As tied up as we are in waiting for legislation to catch up with our humanity, being a gay man can be supremely liberating. This is especially so on a behavioral level. (I assume this is similar for queer people of all and/or no genders, but I'm just speaking from experience here.) To be at peace with your queerness is to allow yourself to do whatever the fuck. We're not really expected to adhere to the heteronormative confines of masculinity, so why should we? Getting over the fear of being called a faggot really opens up the possibilities of how you represent yourself – you can be as masculine and/or as feminine as you are and/or see fit at a moment's notice. We still have to mind our environment (so, like, ease up on the lip liner in Uganda), but given the right place, we are freer than most.
Adam Lambert's consistently electrifying second album, Tresspassing (out this week), is that freedom set to music. It's freer than anything I've heard since the drag queen Sylvester disguised himself all over again in baritone at the conclusion of his "Dance (Disco Heat)." Though pummeling with house beats that by now have had their historical gayness ironed out of them by mainstream acceptance, Trespassing's tracks are largely more slinky than your typically buzzing and blaring Euro-radio fare. They often are stripped down, effete. "Kickin' In" recalls the unfairly ignored cowbell disco invocations by Pharrell Williams on Madonna's Hard Candy. The title track references the entire phenomenon of non-disco groups going disco — it overtly signifies Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" in limber, pronounced bass line and pre-chorus steam-whooshing. It's smitten with musically ambiguous sexuality.
Lambert is one to mix it up, too, as he often unleashes a hair-metal yowl that harkens back to yet a different era of masculine/feminine fluidity. He rarely flames out vocally, save some operatic caterwauling in the George Michael-y "Broken English." Even his command to, "Work bitch!" in "Pop That Lock" is kind of inhaled and reserved, a drag-queen sentiment that's coming from a dude with just some eyeliner on his face. OK, and maybe some foundation.
There is a deliciously matter-of-fact approach to the overt gayness throughout – on the Maroon 5-ish "Shady," Lambert reveals plainly enough to go undetected unless you're really paying attention, "I throw more shade than a cloudy day." Elsewhere, he sings about his friend's friend Eddie with a "persuasive" "dirty mind," he implores some prey he spots while on the hunt to "Get your ass down to the front, go on and pull it out, I dare you," and he uses the words "ass" and "load" in sequential sentences. He best sums up his entire mindset here in the homage to/rip-off of Berlin's "No More Words," "Cuckoo": "I'm cocked and I'm ready to go."
There's a little bit of heavy-handed activism by way of love song — in the placid "Outlaws of Love," whose melody lightly recalls a hit from his first album, "Whataya Want From Me," he gets all Brokeback in his prettiest croon: "They say we'll rot in Hell / But I don't think we will / They've branded us enough / Outlaws of love." The song is nice, but it doesn't proclaim anything that the rest of the album hasn't said already with more subtlety and inherent assertion. For someone whose gayness has always been a talking point (even when he wasn't doing the talking during his stint on American Idol), whose career has felt the curse disproportionate to the gifts, whose first album ranked around a 4 on the musical Kinsey scale versus Tresspassing's solid 6, it seems that Lambert has achieved peace with himself in his music. There's almost nothing here that a straight dude could get away with singing. On Tresspassing, Lambert is here, queer and it sure sounds like he's used to it. It's a boon to his art.
[Image via Getty]