Post by 4Ms on May 4, 2012 18:19:57 GMT -5
Seattle Gay News "Adam Lambert Proves Winning Isn't Everything"
Seattle Gay News
Adam Lambert Proves Winning Isn't Everything
by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer
posted Friday, May 4, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 18
Sometimes, losing is winning. When Adam Lambert was out-voted for the American Idol crown three seasons ago, it appeared his singing career was headed to a roadside casino. That's how it works, right? The champ gets all the glory and runners-up are sent away with a bouquet of good-luck flowers. Well, not this time. Lambert's popularity soared immediately and kept growing, ultimately making him the most recognized male Idol of the show's entire run (now in its 11th season). A Grammy nominee, LGBT advocate, platinum-selling recording artist, trans-Atlantic pop star, and a credible replacement for Queen's frontman sums up a short, impressive professional career for the San Diego native.
Lambert releases his sophomore album, Trespassing, on May 15. Two singles have already been spawned from the CD, 'Better Than I Know Myself' and 'Never Close Our Eyes.' I spoke with the entertainer recently via phone, who was very friendly and upbeat. From his Los Angeles residence here's what the fabulous Adam Lambert shared with me inside The Music Lounge.
Albert Rodriguez: The obvious question is when are you coming back to Seattle?
Adam Lambert: I don't know. I had a nice night there. We went on a little bar crawl. It was fun.
Rodriguez: Do you remember where you went?
Lambert: I think we went to Pony. I honestly don't remember all the clubs. I have a friend who lives in Seattle, and he showed us around.
Rodriguez: Do you like Seattle from the times you've been here?
Lambert: Loved it. It was great. I haven't been there a lot, but from my few experiences I think the people are very friendly and I like the liberal sensibility there.
Rodriguez: It was just announced that you'll be performing a limited number of shows with Queen. What impact do you think Freddie Mercury has had on you and Gay culture in general?
Lambert: What's so cool about Freddie is that it's beyond just Gay culture. He reached a very broad audience. Of course, he was part of a great rock band, a legendary rock band. His voice transcended all, and his songwriting also. For me personally, I learned about him after his passing. It's interesting when he came out there were so many people who didn't realize he was Gay, and people that may not have otherwise approved of it went, 'Well, we really love Freddie Mercury, we love Queen. So okay, fine'.
Rodriguez: For up-and-coming musicians who are openly Gay, is the music industry welcoming, or are there areas where it's not as welcoming yet?
Lambert: It's hard to say. I go back and forth on it. I think things are progressing and the entertainment industry, in general, is moving forward. I think the TV and film industry is moving further ahead than the music industry; they're a little bit more bold in that whole realm.
Rodriguez: You recently appeared at the NewNowNext Awards, as did Josh Hutcherson. Did you meet him?
Lambert: He actually came to my concert in Hawaii. He was working on a film there, and someone he was working on the film with knew somebody and they came to the show. Very nice young man. Very polite, and he just seems like he's got both feet on the ground.
Rodriguez: Gay marriage is expected to pass later this year in the state of Washington. If it does and a couple wanted to book you for their wedding reception, how many bottles of champagne would it cost?
Lambert: [Laughs.] I don't get paid in champagne. I don't know how much it would cost. Those couples would have to talk to my agent. [Laughs again.]
Rodriguez: For those in pursuit of a music career, would you recommend going the American Idol route like you did, or trying something different?
Lambert: It's a case-by-case thing. When I finally decided to audition for the show I was 27 and in an ensemble of a musical working with some producers and writers outside of the show, and I was doing studio demo work. I started asking around and getting a feel for what the music industry was like at the time. And based on what I had learned and what I saw, I felt like Idol was my best shot. I did what I had to do, being a 27 year-old openly Gay chorus boy by night and club kid by later night. It just didn't feel like it was going to be an easy sell for me to a middle-aged, white, record label executive. So, I decided that I needed to shortcut myself and get out there. Idol is a PR dream - it puts you on television across the country and I just figured, 'I'll let people decide if they like me or not and let that convince a record executive to sign me.'
Rodriguez: It turns out the people did like you.
Lambert: I had to do what I had to do. But I don't know if it would have worked out for me had I not done something like that. I don't know if it's everybody's path, but at the time it was the best path for me.
Rodriguez: Do you have an all-time favorite music diva, living or dead?
Lambert: Ooh. God, there's so many great divas. Beyoncé! Madonna!
Rodriguez: Those two are pretty high on your list?
Lambert: Those two are queens. I've always been a Madonna fan. I love the pop divas. Christina [Aguilera], Rihanna. The pop divas are great.
Rodriguez: I've seen you here in Seattle, I've seen you on TV and I know you have some killer threads. I'm wondering if you'll ever have a yard sale or eBay auction where we can buy that stuff.
Lambert: I'm holding onto a lot of it right now. I don't even know why. [Laughs.] I'm kind of a pack rat. There might be things that will make their way into charity. I like the idea of giving it back.
Rodriguez: In the past year or so, bullying has really affected Gay youth. Do you have any ideas on how we can combat this?
Lambert: It's interesting because bullying has always affected Gay youth. It's just now becoming very public. There's like a media storm around it and I think it's good. Awareness and having it out on the table is a big necessary step for us, to help kids that are victims. Teachers and parents are much more aware of it. On the other hand, there's a part of me that looks at it and goes, 'You know, that's part of life. That's survival.' I will do everything I can for people to find confidence and support in order to cope with hateful people, but hateful people are everywhere and bullying exists far beyond Gay and Lesbian people.
Post by 4Ms on May 4, 2012 18:21:51 GMT -5
QX May 2010
#174 Swedish Gay Magazine Sexual Experiences Translation
Interview in Swedish Gay Publication - Very Sexual Interview!!
BIG THANKS to wax_jism and bexless for the original posting and translation!! This article was too much fun!!
"American Idol dude Adam Lambert has a super hit right now in Whataya Want From Me. QX met him when he was in Sweden and it was an open chat about everything from coming out to what sexual experiences he's had."
You can't be stupid when you're interviewing American rockstars. Just days before his visit to Sweden, Adam twitters about all the questions he's sick of. After he's spent a whole day with German journalists I therefore know that I shouldn't ask about his relationship w/ Lady Gaga (yes, they're acquaintances but not close friends), getting asked to become Queen frontman (not true) and what kind of eyeliner he uses (MAC).
Adam, who came in second in American Idol and now has a big hit with WWFM is receiving in a big room at Berns Hotell in Stockholm. The usual buffet of Ramlösa [mineral water] and fruit is served at one table and by another table is a publicist woman who smiles at me when I ~glide in. Adam and I sit down in a couple easy chairs a bit further away.
At first I don't feel like we click at all. Adam answers my questions about American Idol quickly but briefly and I wonder if he'll be put off by all my gay-related questions that are coming up. My fears are put to shame. Adam is happy to talk about most things.
He's been in Sweden once before when he was working as entertainer on a cruise ship, but he didn't have time to see much of Stockholm. He also has a pretty good grasp of Swedish music and likes The Ark, Abba, Ace of Base, and Jonas Åkerlund's videos. And Max Martin, whom he's worked with on the debut disk. Just like most other homos he loves Martin's collabs w/ Britney (3), Pink (So What) and Kelly Clarkson (Since You've Been Gone).
"He knows how to create a song everyone will remember. Max Martin is a great guy that it was a dream to get to work with."
For those of you who aren't totally up to date on Adam I can say he quickly became the big watercooler topic during last year's round of AI. His androgynous style with lots of eyeliner and glam rock poses made him a big favourit for the tv audience who voted him to a second place. Recently he released the debut album FYE and now he's working on making a name for himself even outside the USA borders.
Adam tells me he's very proud of having the chance to be on AI and to make it so far ("I thought I would be dismissed as 'too Broadway' and 'too much')"but he's even more proud of getting to release his album internationally.
"The record company believes in me and it's a huge self-esteem kick. I love European music and really want to work in a European sound in my music."
He's also greatly inspired by other artists.
"I love Madonna, Prince, Bowie, Led Zeppelin and Queen, but contemporary stars like Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Christina and Britney also influence me a lot."
Adam has, ever since receiving the silver crown (er, lol - translator's note) on Idol, been the source of several incidents that got attention in the American media. For example, when the cover of the debut album was shown for the first time. Adam's pouting lips, extremely made up mug and campy pose made people either love it or hate it.
"That debate made me a little tired. It was of course my intention to look feminine, it was part of the whole thing. If people don't want to buy the record because I look a certain way it's their problem."
He says his masculine side is as big as his feminine one. Interesting, I think, since "our" community often puts campness very low on the list of attractive qualities.
"Yes, it's interesting. You always have to be one or the other in the gay community! You're either masculine or feminine, top or bottom. There's no in between. In LA it's a little different. As a guy, you can be wearing girl jeans and high heels and still be dominant and intense. I had many people to identify with when I started going out, not everything was as black and white. I created my own identity."
Another thing Adam made headlines with was the performance of the song FYE on the AMAs last fall. The performance, where he kissed one of his male musicians and simulated oral sex on another, made big headlines in American media. A morning show cancelled his scheduled appearance and upset Christian grups protested Adam's appearances on other shows.
"That became a much bigger circus than I intended" he smiles. "I thought people would raise their eyebrows and say 'that Lambert is crazy'. Instead people got angry. It's weird considering all the murder, violence and other horrors shown at the same time on TV. What did I do that was worse than that? It's rock 'n roll and entertainment, people."
It was never confirmed that Adam was gay during his Idol time. It wasn't until a controversial cover article in Rolling Stone that he confirmed what many had already long speculated about. Adam says he was never directly asked if he was gay during Idol.
"No, it was basically just focused on music and then there's no point being all 'by the way, I'm gay.' If someone asked I would have said yes. Everybody knew I was gay and I wasn't hiding it."
For me, who asks our Swedish Idol contestants how gay they are even before the finals, it sounds crazy, but I suppose American media works in a different way. Adam continues:
"I've been out since I was 18 and I'm very flirty and open w/ my sexuality. When I was younger and not out I repressed everything that had to do with sex. Now that I'm older and more open, I may be overcompensating. But I'm a very sexual person. I like having sex, dating and talking about sex. I'm not uncomfortable with it and it shows in my art.
Adam is single since a few months. The guy he was dating didn't like the attention and broke up with him. (I understand but WAH. Also FUUUUU everyone who said he was an attn hoar - translator's note) Just now he isn't dating anyone special, he says.
Anyway back to the interview:
What turns you on?
Younger, cute boys...
"Yes, if you want to generalise. But that's not completely straightforward when you may be turned on by a look, but maybe want more experience than what these kinds of guys can offer. Of course there are exceptions to that but it's a problem. But I think the younger guys have a fresher outlook on life, and a curiosity I'm attracted to. The 27-yolds I meet in LA are incredibly bitter and have trouble accomodating to someone else. "
If you're an artist and gay it easily gets to a point where all questions are about that. As a journo from a gay mag it feels natural that we talk a lot about his orientation. And Adam has no problems talking about it. Just after AI, though, he felt that the fact that he's gay overshadowed his art, but that impression has faded.
"In a way, it shouldn't matter what my orientation is. Since I'm a musician, it should be about the music. But that's not what the world is like, right now we're living in a time when it's important to bring visibility to the LGBT community and I just have to deal with a lot being about that. That's the deal, you know?
"I'm not trying to be a role model, but I think it's fucking important to show everyone that I'm here, I'm happy to be gay and I'm open about it. I'm not apologising for my existence and I think that can mean a lot to people. "
Last fall there was a storm around Adam and the American gay mag Out Magazine. He was on the cover with a few other celebrities, among others Cyndi Lauper, and according to the magazine, it was expressed that Adam only wanted to be on the cover if there were some het people in the picture, and he wanted to see what questions were brought up in the article before it went to print. Then the Out editor in chief posted an angry open letter back to Adam where he claimed that Out had been trying to get him on the cover long before, but Adam's record company had said Out was 'too gay for him to be seen in right now'. And also suggesting that Lambert wasn't giving enough to his gay fans.
"I was so fucking angry about that," Adam says with an annoyed snort. "Out can have whatever agenda they want, but I'm not down with the editor projecting that agenda onto my career. I'm as gay as I want to be, or as discreet as I want to be. I don't owe anybody anything, it's my own choice. I am not a political leader and do not represent the gay community. Just because I'm one of the few openly gay artists does not mean I have an obligation to be this or that."
Just a few days before I meet Adam, Ricky Martin came out and the whole blogosphere and every twitter-thumb has been expressing one big 'oh, well, it's about time'. That pisses Adam off.
"Celebs who come out aren't asking to be a part of the gay community, they just want to be themselves. I get so damn annoyed with people having opinions on how and when people come out as gay. People don't understand how much strength it takes to come to terms with who you are, besides constantly being watched and photographed. I have chosen to be completely open and am happy to talk about everything, but not everyone will be as comfortable with it."
Adam has gotten a lot of shit for relying on sex too much during his performances. Some gay people say he's making the community look bad and needs to tone it down.
"That it such bullshit. We're all sexual! I am an artist, and rock n roll and music are sexy. Music is about letting go of your repressions. Everyone goes to clubs, dances and flirts to get laid."
I wonder a little about just how sexually open he is and take the chance of asking him a few sex-related questions. He has only had oral sex w/ women (you have to test it out before you say no to it), he watched a porno three nights ago (but doesn't have a favourite actor), and he has tried a threeway ("But I'm more about getting that chemistry with one person.")
He is single as we said and pretty happy with that right now. He says he's prone to changing and becoming obsessed when he's in love.
"I've noticed I get very intense when I'm really interested. It took a few guys pointing it out before I realised what I was doing. Apparently I get domineering and jealous, which are not good qualities if you want to be with someone. But I'm working on that."
He has started going to mixed clubs in LA b/c he's tired of the gay scene in town. Everyone looks the same and has slept with everyone.
"It's kind of liberating to go to a club where everything isn't just about finding someone to take home and fuck. I love sex, but if that's the only reason for going on it's not that much fun. It should be more about connecting with people and only then about sex."
Is safe sex important for you?
"Yes, always. (\o/! - translator's assistant's note) Apparently barebacking is hot right now but I just don't get it. It's not worth taking that chance, I think."
Are you sexually adventurous?
"Nah, I'm pretty vanilla. I'm very sensual and romantic, I like taking a bath, lighting candles and listening to music with the person I'm with."
Time is running out, and as I'm going for my last question, Adam says he likes my questions. Apparently I haven't been asking the same stuff as everyone else during his European promo tour. Nobody else is thinking about whether Adam's had threesomes, I think, and smile to myself. (lol speak for yourself, dude - both of us) I answer by praising him back for answering everything so openly, and end it by asking if there's something I could ask that would shock him.
"No, try it!"
Okay, how big's your dick?
"Okay, that's quite shocking! Impressive. You see, it's possible to shock me after all!
Well, as I said, you can't be stupid if you're interviewing american rockstars.
There's also a little fact file:
Name: Adam Lambert
Born: Indianapolis, Indiana, CA
Lives: Los Angeles
Favourite shows: Gossip Girl, Weeds, Skins, Dexter and True Blood (When the brother takes of his shirt...it's too much.)
Dream boys: Bill Kaulitz from Tokio Hotel and Chace Crawford from Gossip Girl.
Best friend: Danielle, who I've known since I was 12. We're still really close.
Drinks: Vodka, whiskey on the rocks and tequila.
Underwear: 2-xist briefs.
Post by 4Ms on May 4, 2012 18:24:00 GMT -5
100 & Single: Buy An Adam Lambert Album, Strike A Tiny Blow For Gay Rights
By Chris Molanphy Mon., May 7 2012 at 9:00 AM
About a year ago, the movie Bridesmaids opened in the U.S. and was the subject of a rather unusual awareness campaign.
Female movie fans, largely independently of the film's producers, compelled women to go see the film in its opening weekend and defy common Hollywood wisdom that non-rom-com movies aimed at ladies were box-office laggards. To many cultural critics, it was a dubious effort: a Judd Apatow-produced flick that was still, after all, about a wedding—and with one notorious scene riddled with bodily humiliations—this was a feminist cause célèbre?
The thing is, it kinda worked. Bridesmaids opened very well for a "chick flick," with $26 million in ticket sales, and went on to gross just shy of $170 million domestically, soundly beating such summer tentpoles as Green Lantern and X-Men: First Class. The fact that the star-free, Kristin Wiig-led movie was actually good suggests it would've found its audience under any circumstances. We'll never know, but given Hollywood's ever-increasing promotional emphasis on opening weekends, it's totally defensible that the impassioned grass-roots launch was critical to the movie's ultimate success. It also sent a consumer-driven message ("This half of the population shouldn't be ignored or pandered to") that should've been screamingly obvious in 2011 but somehow wasn't.
One year later, I'd like to invite you to get behind another consumerist message that, in 2012, should be equally uncontroversial: Being openly gay shouldn't prevent you from having a No. 1 album in the United States.
The album we can support to send this message is Adam Lambert's second major-label disc Trespassing, which arrives in stores on May 15—virtually one year to the day after the successful Bridesmaids opening.
Why am I proposing we shell out hard cash for this frothy and reportedly fun pop disc, which is as light and apolitical as Bridesmaids was? Because in the nearly 60-year history of the weekly Billboard album chart, no single-artist title credited to an out gay performer has ever been our No. 1 album. (Nope, not him. Or him, either. Or her.)
The key word in the above sentence is, of course, out. Numerous artists who have emerged from the closet in the last few decades, as the gay-rights movement has come out of the shadows, have topped the album chart. But crucially, not a one of them did so while fully public about his or her sexual orientation.
This column is largely about hard data, and being out is about as unspecific a designation as you can discuss. It's hard to come up with pinpointed dates for when even the most public personages declared their homosexuality, especially among those artists who emerged by degrees. (We'll get to Elton John and Freddie Mercury in a minute.) I am also completely uninterested in outing anyone; I don't believe in it, and as a straight person I have even less right to ask it of public figures, for the sake of awareness, than a gay person would. But gay rights is a cause I firmly believe in, and it's rare that one has the opportunity to mix one's nerdy passion and sociopolitical beliefs.
Besides, we can examine this purely by considering the most uncontroversial of publicly out musicians. It's a list of acts who either topped the chart closeted or couldn't reach the penthouse either out or in.
A couple of out gay performers (fewer than you might imagine) have topped the Hot 100 singles chart. But I would argue that the Billboard 200 album chart is a specifically important yardstick. Albums are how the recording industry makes the bulk of its profits, and it's particularly meaningful to see Americans willing to shell out more than a buck for a performer's work—especially in a recording's opening week, which in the Soundscan era has become as important to the music business as opening weekend is for Hollywood.
The album chart is ecumenical and all-encompassing, its penthouse regularly occupied by pop, rock, R&B, hip-hop and country albums, all competing on roughly equal footing. And to Americans who consider themselves at the cultural middle of the road, a successful album is, still, the way an artist is perceived as culturally relevant—or, to borrow a term heavy with gay-rights baggage, real.
How probable is this feat for Lambert, an American Idol finalist who neither won the show nor topped the Billboard 200 in 2009, the year he had the Idol promotional machine backing him up? Before we game it out—short answer: a bit of a long shot, but not at all impossible—let's run down the list of now famously out performers who went the distance while still in the vinyl closet. I'll start with a few near-miss acts who for all their popularity never topped the list.
Among lesbian artists, you might have guessed that the music business's two most celebrated, Melissa Etheridge and k.d. lang, would have broken that barrier. Etheridge is a rare example of an artist who, by her own telling, had a more profitable career out of the closet than in. The data unequivocally backs her up—her just-came-out 1993 album Yes I Am is six times platinum and by far her best-seller—but it sold well over a long, multi-single radio campaign and never got past No. 15 on the album chart. Her followup to that triumph, 1995's Your Little Secret, debuted and peaked at No. 6, a modest showing for a performer of her stature at that career stage. As for lang, her best-selling album remains 1992's double-platinum Ingénue, which peaked at No. 18.
On the male side, Boy George's self-declared status as America's favorite drag queen (about as far as a pop star could go publicly in 1984), didn't hurt Culture Club at all on the Hot 100, where they scored six Top 10 hits including a No. 1 ("Karma Chameleon"). But despite selling four million U.S. copies, 1983's Colour by Numbers spent a frustrating six weeks at No. 2, a reflection mainly of its misfortune at being released within the same year as Michael Jackson's Thriller.
That leaves a handful of acts who did top the chart closeted, and in many cases their status was the subject of much speculation and even regarded as a demerit to their stardom. Here they are in alphabetical order.
Clay Aiken: Like Adam Lambert, Aiken was a top-two American Idol finalist who went on to outsell the singer who beat him (Ruben Studdard in Aiken's case, Kris Allen in Lambert's). Aiken's fanbase—largely female and often teased online for their limited gaydar, but to be fair Aiken himself denied years of rumors—was particularly impassioned. To this day, the chart-topping debut of his 2003 album Measure of a Man with 613,000 copies remains the highest one-week sales total ever by any Idol competitor. Aiken never returned to No. 1 on the album chart, either before or after his coming-out to People magazine in 2008.
Lance Bass (of 'N Sync): One of five vocalists in the smash boy band, Bass sang on two chart-topping albums: 2000's No Strings Attached—which rolled 2.4 million CDs in seven days, still the biggest one-week sales total of all time—and 2001's Celebrity. The group's hiatus since 2002 has had everything to do with Justin Timberlake's solo career and the waning of millennial precision-dance pop (only now being revived by One Direction and the Wanted), and nothing to do with Bass's then-rumored sexuality, which was affirmed by the singer himself in 2006.
Elton John: All conversations regarding music superstardom and sexual orientation must revolve around the erstwhile Reginald Dwight. Elton John's string of chart-topping albums in the '70s—seven in a row, from 1972's Honky Chateau through 1975's Rock of the Westies—remains one of the greatest runs of pop dominance in history. Then in 1976, John admitted to bisexuality in a Rolling Stone cover story, and it was as if some homophobic deity turned off the stardom spigot—his next album Blue Moves peaked at No. 3, and he spent the late '70s in the pop wilderness, out of the Top 10 altogether. (One can imagine many a label-headquarters conversation in which John's mid-'70s experience was the cautionary tale for gay pop stars considering revealing themselves.)
Even after staging a solid radio comeback in the '80s; marrying and then divorcing a woman; coming out fully as a gay man in 1988 and entering a public long-term relationship with David Furnish; and finally scoring his first Top 10 album in nearly two decades (1992's The One), John has never again occupied the Billboard 200 penthouse. That is, with one semi-exception: the 1994 soundtrack album to the Lion King, for which Elton penned just over half the songs but was the credited performer on only three. Considering this album featured an image of a cartoon lion on the cover and sports John's name in tiny letters, that it was largely performed by others, and that it was a triumph mostly for the Disney marketing machine, it's a bit hard to regard it as full album-chart acknowledgment for a gay performer. Since the '90s John has had far greater success on the Hot 100 singles chart, where in his fully out persona he has scored two No. 1 hits—coincidentally, both of them rerecordings of songs from his early-'70s golden period. There was the 1991-92 chart-topper "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," a duet with George Michael (more on him in a bit) and later, the blockbuster "Candle in the Wind '97," recorded in memory of Princess Diana and now the best-selling single of all time.
Janis Ian: The only thing less likely than a lyrical 17-year-old Janis Ian getting a date was the real-life 24-year-old scoring a chart-topping album singing about it. But that's precisely what happened to Between the Lines, Ian's 1975 album, featuring the wistful Top Five mopefest "At Seventeen." Ian's album-chart victory came nearly two decades before she came out publicly.
Jonathan Knight (of New Kids on the Block): One of two Knights in the hugely successful late-'80s boy band (along with brother Jordan), Jonathan sang on the 1989 chart-topping album Hangin' Tough and the 1990 followup smash Step by Step. New Kids' inability to return to the penthouse after 1990 was entirely related to the aging of their fanbase, rather than issues over with any member's sexuality. Fun fact: Knight's 2011 revelation came after an accidental and reportedly friendly 2011 outing by fellow late-'80s teenpop star Tiffany, one of the few girls he dated. Interestingly, unlike fellow boy-band alumnus Lance Bass, the decades-long delay in Knight's coming-out meant he emerged as a working boy-band member—New Kids have been reunited and recording for several years.
Ricky Martin: Few music stars must be as relieved to be off the public's gaydar as this guy. Martin's 1999 transition from established Latin radio fixture to cross-cultural megastar was dogged by the most intense sexual-identity speculation of any act in millennial pop. His self-titled English-language debut, sporting the über-hit "Livin' la Vida Loca," debuted in the penthouse with 661,000 copies, still the best sales week for a Latin pop star in history—but he spent his peak fame years dodging questions about his sexuality, lobbed by everyone from Rolling Stone to Barbara Walters. In 2010, long past his explosive Anglo-pop moment, Martin finally ended the speculation. After all that agita, the revelation didn't seem to hurt his career much; his 2011 album Música + Alma + Sexo debuted at a healthy No. 3.
Freddie Mercury (of Queen): Somewhat belying the premise of this column is the fact that everyone's favorite mustachioed rock god told a U.K. interviewer, way back in 1974, that he was "as gay as a daffodil, my dear." But Mercury's openness during his storied two-decade career is a matter of some dispute. The thing is, when that interview quip occurred—the March 12, 1974, issue of New Musical Express, to be precise—Queen was a curio of a rock band with exactly one medium-size British hit, "Seven Seas of Rhye," under its belt. And even less U.S. chart presence: their debut album had peaked at No. 83 here in 1973 and didn't go gold for another four years. On both sides of the Atlantic, the band was months away from their first big hit, "Killer Queen." After that NME interview, Mercury never directly addressed his sexuality again and, in later years, asked the few journalists he trusted not to mention his boyfriends.
By the time Queen scored their transatlantic No. 1 album The Game in 1980, the band was an American rock-radio fixture, releasing nude-women-bedecked record covers and music videos and generally not addressing Mercury's hiding-in-plain-sight orientation. Moreover, it's difficult to regard the Queen frontman as a paragon of openness given his sad end: denying his HIV-positive status to the relentless U.K. tabloid press until days before he died of AIDS in 1991 at age 45. That galvanizing death, followed immediately and coincidentally by the release of the Queen-celebrating movie Wayne's World in 1992, led to a resurgence of Queen sales. But other than a brief U.S. chart-topping appearance by the film's soundtrack, which did include "Bohemian Rhapsody," no Queen album has occupied the penthouse since Mercury's passing. Ironically given the theme of this column, Adam Lambert has served as a replacement singer for Mercury in recent performances by Queen's Brian May and Roger Taylor, and they are about to go back onstage for a handful of shows later this year fronted by Lambert.
George Michael: The only person on the list of gay chart-toppers to crown the Billboard 200 both with a group (Wham!'s Make It Big, 1985) and as a solo star (Faith, 1988), Michael was the male pop star of the late '80s save perhaps Michael Jackson. Like so many on this list, George Michael's identity seems obvious only in retrospect; at the height of his fame in 1988, he was a major straight-identified sex symbol, appearing in his "I Want Your Sex" video with women in varying states of undress. A '90s war with his label Sony, which led to a lawsuit in which Michael accused them of underpromoting his recordings, meant the falloff in his career is attributable to many factors besides his sexuality. By the time he was thrust out of the closet in 1998, his days as a chart-topping star, at least in America, were over; he remained a chart-topper in England.
Michael Stipe (of R.E.M.): One of very few out gay frontmen of a major rock band, Stipe has always been as elliptical as his band's old lyrics. Which makes it hard to say when, exactly, he came out—whether, for example, the 1994 interview in which he dubbed himself "an equal-opportunity lech" makes that year's R.E.M. chart-topper Monster the work of a closeted man per se. Since it took until 2001 for Stipe to fully vocalize his sexuality after years of speculation, we can't really attribute that 1994 album or 1991's No. 1 smash Out of Time as out works per se. However progressive his politics, Stipe waited to make his full revelation for a moment when the band's fortunes were secure and its hitmaking days behind it.
There are not many common threads among the backstories of the above artists. With the exception of Elton John, few indisputably suffered a direct career impact from their gay status—either at moments of speculation or revelation. But we'll never really know, and these are artists whose careers were solid enough that they could eventually come out; of course most of them look unstoppable with 20/20 hindsight. Other than intermittently successful Janis Ian, this is not a list of small-time acts; even the two boy-band dudes, neither one the star of his respective group, were members of acts considered demigods in their day.
Even among these established stars, one also senses that the pressure, spoken or unspoken, to remain closeted must have been intense. Finally, the simple fact that these eight artists couldn't top the album chart while out speaks for itself.
(Anyone taking to the comments section to offer other examples of stars who are "in denial" or fall into that "Oh, come on, everybody knows about him/her" category are only backing up my point. I know I'm avoiding listing a handful of other widely rumored stars, alive and deceased. Again, we don't need rumors to present the case here.)
By comparison, what Adam Lambert is attempting in his career is remarkable and perhaps unprecedented: full-on mainstream pop stardom combined with early gay identity. While on Idol, Lambert was coy about his sexuality, saving the full revelation until immediately after the competition was over—further evidence that the mainstream spotlight is intense for even the most secure performer.
What's perhaps even more notable about Lambert is how unremarkable his orientation is in 2012. It doesn't seem to be hurting him much now that he's off the show. His first album For Your Entertainment debuted in the fall of 2009 at No. 3 and spawned the 2010 Top 10 hit "Whataya Want from Me." The debut's opening-week sales total of 198,000 copies was the highest debut-week total for an Idol competitor in the last four years. That total not only beat Lambert's opponent Kris Allen, it also edged out the subsequent No. 1 debut by 2011 Idol Scotty McCreery, as I noted in a recent column.
As I also explained in that column, the difference between a No. 1 debut and a No. 3 debut is often all about release date: McCreery's 197,000 was enough to top the chart because it was dropped during an October week with light competition, while Lambert's 198,000 in the busy holiday season meant he fell short.
For Lambert's second album, his label's chosen date of May 15 offers Lambert a fair fight. Trespassing's biggest competition includes another in the long, seemingly bimonthly string of Glee cast albums, which stopped topping the charts a year ago; a live album by Godsmack, who are a regular presence in the album-chart No. 1 spot, but we have seen very few concert-album chart-toppers in recent years by any act; and a new disc, Heroes, by Willie Nelson, who has never scored a pop No. 1 album (and also, frankly, deserves one).
Of course, to make it to No. 1, Lambert will probably need at least a low six-figure sum just to contend with penthouse fixture Adele, whose 21 is No. 2 this week and regularly sells around 100,000 copies a week, even now. In the absence of a big current hit at radio, Lambert will need more than his hardcore fans turning up; a sales-goosing TV appearance would help.
For all I know, Trespassing will not only fall short of the penthouse, it'll debut outside of the Top 10. Speculating about whether Lambert could pull this off is mostly the sort of sporting interest I regularly take in the pop charts—and it's hard to predict what will capture the public's fancy. If you'd told me at the start of 2012 that the only artist besides Adele to top the Billboard 200 for more than one week this year would be Lionel Richie, I'd have looked at you funny.
I offer all of this data mostly as an observation. A No. 1 album by Adam Lambert would make him not only the first openly gay artist to top the Billboard 200 but also the first openly gay American to top either of Billboard's two flagship charts. (Past Hot 100 chart-toppers by out gay or bisexual artists include British stars Elton John and David Bowie, and Right Said Fred's Richard Fairbrass.)
Even at this tipping-point moment for acceptance of gay civil rights, there's still another tiny cultural barrier left to cross. If anyone wants to start a Bridesmaids-style grassroots movement in the next couple of weeks, it might be fun to see if a gang of progressive-minded pop fans and chart geeks could help lift Lambert into the penthouse.
Probably won't happen. But wouldn't it be fun if it did?