Well hello Ladies and Gents! It’s time for another installment of Judgement Day: Pop Heaven or Hell!
Today Adam Lambert’s long-awaited sophomore album: “Trespassing” (in stores on 5/15/2012) is standing at the pearly gates of Pop Heaven waiting to find out what The Pop Gods have decided as it’s fate. Will it be allowed into Pop Heaven, banished to Pop Hell or simply left to wallow somewhere in Pop Limbo?
Now, before the verdict is revealed, I must admit that I may have said in the last instalment of Judgement Day that I was going to depart from the formulaic track-by-track album review. Since I started this blog back in November, I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with lots of pop culture enthusiasts, be they fellow pop bloggers or simply fans. While I have yet to encounter every fan base, I would have to say you’d be hard pressed to find any fan group who are more devoted and supportive than that of The “Glamily” (also known as “Glamberts” and some as “Fanberts,” others just “Berts”.) I posted back in December 2011 about lead single “Better Than I Know Myself” as someone who had not always called himself a fan of Lambert’s and in the time since I would say that I’ve hopefully become at least a distant member of the Glamily and I’m confident that my fellow Glamberts would prefer I give “Trespassing” it’s due time and consideration.
Check out the Judgement Day: Scorecard and the track by track review, after the break…
The title track opens the set and immediately I’m floored. “Trespassing“, produced by Pharrell Williams, starts the album “balls out” and sounds like an iconic 70’s rock anthem brought onto the dance floor for 2012. Equal parts Queen (particularly “Another One Bites The Dust”) and Michael Jackson, you will probably be sing-humming and stomp-clapping along to this one for the rest of the day!
The onslaught of Glamitude doesn’t stop there as the album heads from one banger into another. Next up is the BRILLIANT “Cuckoo.” When performed live this track sounded very pop-rock but here it’s found to be a gorgeously produced dance track that exudes the 1980’s triumphantly and even defiantly. (Those vocal arrangements scream 80’s hair rock, don’t they?) I dare say, if “Cuckoo” doesn’t have its day at the top of the charts then there is something wrong in the world. I’m not being melodramatic.
Track three: “Shady” finds Adam once again channelling the King of Pop with the help of Aussie singer/songwriter Sam Sparro and American guitarist Nile Rodgers. Funky and reminiscent of songs like “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder, this is a definite contender for single in my eyes, especially if radio does what it should and starts to move away from the barrage of David Guetta sound-alikes. Adam’s vocals are soulful and on point as he croons: “No I ain’t broken but I need a fix” and powerful as he goes on to snarl “Turn it up, Turn it wayyyyyy up, don’t stop the beat!” In case you weren’t paying attention, this track is FIRE!
The second (and current) single “Never Close Our Eyes” is up next. This track throbs with energy and emotion. It’s by some accounts a beautiful love song but otherwise applicable to simply living life to the fullest. Penned by Bruno Mars, Adam’s voice is tender and/or powerful when and where it needs to be. Having heard the other songs on the album, I do question this now as the second single choice but it does seem to be getting great buzz thus far and hopefully will be a hit and put this album on the map. Those harmonies and that soaring note on the chorus, though. Goosebumps!
Track four entitled “Kickin’ In” is beat-heavy but in a different way than anything we’ve heard thus far on the album. I would go so far as to say I haven’t heard anything like this song in pop music in recent years but it seems like it could have been a Justin Timberlake track. While it certainly references many genres and feels sort of familiar in parts, as a whole it’s produced in a very spastic way, once again by Pharrell Williams. This track has great energy and I can see myself dancing to it. On repeat listens it’s grown on me but remains one of my least favorites of the set.
The vocal pacing on the next song: “Naked Love” took some getting used to for me (the delivery felt so slow on those verses) but by listen #3 that vocal melody worked me over! Classic pop through and through, this Benny Blanco production is just too infectious not to love it. Like many of the album tracks, it has a certain 80’s or 90’s sensibility in the vocal melody and truthfully seems like the most obvious choice for a summer 2012 single. I can hear this blasting from the speakers of a convertible cruising in the summer breeze. While not a personal favorite, this song quickly went from Pop Limbo to Pop Heaven in a couple of listens!
Track #6, entitled “Pop That Lock” was another one that didn’t grab me right away. If you’re anything like me and think you’re not sure about this track, please put on some high quality headphones and listen to it at a bearable but somewhat overwhelming volume. There is something about the refrain of “If you’ve got the key then baby pop that lock” that makes me think of classic Madonna, though I’m sure others will think that’s ridiculous. Overall this track is pretty fun! “Werk, Bitch!”
The album is meant to have a light and dark component, like the yin and yang. While I don’t necessarily think it was meant to be divided so clearly, here (for the most part) the album starts to get both slower and moodier.
I reviewed the lead single: “Better Than I Know Myself” back in December. Nothing new here; Still head over heels in love with this song. Gorgeous.
Where the dub step breakdown has become a pop staple over the last few years, Lambert takes it to the extreme with track #8: “Broken English.” The track boasts intense, full-length dub-step production, making it one of the less commercial sounding tracks on the album. It has transcendent, soaring vocals, tight hypnotic harmonies and a breakdown that sounds a bit like Darren Hayes on a horror movie score. Experimental, Gritty and ever so beautiful!
In the next track, “Underneath,” Adam has written what could end up being the most breathtaking song of his career. Dark, emotional and atmospheric; it is a lyrical and sonic masterpiece in every way. (“Strip away the flesh and bone, look beyond the lies you’ve known, everybody wants to talk about a freak, no one wants to dig that deep, let me take you underneath…”) Imagine that Richard Marx wrote a confessional song about his dark side in the vein of Madonna’s “Ray of Light” album – then imagine it modern. One of the most haunting and beautiful songs, ever. Period.
Adam ventures into territory a step closer to that on his debut album “For Your Entertainment” in the next song: “Chokehold.” It’s a step back toward a more pop-rock vibe but with very pop-forward production securing a cohesive fit with the other tracks from this era. It’s doesn’t stand out as a potential single, but does separate itself from the pack for being different and is a great song nonetheless.
“Outlaws of Love” has been making the rounds for a while in live performances. The good news is that the recorded version of this anthem for “misfit” lovers is just as satisfying. This track should ring especially true to the LGBT community, particularly in this time with the fight for marriage equality in the U.S. Lambert cries out: “They say we’ll rot in hell, but I don’t think we will, they’ve branded us enough Outlaws of Love…” Heartbreakingly beautiful, this song concludes the standard edition of the album.
On first deluxe editon bonus track: “Runnin“, Lambert sings in his rarely featured low register over a strong, almost industrial beat. The build in the vocal melody on the chorus is phenomenal as Adam moves from lower to upper registers from line to line. The song builds overwhelmingly in intensity and has a certain triumph about it and has become an unexpected favorite. I would have included this track in the standard edition and made “Kickin’ In” a bonus track. My only complaint is the way the track ends in a flurry of blips and feedback. So very abrupt!
“Take Back” wins the award for the least interesting track on the deluxe version of the album, which is probably why it was a bonus track. It’s a perfectly good song, but among the gems this album holds it comes off as the most ordinary and even production-wise, feels like the odd man out. It sounds like it could easily have fit on Pink’s last two albums.
We close with the gorgeous electronic lullaby that is “Nirvana“, where Lambert sings “We can escape.. to a higher plane.. in Nirvana.. stay where the dreamers lay” over a rippling beat. The synths, the bassline and the flawless vocal harmonies are enough to send me to another plane of consciousness. The track contains echoes of pop singer Darren Hayes, but is distinctly Adam. If Lambert was “Tresspassing” when this journey began, I think it’s safe to say that he’s feeling a lot more welcome here.
Here’s the Judgement Day: Scorecard showing how we rated the individual tracks:
Trespassing is in stores on 5/15/2012 and is available now for Pre-Order on iTunes and many other online music retailers!
It’s pretty obvious: Adam Lambert’s “Trespassing” is…