Should Have Been Bigger: Adam Lambert’s “Ghost Town”

Mike Wass | June 17, 2020 4:08 pm
Album Review: 'The Original High'
We review Adam Lambert's very good third album 'The Original High.'

In this franchise, we look back on songs that deserved a little more love and attention.

Adam Lambert’s The Original High celebrates its five-anniversary this week, which prompted me to give it a spin. As expected, a few cuts sound a little rusty (dance-pop tends to age in dog years), but most of it holds up. While the album tried to push the Glamorous One’s sound away from his pop/rock roots to something more electronic, there are still lashings of Adam’s larger-than-life personality, quirky collaborations with Tove Lo and Brian May, and one of the most original lead singles of the 2010s.

To say that “Ghost Town” was ahead of its time is something of an understatement. The Velvet hitmaker was dabbling in ’90s-inspired deep house five years before Lady Gaga aimed her rocket at Chromatica, while the song’s offbeat construction — there’s more of a drop than a traditional chorus — has become the new normal. At least in the EDM world. However, as much as I love The X Files-tastic hook and Max Martin & Co.’s slick production, the lyrics do all the heavy lifting. “Ghost Town” is a disarmingly honest pop song about disappointment and the general fatigue that sets in post-Saturn Return.

“Died last night in my dreams walking the streets of some old ghost town, I tried to believe in God and James Dean, but Hollywood sold out,” Adam begins the song over acoustic guitar. “Saw all of the saints lock up the gates, I could not enter.” The track abruptly switches gears, taking us to a ’90s rave on the chorus: “And now I know my heart is a ghost town.” It’s haunting, devastatingly catchy and oddly defiant. Which makes the fact that it peaked at 64 on the Billboard Hot 100 hard to swallow.

Happily, “Ghost Town” was a big hit around the world — amassing more than 300 million cumulative streams. Revisit the chic, black-and-white video, which was directed by Hype Williams, below.

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