I’ve just realised it’s just over three weeks since I last did an entry – it doesn’t seem that long! It’s not just abject laziness or a QAL-deprived coma, there are a number of reasons. I have honestly been waiting for The Original High to arrive so that I could listen to it and write about it here; I’ve another major writing project in the pot at the moment away from this blog and sometimes, life just gets in the way.
Enough already – I’m sure you’ve all been immersed in interviews, catching up with TV appearances and listening out for Adam on the radio, so I bet you’ve not missed my ramblings at all.
I’ve noticed that there have been a number of reviews of TOH already, so I’m not going to go for the classic track-by-track format as that’s probably overkill in terms of the word count and I’ll end up saying the same things that everyone else has. As the album has only just been released, there are a huge amount of interviews online about it, so there is no shortage of information! So, as I like to be different, I’ve decided to write about my Original High-lights and why these particular tracks have appealed to me, in terms of the songs themselves and how Adam uses his voice on them.
Adam has told us himself that this album is about the pursuit of happiness and indeed, what happiness is. That’s a very human quest and it would be difficult to find many people out there who aren’t also looking for it. I know I’ve spent a lot of time on this particular quest during my life and although I’ve run into it a few times, it’s elusive and hard to hold on to. It must be an even more difficult pursuit when you have lived several years in the public eye and although there are all the glamorous things – the concerts in front of adoring audiences, the red carpet events, the parties; the flip side of it can be an intensely lonely life in a place where it can be hard to find and keep relationships going. Happiness can be found, but it’s often when we are least looking for it.
Certainly a lot of the lyrics are about lost love and soul-searching, the result of Adam spending time alone in Sweden when he was working on the songwriting. All the previews of the album have majored on the songs being darker than both For Your Entertainment and Trespassing, and I do agree with that. There is a lot more loneliness in there which surely reflects the place he was in at the time.
Now, I’m the first to confess that a lot of the styles on TOH are not really that familiar to me; the great majority of what I listen to is classic rock, indie, Britpop and a lot of classical music, some of which would probably make you want to run away screaming. Electropop is not a thing in my music collection and other than when I used to hang around in gay clubs in the early-mid 80s, I’ve never been a disco bunny (my terminology!). So a lot of this is unfamiliar territory for me and so I’m working mainly on my gut reaction to the songs and whether I like the overall feel of them.
So, which ones have jumped out at me? I think these are my top five in reverse order:
5: Underground – a dark song that belies its heavy dance beat; to me, the lyrics are about being trapped and entangled by love – hints of 50 Shades of Grey maybe? I have to say I was slightly taken aback at “velcro” popping into the rhyming scheme when I first heard it, but the thing we Brits always say about English is that it’s a constantly evolving language. I realise some of this might be a touch of Scandinavian humour creeping in too. Aside from that, the whole song is very melancholic and quite raw; Adam uses a combination of his lower middle voice for the verses and then flips over into his trademark high, belted head voice for the hook, with quite a bit of double tracking to add more high harmonies. It’s all underpinned by a heavy, rather gothic bass line that I find quite hypnotic. Touches of snare drum are added for drama for the second verse onwards.
4: The Original High – this is about that first hit of something, whether it’s love, drugs, drink or fast cars – and the quest to find it again. Remember the blog a little while ago about addiction; the dopamine rush that sends you into thrills and chills, then sends you into desperate withdrawal until you get lucky again? This is what this song is all about. In comparison to Underground, the album’s title track is an injection of Californian summer; it has more than a hint of the surf sound to my ears. I may well be associating Adam’s use of his falsetto voice with the sound of the Beach Boys, who have long been one of my favourite sounds of the 1960s. Again, it’s using the vocal devices of lower notes for the verses and up into the stratosphere for the hook, with additional double tracking to add intensity to the higher sections. It’s uplifting and danceable – even for someone like me with two left feet (let’s just say you’re never going to see me on Dancing With The Stars, even when I have written my best sellers).
3: Ghost Town – this is the song that we’ve heard the most; the first one to drop from the album, so it’s become quite familiar over the last few weeks. The to this lyrics are more obscure with shades of songs like American Pie; there are twists about the artifice of life in Hollywood and being abandoned with an empty heart. Despite the dance beat the song is ultimately lonely and has a multiple personality; there are three different styles for the verse, hook and bridge and there’s a sort of irony to the house feel of the song that I’m sure won’t have escaped listeners. Just tonight I have been sent an extremely interesting version of Adam’s performance on the Jimmy Fallon Show (from one of my wonderful German Glambert friends). This is one of those “vocal isolation” tracks where the backing has been cleverly edited out, leaving the voice exposed. This enables us to hear Adam’s voice raw and almost naked (his voice, not the rest of him – control yourselves!) What is incredibly interesting about this is that you can hear his technique working; the relationship between speaking voice and singing voice are very easy to pick out. Other things that stand out for me are his ability to sing through vocal phrases with an even intensity, which is one of the reasons why Adam’s voice always sounds so smooth and easy on the ear. It’s also easy to hear the little bits of technical finesse like the emotional cracks in his voice – this is well worth listening to; do it quickly in case it gets taken down!
(Video from adamlambert_pics Vimeo uploads)
2: Another Lonely Night – despite the feel of the song, this is another one with shades of loneliness and about trying to let go of a lost love. But this is another song with a distinct summer feel to it and for some reason reminds me of ABBA; they’re my “guilty pleasure” pop group from the 1970s and I think they turned out some really excellent songs. ALN has a lot of forward movement and I like that; songs with drive are always attractive to me. Now, I do have to admit to being just a tiny bit convulsed when I first heard it, because of THAT noise. Is it a moo? OK, I know some Glamberts are getting a bit irritated about this now, but hey, I’m a Brit and I have a Brit’s silly sense of humour, so just forgive me on this one. Whether or not it’s a moo, it’s a good song and this is why it’s number two on my list. It’s very singable and it shows off Adam’s lovely high head voice very well.
And so it’s time for number one. You know what it is, don’t you? If you’ve been following this blog since I started rabbiting on about Adam, Queen and singing, you will have come to understand my musical tastes by now.
1: Lucy – I’m sorry guys, I’m so predictable. Give me the intensity of music that’s based around electric guitars and I’m a happy girl. This is the song I’ve been waiting to hear since the track list was announced (to some epic flailing on Twitter!) and it’s fulfilled everything I wanted. Adam, Brian and the Red Special – the Holy Trinity of eargasms. Right from those first, insistent guitar chirps, you know this is going to be great. It’s dark, brooding and is a cautionary tale about getting too deep in the wrong situations. Adam’s beguiling voice blends perfectly with Brian’s irresistible guitar sound – as we all knew it would after hearing all those QAL performances; they produce a real power between them that comes across so well. Brian’s solo section is spine-chilling (and yes, I wish there was more of it!); the first few times I tried to listen to the album in entirety, I physically couldn’t get past Lucy as it fried my brains. This is a beautiful piece of music; it’s got the X-factor and for me it stands out as the supreme track on TOH. I guarantee I will be a fangirl mess if this gets performed live and I’m desperate for it to be a single release; it’s a real chance to engage Brian’s/Queen fans and if anyone from Warner is reading this, think about it guys. This is a killer, and if this is an indication of the sort of music Adam and Brian could produce together. there’s going to be an enormous queue of us waiting to buy it. Lambert and the Riff Lord – what a match made in Heaven that would be!
(Video from Adam Lambert Official YouTube uploads)