"American Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert's vocals weren't top-notch at last night's American Music Awards, but nobody really noticed. How could they, given his over-the-top and in-your-face sexual choreography?
Lambert's act during the show, aired on ABC, featured male dancers on leashes, an open-mouth kiss between Lambert and his male keyboardist, and simulated oral sex, both male-on-male and female-on-male.
Naturally, boundary-pushing Hollywood writers hailed Lambert's performance.
"As a TV viewer, I thought Lambert's performance was a gas, a delight, a blast of brash vulgarity in the midst of ordinary vulgarity," wrote Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker.
"The song he was singing was beside the point," Tucker continued. "The point was, ‘Here I am, Adam Lambert, freed from the shackles of American Idol, I'll push this dancer's face into my crotch if I feel like it, isn't it funny to lead human beings around on leashes, and can you believe how high I got my hair to stand up under these lights?'"
"Glambert definitely delivered on his promise of a ‘sexy' performance as he closed the live show," crowed Rolling Stone.
MTV echoed Rolling Stone's assessment. "Adam Lambert -- the man with the silver nail polish and the golden glint in his eyes - brought the ‘sexy' vibe he promised at Sunday's night's American Music Awards."
But even MTV admitted, "The ‘American Idol' runner-up presented what might be the most NSFW [Not Safe for Work] performance in the history of the AMAs, one that frequently crossed the border from sexy to rather graphic, and which put some previous provocative awards-show appearances by Madonna to shame."
Fearful that ABC might edit out the particularly risqué moments of his performance, Lambert stated that such a move would be "discrimination."
"In a roundabout way it's a form of discrimination because it's a double standard," Lambert told Rolling Stone. "They didn't censor Britney and Madonna smacking onstage did they? But yet two men kissing they'll censor?"
Rolling Stone did note that the Britney-Madonna moment Lambert referred to, in which the pop stars kissed, aired on cable channel MTV and not on a broadcast network such as ABC. Reports also indicated that ABC kept the kiss in the West Coast broadcast but did edit the oral sex depiction.
Lambert also called out the entertainment industry for its "double standards" and insisted his performance was designed to "promote freedom of expression and artistic freedom."
"Female performers have been doing this for years -- pushing the envelope about sexuality -- and the minute a man does it, everybody freaks out," he told Rolling Stone. "We're in 2009; it's time to take risks, be a little more brave, time to open people's eyes and it if offends them, then maybe I'm not for them. My goal was not to piss people off, it was to promote freedom of expression and artistic freedom."
Apparently Lambert has forgotten the backlash from the ill-conceived Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake Super Bowl half-time show which resulted in Jackson flashing audiences worldwide.
And the cry of "freedom of expression" and "artistic freedom" rang hollow when earlier this month Out magazine's editor-in-chief Aaron Hicklin called out Lambert in an open letter for what he perceived to be the perfomer's dishonesty regarding his sexuality.
Hicklin was particularly peeved about Lambert's management's refusal to allow him to appear alone on the cover of the magazine, and the decision to allow the former "American Idol" star to pose provocatively with a woman in Details magazine, and he made specific mention of Lambert "going down" on a man:
[G]etting straight men and women to do Out is easy these days. It gives them cred. Getting gay stars like yourself is another matter. Much easier to stick you in Details, where your homosexuality can be neutralized by having you awkwardly grabbing a women's breast and saying, "Women are pretty." So are kittens, Adam, but it doesn't mean you have to make out with them. Imagine how much more radical it would have been to go down on a guy instead of that six-foot Barbie. We don't think you would have a problem with that -- why should you? -- but your record label would, and letting them dictate the terms is the very opposite of rock ‘n' roll.
Lambert refused to acknowledge his homosexuality until after Kris Allen was crowned this year's American Idol, but his penchant for heavy make-up, his flamboyant style, and pictures of him kissing another man sparked heated conversations last spring.
Rumors of his sexuality caused Newsweek's Ramin Setoodeh to worry about the "Christian influence" on "Idol" voters. After Allen won, the media promoted the idea that he won largely due to an anti-gay bias rampant in "Idol" viewers.
With an album out today, Lambert will be making the media rounds, including appearances on David Letterman and ABC's "Good Morning America" throughout this week.