Racy performance raises questioning of the controversy

Adam Lambert’s performance at the American Music Awards received much backlash from the media. Columnist Josh Fernandez thinks it all was blown out of proportion.

Adam Lambert’s performance at the American Music Awards received much backlash from the media. Columnist Josh Fernandez thinks it all was blown out of proportion.

I returned to my overpriced apartment after a much needed day trip to Ocean City, N.J., eagerly awaiting the start of the American Music Awards with several Temple friends. Picture 5

The award show came on, and after an hour passed, I began dozing off. I wasn’t necessarily impressed with this year’s AMAs (mostly because, like many queers, I felt Lady Gaga was robbed of all the awards for which she was nominated). My exhaustion was growing with every minute, and I was on the brink of collapsing on my friend Mackenzie’s shoulders until Adam Lambert came on.

I don’t follow American Idol, and I’ve never heard one of his songs, but I know Lambert because his name is all over advertisements and magazines, so I was intrigued.

Singing “For Your Entertainment,” Lambert caused a majority of Americans’ jaws to drop with his shocking and sexually charged stage performance. Under green and blue stage lights, Lambert walked male dancers attached to a leash, grabbed a male dancer’s crotch and — my favorite — kissed a male keyboardist. At some point, the ABC broadcast went black for about two minutes, and then returned to the end of Lambert’s performance.

My friends’ reactions ranged from, “Wow, that’s hot,” to, “Was that necessary?” I had mixed feelings about Lambert’s act.

Needless to say, a controversy ensued. ABC received thousands of complaints about Lambert’s routine. Good Morning America canceled Lambert’s appearance scheduled for Nov. 25. Tweeters and bloggers went crazy, voicing their opinions all over social networking sites.

And finally — my favorite — The View’s young conservative-in-residence, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, like many who were appalled by Lambert’s AMA debut, said she thought the performance wasn’t appropriate for nighttime television, let alone appropriate enough to re-air on The View, pretty much declaring her love for censorship.

“There was an aggression that came across,” she said in her final remarks on the performance, “and it was subjective, a sexual aggression that came across. So does anyone remember what song he sang or what it sounded like? This is a mistake that Adam Lambert will make time and time again. No one will remember him as a performer or someone with a voice. He needs to smarten up and sing.”

On CBS’s The Early Show, Lambert said the racy aspects of his performance were impromptu and that he didn’t think about the younger viewers possibly watching, mostly because it was a show that aired at 11 p.m. He added his was not the only racy performance at the AMAs: Lady Gaga smashed whiskey bottles on stage, Janet Jackson grabbed a male dancer’s crotch, and Eminem “talked about how Slim Shady has 17 rapes under his belt.”

While considering the truth to his last statements about AMA performers, I was pulled back to yesteryear – 2003 to be exact. At the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, Madonna stood between Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera who were dressed in bridal-like attire. Madonna caressed their legs, pulled off Aguilera’s garter and kissed both pop stars.

The backlash for that performance was not nearly as absurd as the backlash Lambert is receiving.
No one flew off the handle when Jackson grabbed the male dancer’s crotch. I don’t recall The View’s Hasselbeck – or anyone else for that matter – getting up in arms over Eminem’s horrible, sexist rape remark. And although Lady Gaga is known for her peculiarity, no one complained about her smashing whiskey bottles.

My aunt, during a phone conversation, said she was appalled because “that Adam Lambert” was not the Lambert she and America voted for on American Idol. Pop music artists have to reinvent themselves constantly to stay on top of the industry. This was probably Lambert reinventing himself, albeit very quickly.

When Lambert says the music industry has a double standard, I believe him. If that were Madonna or Spears doing what he was doing, people would be angry or puzzled for a second and eventually shrug it off because that’s what Madonna and Spears are known for.

I hate to jump on the bandwagon with Lambert and cry homophobia, because it’s annoying when a star’s sexuality is thrown into the mix, especially when it’s not warranted. But this incident and the ensuing media storm is a prime example of America’s ignorance.

Lambert isn’t completely blame-free, either. His performance was impromptu, he says, but he had to realize the oral sex simulation would result in a million or more gasps across the country. And while the leash-wearing dancers were possibly not a spur-of-the-moment aspect to his performance, Lambert should realize that America, while younger than many countries, is conservative when it comes to sex.

On some level, he knew what he was doing, whether it was a publicity stunt or something else entirely.

I for one am sick of this double standard. I am sick of the people like Hasselbeck who have an issue with openly expressed homosexuality in performances, who hypocritically say nothing when Jackson has a sexually charged performance or when a sexist pig like Eminem makes crude, insensitive comments about rape.

There is a sexual component to pop music. Interpretations of this music, therefore, will inevitably be found in performances.

After this ordeal, I think we need to make two things very clear: Adam Lambert is in no way, shape or form a gay martyr, and we live in a society that is comfortable justifying it’s homophobia or ignorance by using children as an excuse to barricade queer culture in the closet.

Josh Fernandez can be reached at josh@temple.edu.


  1. Kudos Josh! I do agree it was blown out of proportion and it is still not dying down. It sickens me because this kid is really good. He has real talent and I think we are only starting to see what he is capable of accomplishing. I’m am confused by the Gay community. Here they see one of their own who is basically being lynched by the media. Why isn’t every single member of the Gay community backing this kid up? Who cares if you think he might have stepped over the line folks are trying to skin him alive! Get out there an pick up at least one copy of his CD. Stand behind him on an blog or two and just get his back. If enough people voice their support for him he’ll get another chance and I doubt he’ll screw up again. Besides whoever his handlers were who did that production should have cautioned him and they obviously did not. So Shame on his management team. Way not to take care of your artist.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. I certainly believe that here in Western Europe the performance would not have been met with such an outcry and backlash from the network. That being said it’s time for him to get past this and on with what he does best: Singing. Conservative America don’t seem to be ready for the Adam Bomb.

  3. Boo! Elisabeth Hasselbeck and her big mouth! Someone oughtta take her out or make her move out of this country!!!

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