The Original Highlights

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.

Pic credit: Warner Bros

Pic credit: Warner Bros

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.

Pic credit: iHeart Radio

Pic credit: iHeart Radio

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.

Pic credit: Derbyshire Times

Pic credit: Derbyshire Times

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)

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24 thoughts on “The Original Highlights

  1. Interesting comments on these songs – agree about “Lucy” – I’m mad for it and live for the sound of Brian’s guitar (YES! more please!). But my tie with “Lucy” is “There I Said It” – Adam’s voice and interpretation here are hauntingly beautiful. I love this album from first note to the last (including the frothy “Shame” and delightful “These Boys” – it’s truly a superb effort – congrats to all involved –

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  2. Kym, it appears that someone has altered the audio on that clip of Ghost Town–turned Adam up, and the backing track down. The original posted video was much more balanced. That’s OK–Adam acapella would be just perfect anyway.

    I’m right there with you on Lucy. Guitar–yeah, that’s my jam. Adam and Brian together are made in heaven. This has to be a single, at least in the UK.

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    • Hi Janet – that’s the point about that clip – it has been doctored to isolate the vocals. From my point of view it’s really interesting as I can hear Adam’s voice when it’s not surrounded by other sounds. It’s much easier to hear how his technique works – and how good it is. Many singers sound incredibly exposed under these conditions as you can hear all the chinks and breaks in their voices.

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  3. The “Lucy” clip has been altered too. Slowed down terribly, so it’s stretched from it’s original 3:32 up to 4:10, and it sounds like it’s being played through molasses. It’s likely one of the bootleg tracks that were posted on youtube just days before the official release.

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  4. Kym, thank you for your comments and insights. I have come to have a lot of respect for your knowledge and your generosity toward this album has only increased it. Unfortunately, I am deeply, sadly, sickly disappointed in all of it. I’ve tried and tried and I just can’t make myself listen to more than a minute of this stuff. It’s jarring to my ears. ‘Ghost Town.’ I just tried again to listen, only to be greatly annoyed again by four, read FOUR, identical, simplistic musical phrases, FOUR repetitions of the same exact phrase, and that wrapped around mawkish, sappy rhymes with hackneyed, angst-ridden, sophomoric themes. Each and every song has that same basic structure: simple short repetitive phrases, terrible rhymes, overworked corny themes and horrible electronic heavy beats.

    Sorry, I did love Adam, I DO love his voice. I used to say I could listen to him sing anything, but I’ve discovered that’s not true. I can’t listen to this electronic, repetitive, dance club music, not even one track, let alone a whole album full of it, and definitely not without wanting to weep for sheer disappointment. The Lucy one, as far as I’ve been able to bear to listen, is maybe a little better with Brian’s guitar genius lent to it, but Brian’s more generous than I. I just don’t like it. I won’t be buying it. Not only will I never listen to it, I truly do not want to encourage Adam to do this kind of stuff. Not now, not ever.

    Maybe I’m just too old. I’ll be bowing out for awhile, until he tours again with Queen. Now that’s timeless music. Somehow I can’t see these club songs with their repetitive phrases and affected, forced, juvenile rhymes garnering world audiences in forty years time. Please don’t crucify me. You’re so honest, I thought maybe I could take a chance here and be honest too. I wouldn’t dare express this opinion in a fan group. I would be flayed.

    So hasta luego, I’ll be back around later. I’ll be following your own re-debut with great interest. And if you choose to delete this comment, I’ll understand. Thanks again. You’re the best.

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    • Of course I won’t be deleting this! I’m very glad that you feel that this is a safe environment to say this.

      No artist can ever, ever produce material that everyone likes all the time. Even though I’m a diehard Queen fan, they have produced stuff that really puts me in the “WTF” zone – Hot Space was a really good example of this and i’ve never owned a copy of it. I appreciate it was a phase in their development – although they were under many stresses at that time (mostly down to Freddie, sadly), but for me, it just didn’t work. There are a couple of tracks of the album that are OK, but that’s about all.

      We’re moving into that terribly interesting subject of fandom here – this is something I would like to write about at great length at some point and I’m even toying with it as a PhD thesis if I can get a university to listen to me.

      Fandom – for me at least, does **not** mean that you have to love everything that your idols produce. In my universe, it can’t work like that as otherwise it becomes blind worship and not appreciation of art. My brain has never worked like that and it never will; so does this mean I’m not a “true fan”? There’s a huge debate on that alone.

      As far as what I think suits Adam best, then I will go for rock every time. This is **only** my opinion and it doesn’t mean I’m right or wrong, but that’s what appeals to me viscerally. He has the range, the flexibility, the showmanship – and indeed the looks, to be a world-class frontman of the type that hasn’t been seen since Freddie. This can’t mean Queen forever because of the age gap, but for me Adam is an incomparable rock singer. I could also see him going back into music theatre when he is a bit older – he would be a superb Phantom, for a start.

      But pop as a genre is difficult – it’s very, very age-dictated. Madonna has survived in pop into her 50s, but she’s absolutely not without her detractors and there are a lot of people who think that she should be at home doing her knitting these days. Age doesn’t matter in rock and so much of the music we thought would be there and gone in a few months is still around nearly five decades later. That to me is the sign of enduring music. Bo Rhap will probably still be known in a century’s time.

      In any case, what attracted me to rock music, and particularly Queen in the first place was the structure of the music. Coming from a classical background I’m used to material with a lot of melodic and harmonic interest so I suppose it was a natural progression that the more off the wall format of rock was interesting to me.

      I hope there will be more debate about this at another time!

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  5. I adore Lucy, it is either my 1st or 2nd favorite on the album, but I was curious about your reaction to my other favorite that is competing with Lucy for the top spot, the big ballad “There I Said It” since it didn’t make your top 5. These are the two songs I turn up the volume for when they come around. Since Tuesday I’ve been listening to the whole deluxe version on a non-stop loop whether at work, at home or in the car. Last week I listened to the Amazon stream of the “clean” version everyday. Adam has taken me on the best musical adventure ride for the past 6+ years.

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    • There I Said It was a close thing, but in the end I think the darker feel of Underground pipped it to the post. I do like the way Adam sings it, but I suppose the overall structure of the song didn’t grab me as much. Having said that, I know a lot of people like it very much, so it’s all down to what appeals to your ears – and your soul.

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      • One of the things I really like about There I Said It is the alternate interpretation of the lyrics that I choose to give it – that it isn’t so much about a love relationship but rather a pointed description of how he stood up to RCA. That may or may not have been in his mind at the time, but some of the lyrics so perfectly fit that situation – especially things like “you wanna hear my voice, my mind my demons, but not too much, or you’ll give up.” Also, like you, I am a classic rock fan, love most of Queen’s music and adore his collaboration with them and would eat up anything like that he chose to do solo. But I also accept that those are my preferences, and he has his own musical preferences and as a fan I can either like them or not. I don’t love everything he’s done, some things have grown on me, some I never listen to (though that list is very small). I prefer him live to recorded any day. I also understand the market he is trying to reach, and I’m not in it. He loves me as one of his longtime fans, I’m a die-hard Glambert and proud of it, but I’m not his current desired demographic and I accept that the music he creates is not aimed at me or my contemporaries. I didn’t know what “deep house” meant until this album, I was not a child of the 90’s and my club days died about when disco did, LOL. Given that, I can either turn away because of it, or learn something new from it, and I have elected the latter and am very happy I have.

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  6. I’m also a ‘Rock Chick’ and I’ve always found electronic music difficult to listen to even when I was a teenager, and Rock will always be my primary genre. But I do also like good quality Pop music especially if it has well written songs and \excellent vocals. I have no time for autotune and very little patience with rap mainly because most rap artists seem very self centered and I can’t understand what they are saying.
    I understand why he isn’t doing Rock. Rock has really been there and done that already, it would be very difficult to find a new angle on it without repeating what’s already been done and most of the newer bands I’ve heard are either twisting the genre so much it’s unrecognizable and often unlistenable too, or else they are repeating things that have already been done. It would be unfair to expect Adam to turn his career down a dead end like that just because we want a Rock revival.
    Adam is a maverick through and through even if he’s a really cute sweet one who wouldn’t hurt a fly and he wants to be original, and the best vehicle for that is still Pop, and the sort of Pop Adam had on this album is the kind of Pop I do love, strong songs and vocals, all the rest is just presentation and can be adjusted according to whatever is fashionable at the time. Just because a song is presented in a particular way on the album doesn’t mean that’s the way he will always sing it, we should already know this from previous live shows. How many different ways has he sung Whole Lotta Love for example? To me a recorded album has always been a starting point to go from, not a fixed unmovable point set in stone. Which is why a tour is so important.
    So by that criteria my favorite on the album is ‘There I said it’ which to me has everything, fantastic emotion driven song, outstanding vocals and a timeless quality to it which sounds like it could be adapted to different arrangements. But then all the songs are strong enough to be adaptable and rearranged to different styles, and Adam himself is excellent at that both with his own and other peoples, which is why he did so well on AI in the first place.

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  7. Always interesting to read your blog.
    TOH (album) – to me – hasn’t the same immediate attraction as Trespassing had. I really love most of the songs on Trespassing, and I love the diversity on it, my favorites are very different, Kickin’ In, Underneath, Broken English, and the title track. On TOH, however, I miss this diversity, and I miss that the songs, if we strip away Adam’s voice, sound like most of the pop music, the radios are playing.
    And that is perhaps what is needed to bring Adam out to a wider audience.
    One thing living for so long has taught me is that I won’t be disappointed with an artist’s, a band’s, or an author’s choices, even if I for myself would have liked something else, because I have to trust that they have been doing what they wanted to do. And maybe next time I’ll get my wishes fulfilled.
    And knowing Adam, I guess he’ll be doing something different next time.
    And by the way, after listening to TOH several times, most songs have grown on me, the most unlikely, and totally out of character for me, is There I Said It.

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  8. I suspected that people would be surprised at There I Said It not being one of my highlights of TOH – but this was about personal taste and what resonated with me. It’s absolutely nothing to do with the way Adam sings it; every note is beautifully produced. For me, the structure of the song just didn’t appeal to me as much as the others .

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  9. You must all remember that when Adam sings his music live, it is different every time. When he gives all his emotion to these songs live, you will be crying, screaming, clapping, or singing along.
    There is nothing like Adam singing his music live. My first live Adam concert made my skin crackle and it has been crackling ever since. The electricity from him to his audience and back was overwhelming. Adam’s voice is so f*cking amazing and giving to his audience. My brain can’t take it sometimes and all I can do is cry. This was my first time to ever be a fan of anyone. It’s been six years and I can’t shake it yet. I am totally hooked and dedicated to this man called Adam Lambert.

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  10. Loving your blog as usual Kym…… so, so interesting and informative …. thank you ! Just loved watching Adam these last couple of weeks, growing in confidence when singing his new tracks live ….. TISI has just got to be my favourite ……. his voice is magnificent and so emotional ……. xx

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  11. So I finally found the time to read the post. It´s 1:35AM here and I am listening Saturday night online just for the interview it should be in it. So I have time for reading.
    It’s funny to read it just after I corrected all the English lyrics of the album and translated them to the Czech language.
    1) The lyrics. When I first saw the word Velcro – WTF is that? And WTF it ought to do in the lyrics? But I am used to – in Nirvana on Trespassing album he used higher plane instead of wings of love like anybody else. So usage of some very “real” words is very typical for Adam
    2) I listen to almost all the music styles except techno, heavy metal and brass music. So the styles are nothing new for me, but there are some I prefer. But it means that I very quickly recognize anything borrowed from anything else. Terrible but truth. First time I heard Another Lonely Night I heard: “I was born to love you” by Queen. The line in the chorus is the same. Ok, I said to myself, they won’t probably sue him. Rumours sounds like songs made by Timbaland and there are some songs that are very similar and some review wrote some of them. But it happens.
    3) Darkness? I don’t see no darkness but lost human. I remember these feelings at last around my 25, not in my 30’s. But ok, he is American so it’s understandable. (Maybe that’s partly because of the show bussines.) I am used to that difference. I never have need to try to replicate something. I have learned to live today and that is the best way to be happy with what you have. And clean your mind is another good thing but you need to be alone for that. That is what he probably did in Sweeden. But I can’t judge according to myself because of the stuff I experienced. So for me the lyrics were just the problemm to find right Czech words to translate.
    4) I always appreciated good rhythm and all the instrument put altogether so for me Underground was immediately perfect. I must point out that I love especially all the drumming in back (thats the drummer in me). Strange, I played piano and a little bit guitar and so on but the rhythm seems to be always my first – changing rhythm. Not the repeating one that sounds like spinning wheel. Rhythm makes me dance and this songs did it immediately!
    5) Lucy is well made but it needs good video (best vith the story) and to be played live. Adam talked about similarity between this song and Dirty Diana by Michael Jackson (I love it) and Brian spoke about Fall Out Boy’s songs (I love them too). Both were right, lyrics are something between Dirty Diana and Billie Jean.
    6) For me best songs on this album are TOH, These Boys and Shame (it sounds like made in Japan) – those 3 I loved immediately. Just after that is Undeground and Evil in the night, after that is Another Lonely Night and Ghost Town (it took me too long to get used to it) and then comes the rest.
    7) I think that live is possible to hear that Adam is not so much used to do this kind of singing. Maybe there is just nervousness, on iHeartradio concert he had even problem with lyrics. I thought that if he would sing this way more he will lose his voice soon. The more he will sing this way the better he will be. But you are the expert here! 8^)
    8) I prefer his performance without the dancers. Those dancers are good but the choreography is… not the best. There is nothing sexy or glam for me – sometimes less is more. It really irritates me (but that is just the dancer in me…).

    So, I think it´s time to go to sleep. The interview will be recorded by someone – that´s the sureness of fanbase. 2:33AM. Sorry for all the mistakes in it. WTF – Shaut Up and Dance has been played when I started the radio at 1AM. And they play it again? The song is fine but… And I am angry to here some song here after 4 hours! Seems to be somewhere worse than here! 8^D

    @DrakulkaCZ

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  12. Hi Kym,

    I was surprised to see Ghost Town on your list here at #3 because from your post on “The Evolution of Adam – Era 3”, it really seemed like you didn’t like the song. Has it grown on you?

    I really enjoy reading your blog and have been reading your posts since you were on Idol Forums. 🙂 Please keep them coming.

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    • I still find Ghost Town strange in parts! I find the lyrics very interesting because of the shades of American Pie, which is a song that has always fascinated me. I do still have a problem with that techno sound though as it just isn’t what my ears enjoy. I’d be really interested to hear a rock version of GT.

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  13. I think Brian put down two tracks for Lucy. There is a constant beat that starts at the beginning of the song and there is a track that has melody.

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  14. Thank you for your interesting articles.
    I am a fan of Adam ever since I heard him sing his first notes (“Believe” by Cher, on Hollywood Week) on American Idol. I love his voice and I love rock songs, especially those that are more melodic. I’m generally not fond of electronic music, but this time, I really like all the songs, in spite of the electronic music (I remember being annoyed by the electronic music at the beginning of “Broken Open” and the weird beat during this otherwise beautiful ballad.) Even the “moo” sound on “Another Lonely Night” doesn’t annoy me anymore. By the way, in this song, at the end of the chorus, just before “No, I don’t give a damn if the sun comes up”, there is a high sound in the background which I believe is Adam singing some lyrics which I can’t make up because they are distorted. Can you hear what he is singing there?
    When Adam released his first 4 songs, my favorite was “Another Lonely Night”, but now I have a bunch of favorites in addition it: The Original High, There I Said it, The Light, Rumors, Things I Didn’t Say, Shame. I like all of them, but some more than others. Some I didn’t really like at first (Rumors and the bonus songs), but now I love them.
    I like “Underground”, but the heavy breathing when he sings the part “When you go, when you go…” in his lower range bothers me. He sounds like he’s out of breath, but I know that Adam has excellent breath control, so it must be on purpose. But I find that heavy breathing rather annoying (like lesser singers who have to take a breath in the middle of sentences). How do you feel about that heavy breathing?
    Recently I was telling a friend about Adam and had her listen to parts of the songs on TOH, and I was telling her how it was different from his past albums. So I went back and listened to Trespassing and FYE and found that FYE sounds a little dated now, but I still very much enjoy the second part of Trespassing (which is not to say that I don’t enjoy FYE, because I enjoy most of Adam’s music. I just happen to really enjoy this new CD, maybe because it’s something new and “uptodate”.

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