The Evolution of Adam – Era 3

So, Era 3 is upon us – or upon you, as of course I am looking at one and two with hindsight.

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about Part 2 of More on Singing, but there has been a lot of Adam action this week and I wanted to pick up on it.  I’ve had lots of people ask me about Ghost Town, but I wanted to wait until I’d heard a live (or TV) performance of it, as for me it’s more difficult to get much from a recording. Adam sang on the Ellen DeGeneres show yesterday and the video was available on YouTube very quickly afterwards, so I’ve had the opportunity to watch it.

Now, I have to confess that dance music is generally not my thing, sorry.

Pic credit: Queen Online

Pic credit: Queen Online

To explain – I grew up in a city that was one of the breeding grounds for prog rock, so had the sounds of bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and ELO in my ears.  Therefore becoming a Queenie was an entirely natural progression for me.  Going right back to the 70s and the days of disco, dance music has never grabbed me the way that rock and indie music have. I fared slightly better in the 80s with some of the Hi-NRG stuff as I used to go to gay clubs, but I’ve never been a dancer.  As Hi-NRG became rave, house and all the other electronic dance styles, they got further and further away from the music that gives me that rush.  There are odd songs that I like, but as genres they don’t grab me.

Therefore I tend to prefer Adam’s rock-influenced or acoustic music, but this is down to my taste and the fact that our musical likes and dislikes in music are completely subjective.

Pic credit: officialcharts.com

Pic credit: officialcharts.com

Ghost Town isn’t entirely my thing; I think the lyrics are very interesting – dark and sometimes quite surreal.  I like the acoustic section and the bridge, but for me the house-influenced chorus, although very “earwormy” doesn’t add up to a song that makes me want to listen to it constantly. Adam did say in one of his interviews that he wanted Ghost Town to be schizophrenic, so in that respect he’s succeeded, but my ears like music that I feel is logical; that’s just me.  None of us can like one artist’s entire output; there are certainly Queen tracks that I will skip past and I’ve never owned a copy of Hot Space as I just didn’t “get it”.  Surprise, surprise – that’s dance-orientated too!

Irrespective of whether or not I completely loved Ghost Town though, I wanted the opportunity to see Adam perform it live, for a number of reasons.  First of all, I wanted to see how the song worked live. I was also interested to see how it would be accompanied and what sort of band would be used. I was also keen to hear how Adam sang live and how he would perform.

Here it is – I’m sure you’ve watched it many times already – but when you watch it this time, listen to the tone of Adam’s voice and watch his movements (I know that won’t be difficult!)

(video from TheEllenShow Youtube uploads)

This is definitely Era 3 Adam, with all the experience that he has gathered from nearly two years working with Queen.  It has made a tremendous difference to him in many ways which I’ll explain in a minute.

In comparison, this is Adam when he released Never Close Our Eyes in 2012 – to judge the two performances fairly, I chose this deliberately as it’s another dance-influenced song, and I have picked another TV performance; this one is from when he sang on the Graham Norton Show in the UK.  Do try and listen to both of these songs back to back, as it’s easier to see and hear how much has changed in three years.

(video from cultureofdestruction’s YouTube uploads)

In 2012, Adam’s voice was really rather different to what we heard on the Ellen show yesterday.  There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Vocal maturity as a result of ageing – singing voices mature at different rates. The largest, heaviest voices take longer and the most powerful opera singers may be in their early forties before they hit their vocal peak.  Lighter voices mature earlier, but I would expect a voice like Adam’s to attain its maximum potential when he is in his mid-thirties.  At the age of 33, he isn’t too far off that now.  When a singing voice is fully mature, the sound of it will be at its most vibrant; the voice will be at its strongest in terms of range and power.  This is exactly the same principle as when an athlete or dancer is at their optimum performing, although the age this happens varies hugely with the discipline; dancers and gymnasts mature far earlier (early 20s or even teens) because of the body flexibility required.  Sports that require speed or strength are linked to maximum muscle development and cardiovascular capacity (usually mid 20s-early 30s), whereas marathon runners, who need endurance, will be at their best when older than this (usually 30-37 years of age).  Singers need strength, endurance and muscle memory, which explain why they mature at this later age.
  • Fitness – all that work in the gym has paid off! Reading up on Adam’s gym routine, he does a lot of work on his core muscles; abdominals, back and pelvis. These muscles are the power for a singer’s engine.  If these are strong and work well, the voice will be well-supported (remember what I was saying about supporting the voice with air in the last blog entry?). These muscles give power and stability to the voice and help protect the throat from injury.  Adam also does a lot of cardiovascular work which increases general fitness and lung capacity; this in turn will also improve his voice.
  • Performance style – we are seeing “less is more” Adam as he performed during the QAL tour. His movements are fluid, well-connected and have intensity; he makes strong movements to reflect the mood of the song and the dance moves are “easy” and sinuous. There is another connection with those core muscles here; when you are taught to act a very common technique is to generate all your movements from your core muscles so that they have strength and intensity.  These is clearly what Adam’s doing and because those core muscles are now so much stronger, the intensity of movement is more noticeable.  The other element to the performance style is confidence; “less is more” Adam doesn’t feel the need to hide behind elaborate costumes or staging – we are seeing him as he is, and he is clearly happy with that these days.
  • Challenge (mental and physical) – most of us only get better at something if we push ourselves to do it better. The runner is always looking to shave precious seconds of their time; the diver tries to squeeze in that extra half-twist before reaching the water. It’s exactly the same with the performing arts. Adam’s made it clear in lots of interviews that he is a perfectionist, and QAL was a fantastic opportunity to push himself further than ever before. This included coping with that massive Queen sound, pacing himself through a very taxing set including those power ballads and lots of movement and learning a large set of complex music.  Last but not least, there was the psychological demand of stepping into Freddie’s incomparable shoes – paying tribute without imitating and winning over audiences who may have known little or nothing about him.  That was an immense challenge all on its own.
Pic credit: masslive.com

Pic credit: masslive.com

All of these things together add up to Era 3 Adam, who can deliver a truly sophisticated and sensitive performance.  To me, it’s pretty immaterial that I don’t think Ghost Town is the greatest song I’ve ever heard as the thing I’m most taken with is the evolution of Adam as a performer.  Of course, as a hardcore Queenie I’m immensely grateful to Brian and Roger for making this possible, as not only do I get to see the development of an outstanding performer, I’ve had the opportunity to see him perform with the greatest rock band in the world.

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23 thoughts on “The Evolution of Adam – Era 3

  1. I see it now Kym–I see the difference. Having watched Adam continuously for 6 years, I hadn’t really noticed the subtle changes over the years–you provided a fresh perspective. It really is a new era!

    By the way, I also prefer the acoustic verses and the power bridge. But I think it all fits together and works cohesively overall.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. yeah well Im a rock chick too and yup agreed ghost town not my fav, not a dance tune fan but I keep saying well its not important I love it, but everyone else loves it 🙂
    as for the live version I dunno I thought the beginning was a little I dunno weak? not the right word for Adam, soft? maybe, not sure it started ok not great for me but then picked up when he was breaking into the bridge, my fav part of course lolol
    I love Adam I think hes so talented he could do literally anything which is hard cuz then if you can do anything and everything well what do you do?
    I want him to do just whatever bloody hell he wants & get success from it and I think that is happening, he always did love a dance tune 🙂
    Also while not my fav its at least interesting, most pop music is genetic glop and max martin is not that different so Im happy its not tediously generic at least 🙂
    I think the live performance will pick up with time, it always does

    cant wait to hear what Adam and Brian cooked up 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lisa – considering it’s quite a while since Adam released his own music, he may have been slightly nervous at the beginning of the song as he would know that the first live TV performance would be a big deal.

      I agree with you about Adam being able to sing nearly anything – I’ve heard recordings on YouTube of everything from music theatre to reggae! When you have such an adaptable voice it can be difficult to find your true niche.

      I can’t wait to hear what Adam and Brian cooked up either – and it would be great if they get to perform it live together!

      Like

  3. I think the problem you have with the live performance is that he started a wee bit off time in the beginning it didn’t take him long to get it right but its something I noticed, probably because its so rare. He’s also doing this without his usual band lineup which from what I see on twitter is a thing of the past. Sadly😞 I absolutely love this song. That video is a masterpiece. To quote Paula Abdul ” you are going to be iconic, brilliant” So true!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. You are so articulate and knowledgeable when it comes to music, vocal and performance ability. I am a die-hard Glambert so I have watched Adam’s performances for years. I loved the Queen tour and saw two shows. He is definitely evolving as an artist and performer. I totally agree about Ghost Town….great concept, great idea, but just not substantial enough for me with a singer like Adam. Why couldn’t they add one, two or three lines to “My Heart is a Ghost Town” to make it feel like a chorus, or add an acoustic verse at the end, maybe one that had some hope that his heart can recover. I just needed one more verse or bridge, or better yet a chorus.

    I don’t know why Adam can’t find that perfect song that will catapult him to the top. There are so many songs that sound alike I realize. Music has been around so long, ideas have to be hard to come by. But he deserves his due and he has Max Martin and Shellback working with him. I hope the rest of the songs on the album are good. I will buy several copies either way.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Finding the perfect song is incredibly difficult. My own personal taste would be for him to do something rock orientated, as it suits his voice and this is also a genre that leads to long careers. Look at how long Queen have been around!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I just get tired of seeing all these mediocre songs and singers winning awards and getting so much airtime on radio and TV. How can people not see what an incredible artist and articulate spokesperson Adam is…….

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you so much for this blog entry …….. it’s so informative and interesting. I have seen the Graham Norton clip quite recently and it’s amazing, as you say, how Adam has progressed. I feel GT is a difficult song to perform live but actually loved it ! I did feel however that there was a little nervousness all round at the beginning but was overcome very quickly. I really hope it gets the airtime and promotion it and Adam truly deserve.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. That’s really fascinating. Adam has developed from the shy guy on that talent show to a major force in vocal and live performance. Ghost Town will never be my fave song but it shows how imaginative he’s becoming. A little improve thrown in. Not too keen on the techno layering, but underneath, theres a pot of media gold.
    I never knew there was so much in developing and maintaining the human singing voice. So interesting to read. Adam being a good example. I think we can here the development in the 2 cd’s. His voice is shattering notes like an 18lb sledgehammer hitting an egg.
    I really have found this interesting to read. Excuse my ignorance, but Would an opera singer do different exercises to a rock singer?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Dave – warm up exercises is a very interesting question! Some of it depends on your own voice and how easy it is to warm up. Some people have to spend a lot longer on it than others, but that’s something you learn about your own voice as you go.

      As a general thing, a classical singer will do things like humming and scales to start with, and then maybe pick through corners of songs that they want to check out. Whether you test out the extreme ends of your voice is personal taste – I’ve never tended to push at the top of my voice too much in warm up, but instead I concentrate on feeling whether the middle of it is comfortable. For me if the middle works, then the rest of it will.

      At the other end of the classical music scale, there is a Wagner soprano called Jane Eaglen who once said in an interview that she likes warming up by singing along to Meatloaf!

      As for whether rock singers warm up, I think this is very variable. I suspect in the old days there were quite a few who warmed up with a drink and a few ciggies! Others will test out bits of songs, but unless someone has had voice training or coaching, I don’t know whether they would do a structured warmup of the type that Adam does. He travels with a vocal coach who will take him through a routine before every performance, and for a singer with a very heavy performance schedule, this is really important to keep everything in good working order.

      Like

      • Thanks Kym. That is so interesting. Love the piece about a soprano warming upto Meatloaf.
        I think of one “naughty man” in particular having a ciggy before he went on stage. You naughty boy Mr. Mercury. And er, Steve Perry (Aerosmith), having, “supplements”.
        Adam’s destiny I think is to be a vocal legend. One of my fave examples of him letting his vocal power go wild is on Pick U up, For your entertainment.
        I suppose there has to be an equal balance when practicing. If a singer pushes it, will there be damage to their vocal range? Could it be that some of the auditions on x factor/ The Voice fail?

        This has been all so informative. Looking forwards to your next blog.
        Thank you 🙂

        Like

  8. just re-read this lol you always include so much information in your posts I read a few times to pick things out an digest. for me much of the fascinating information comes from the body / singing connection. Like most people without the background I just figure open up – sing!
    but I do understand its a physical activity and so it makes sense that there is a connection. I mean I know to physically perform people must be in shape, its rigorous…(I would laugh when I watched jimmy fallon & guests do lip synch battles and he would be out of breath from faking one song lol)
    But the idea of a strong core supporting the voice is interesting and does make sense.

    I have noted that Adam is quite barrel chested and wondered if that helped with his power – is he physically built to be a singer? not bigger lungs per say but I dunno, more chest to support him when singing?

    Anyways love the blog I always learn something 🙂

    Like

    • Hi Lisa – yes, physical build does make a difference!

      It’s not just about lung capacity, but this does help. When you sing, it increases the strength of all sorts of muscles in your body, including the diaphragm which is the large muscle which underpins the lungs. The in and out movement of air is controlled by bands of muscles around the ribcage which are called the intercostals. Like all other muscles, the more you exercise them, the better they will work. This will also increase lung capacity, but there are good singers out there that don’t have the more enormous lungs.

      As I mentioned in the blog, the core muscles are important. Singers, dancers and all sorts of athletes depend on these and working these will also help with lung and cardiovascular capacity. Of course in opera, there was always that image of the enormous diva, but a lot of today’s opera singers, particularly the ones that do the really heavy repertoire like Verdi and Wagner, will be stocky rather than fat.

      Other physical factors that contribute to someone having a good basic “instrument” is (unsurprisangly!) having a well-constructed throat. Many classical singers will have a strong neck and this will expand a lot whilst singing – the international singer Pavarotti is probably the best example of this. A long jaw is also helpful; this creates a longer space between the vocal cords and the lips and will mean you have more capacity to change the sound by changing the shape of that space.

      Like

  9. Yes, this was a very interesting illustration and analysis of how Adam has improved in all aspects of his stage performance in the past three years. It hadn’t actually occurred to me that his gym routine had application beyond making him look even more gorgeous.

    You’re also making me kind of glad that I’m one of those Queen fans who actually does enjoy a lot of dance music as well – I like “Hot Space”, I like dance remixes of Queen music, I love to dance, period – as that makes it easier to enjoy Adam’s solo work. “Ghost Town isn’t my favorite song of his ever, but I’d give it four out of five stars.

    You suggest rock might be a better vehicle for him, but I don’t know. He definitely sings it very well. But dance / pop music definitely dominates the music charts now, and he says that’s the music he personally prefers. Anyway. Very much hope the album does well, as I’d really like to see him in concert on his own.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks Kym!
    Like you, Im classic rock kinda gal! But I do love to dance! This song will take off in the clubs I’m sure! I particularly like how it starts with acoustic then transforms to house music, then back again. Many Queen songs had several layers also, in my humble opinion. I’m lucky to have several young friends, and they’re loving this song! Totally love Adams transformation as a Singer! Thanks again Kym, Love ya!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I really enjoy your professional opinion of Adam Lambert. It adds a great deal to my own enjoyment of his performances and makes me appreciate even more how difficult it is to attain the level that he does.

    Thank you for this, and I look forward to more of the same.

    Marilynb

    *Marilyn*

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: Adam Lambert Week – April 27-May 3, 2015 |

  13. Adam didn’t miss the beginning of the song. He sung it the same as it is on the recording. The song is meant to be softer in the beginning and it builds to a climax. He did it perfectly. His body movements were well coordinated with the song being softer than building to the climax. What helped bring to song to life and set the mood of of the song was Adam’s facial expressions.

    Adam’s voice doesn’t record as well as his live singing. I don’t know why that is. Maybe he feels more free to experiment when he sings live.

    I notice that Adam can alter his voice to have different parts of songs he sings sound different that other parts. For example, in Mad World, when he sang “very nervous,” he changed something that made those words stand out. I don’t see this in other singers. I always loved the way he alters songs when he sings them, but he doesn’t do it so much that it changes the song a lot.

    I think Ghost Town is a song that you have to listen to a lot before it becomes familiar in your head. Listen to this song with headphones-a very different experience than hearing it from speakers. The sound resonates in your head and you forget that there is a brain inside!

    Did you notice that sometimes Adam sings “s” sounds with a little bit of a lisp? He did it when he sang the last “ghost” of the song.

    Who in music today could sing Ghost Town and do it justice? NO ONE!

    Regarding his two performances, NCOE and GT, they are two very different songs and his performance will be very different in both. I think he sand NCOE very well and he was very confident. I think it easier to sing a dance song a ballad/trance one. The discipline is in being so still and doing the dance moves that are appropriate for the song.

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  14. Hi Sue – the reason Adam’s voice sounds better live than in recordings is because of physics!

    I prefer to listen to music through headphones as you can pick up more of the sound that way (as there is no background noise to distract you). I haven’t heard Ghost Town through a stereo at all!

    The combination of Adam’s natural “instrument” and the work he’s done on it means that he can produce lots and lots of acoustic overtones and harmonics. Putting it simply, it means that his voice is multi-layered; there are lots of different component parts to it. Recording equipment, sophisticated as it is, cannot pick up these sounds as well as our own ears can.

    I noticed this immediately when I went to the first QAL concert. I’d heard Adam on TV once previously to this, but his voice in a live environment was so much more complex.

    When I write up More on Singing Part 2 I’m going to cover how singers layer their voices by adding different resonances as this will help explain how you get the “finished” sound.

    Like

  15. It is interesting that so many of the singers of today depend on recording to enhance their voices and to autotune them and then someone like Adam loses some of the great characteristics of his voice when he records. Enrique Eglesias has his voice synthesized most of the time. It sounds like Taylor Swift is singing with a track of her singing making it sound like a double voice to give her voice some body. X Factor UK was using autotune when the contestants sang.

    Would it make sense for Adam to do a live album? Is the sound mixing different on a live album? The QAL concerts that were recorded and put on Youtube seem to display Adam’s full voice better than the studio recordings. Is this due to the acoustics in an arena compared to the studio?

    Sometimes I hear the judges on the singing shows tell contestants not to use their vibratto on certain parts of the song. Why is that? Adam seems to have a vibratto all the time.

    Do you think there is any singer of mainstream music today who is equal to Adam? Do you think that there was any singer of mainstream music in the past 50 years who is equal to Adam?

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  16. Oh, I am glad that I am not the only one who thinks that the song is not the best one. Reeding and translating all the stuff I have a feeling he tried so much to make some commertial succses that he made a hybrid that needs to be listened a lot of times to be listenable. Every hint he put was wrong for me. Even when he spoke about Sweeden – they usually can do just the heavy metal or electric dance music. What I hear reminds me Depeche Mode – Personal Jesus era – I am huge fan of DM – but Adam made it a little bit “dada” way. Cut the pieces and mess up them. So I also preffer his rock version. This kind of music is just the reason I am not listening radio.

    In the interview for Billboard he talked about 90´s music and the bands. We talked at work lately and the common idea was that the music was good till maybe 1993 or 4 and from 2005. Tha gap between was terrible, there were just the good bands as U2 and so on. And he talked about 2 Unlimited, C+C Music Factory and so on – that was the time of my discoteque era and it was the worst music played there. And I thought to myself translating that – OMG, why?! Why this rubbish? There is a lot of better rythms and sounds and he likes this spinning wheel sound? It always kills my fantasy in dancing.

    I hope the rest of the album will be better – he mentioned the Lucy should be something like Dirty Diana (what I love). So thanks for the courage to write it because our admin probably kills me if she finds this post. 8^D

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