Roger [Taylor] light up when we’re performing. The whole experience is awesome.”

In addition to his new album, Lambert is launching a limited-edition nail polish collection with ORLY based on High Drama. Proceeds will benefit Stand With Trans, a nonprofit supporting transgender youth and families.

And this year Lambert starred in his first feature film, Fairyland, which was produced by Sofia Coppola and had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. “It’s a thrilling time in my life,” he said. “I have such a variety of new projects that are fresh. It’s an exciting time in my career as I start to take off in many different directions. I’m grateful for it all.”

Watch the lyric video to "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" below.

Adam Lambert x Sigala - You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) [Lyric Video]

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John Casey

John Casey is senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. The columns include interviews with Sam Altman, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Colman Domingo, Jennifer Coolidge, Kelly Ripa and Mark Counselos, Jamie Lee Curtis, Shirley MacLaine, Nancy Pelosi, Tony Fauci, Leon Panetta, John Brennan, and many others. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the Nobel Prize-winning UN IPCC, and with four of the largest retailers in the U.S.
John Casey is senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. The columns include interviews with Sam Altman, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Colman Domingo, Jennifer Coolidge, Kelly Ripa and Mark Counselos, Jamie Lee Curtis, Shirley MacLaine, Nancy Pelosi, Tony Fauci, Leon Panetta, John Brennan, and many others. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the Nobel Prize-winning UN IPCC, and with four of the largest retailers in the U.S.