Adam Lambert’s ‘The Original High’: Album Review

It’s the music industry’s loss that it wasn’t quite ready for Adam Lambert when he arose from the eighth season of American Idol like a glittering phoenix. Despite the perfect Top 10 hit “Whataya Want From Me,” a #1 album and a string of awe-inspiring performances fronting Queen, Lambert never quite popped as a mainstream superstar. With a voice as amazing as his, this is all music lovers’ loss.

Lambert’s third studio album The Original High (out today, ) should go a long way towards remedying this injustice. For the most part, he’s stripped away the theatrics that marked For Your Entertainment and Trespassing. (Just compare the album covers!) Lest Glamberts fear that their emperor has sworn off his edgy-in-eyeliner aesthetic, however, breathe easy, children! If anything, his sound has gotten weirder, which is a wonderful thing.

Dark-and-dancey opener “Ghost Town” is as gorgeous as it is bizarre — what other artist would have the guts to launch a lead single that Laura Palmer could be plastic-twerking to? And the title track delivers the 1990s house bliss hinted at on Katy Perry’s “Walking on Air.” (Here’s hoping an enterprising young diva mashes the two up ASAP.) In fact, the strength of the first two tracks threatens to overshadow the rest of the album.

There’s still much to recommend, whether it’s the George Michael-esque “Things I Didn’t Say,” Selena Gomez “Naturally” ode “The Light,” the vulnerability of “There I Said It” or spiky Tove Lo duet “Rumours.” (Is it a tribute to the iconic Fleetwood Mac album or the even more iconic Lindsay Lohan debut single? Lambert isn’t telling…) The deluxe edition’s three bonus tracks, “After Hours,” “Shame,” and “These Boys” are dreamy, sassy and pop-a-licious, respectively.

Overall, The Original High boasts an impressive range and swings for the fences with a bejeweled bat. The album manages to surprise while showcasing its secret weapon: Lambert’s voice, which has become even stronger and more expressive, especially when he explores the darker, softer shades of his register. It’s always exciting to see an artist whose talent is as strong as his or her vision, and Adam Lambert seems reborn on this record.

Somewhere in L.A., you just know there’s a proud Paula Abdul, seal-clapping away.

Best Song That Wasn’t the Single: It’s a tie between the awesomely titled “Evil In The Night” and “Lucy,” Lambert’s collaboration with his Queen bandmate Brian May, which is an appealingly sleazy spin on “Dirty Diana.” Here’s hoping they both achieve their destiny as the go-to anthems for brainy millennial strippers.

Best Listened To: On a David Lynchian road trip into the black, unfathomable heart of surreal Americana. Or, you know, at Hot Topic with the gals.

Idolator Score: 4/5

Jonathan Riggs