Adam Lambert is a dynamic performer known for his soaring tenor vocals and flair for matching his theatrical training with classic rock, glitter, and dance-pop sensibilities. A star since he first rose to fame as runner-up on the eighth season of American Idol in 2009, Lambert has garnered chart success and critical acclaim for his solo albums, including 2009's For Your Entertainment and 2015's Original High, both of which hit number three on the Billboard 200; For Your Entertainment also spawned the Grammy-nominated hit "Whataya Want from Me." An LGBTQ+ artist, Lambert is a two-time GLAAD Award winner and the first openly gay performer to top the Billboard 200 chart, as he did with 2012's Trespassing. Along with his own work, Lambert stepped into the shoes of his idol, the late Freddie Mercury, as the main singer with legendary rock group Queen, regularly touring with them since 2011. In 2020, he brought all of his varied glam rock, pop, and funk influences to bear on his fourth studio album, Velvet.
Born Adam Mitchell Lambert in 1982 in Indianapolis, Indiana, Lambert grew up in San Diego, where he first began performing around age nine in local theater productions. By his teens, he was a dedicated singer and stage actor attending Mesa Verde Middle School and Mount Carmel High School, where he excelled at theater, choir, and as a singer with the jazz band. While in high school, he continued to perform locally, appearing in productions of Hello, Dolly!, Camelot, The Music Man, Grease, and more. Following graduation, he spent roughly a month at California State University, Fullerton, before moving to Los Angeles to pursue his career. Subsequently, he worked on a cruise ship, acted in light opera, and appeared in various productions. In 2004, he got his break appearing alongside Val Kilmer in the role of Joshua in The Ten Commandments: The Musical at the Kodak Theatre. From there, he toured nationally from 2005 to 2008 as a cast member and understudy in a production of Wicked. Away from theater, he also sang in a rock band and worked as a session and demo vocalist.
In 2009, Lambert successfully auditioned for the eighth season of American Idol in San Francisco, singing "Rock with You" and "Bohemian Rhapsody." While on the show, his flair for neo-goth clothing and eclectic arrangements made him a critical favorite, as did his dramatic tenor vocals. Following performances of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," Tears for Fears' "Mad World," and Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," Lambert found himself pitted against Kris Allen in the grand finale, which he ultimately lost by a slim margin. Lambert was unanimously praised by the American Idol judges, however, who all but guaranteed him a successful recording career following the show's conclusion.
Although Lambert didn't win the Idol competition, he received far more attention than his castmates during the following months, during which he appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in June ("I don't think it should be a surprise for anyone to hear that I'm gay," he stated in the accompanying article, thus putting an end to the public's speculation) and elicited standing ovations during the summer-long American Idol tour. He also signed with RCA and began recording his debut album, working alongside producer Rob Cavallo while soliciting material from the likes of Lady Gaga, Linda Perry, Justin Hawkins, and RedOne.
One month before For Your Entertainment's release, Lambert unveiled his first single, a track from the 2012 soundtrack titled "Time for Miracles." His debut album followed in late November (arriving one week after the release of Kris Allen's own debut) and sold close to 200,000 copies during its first week, outdoing new releases by Rihanna and Lady Gaga in the process. Meanwhile, a risqué performance at the American Music Awards — during which Lambert kissed his male keyboardist and danced suggestively with both sexes — helped gather additional headlines, not to mention a fair amount of controversy.
Lambert's five-song EP Acoustic Live!, featuring stripped-down versions of songs from For Your Entertainment as well as the Tears for Fears cover "Mad World," was released in December 2010. The following year, Lambert delivered the concert album/DVD Glam Nation Live, featuring performances recorded during the Indianapolis stop of his 2010 Glam Nation tour. Lambert's full-length sophomore effort, Trespassing, was released in 2012, with the album featuring a bevy of big-name collaborators including Bruno Mars, Nikka Costa, Sam Sparro, and Pharrell Williams. It hit number one but sold fewer copies than For Your Entertainment, and Lambert announced in 2013 that he was leaving RCA. He returned several times to American Idol, however, and announced in 2014 that he would tour with Queen, where he would front the band in place of the late Freddie Mercury.
In 2015, Lambert returned as the first former contestant to appear as a judge on American Idol. His next studio release would be The Original High — his first on Warner Bros. following his departure from RCA — on which he had worked with Swedish songwriter/producers Max Martin and Shellback. The album appeared in June of 2015. Coming off his Original High tour, Lambert stayed busy in 2016 touring with Queen and appearing as a judge on The X Factor Australia. He was also featured that year on the Steve Aoki and Felix Jaehn track "Can't Go Home." A standalone single, "Two Fux," arrived in 2017. The following year, he joined Melissa Etheridge in a performance opening the 29th GLAAD Media Awards. He also reunited with Queen for a ten-date Las Vegas residency.
In March 2020, Lambert released his fourth studio album, Velvet, which found him diving even deeper into his '70s- and '80s-style glam and funk-influences. Prior to the album's release, he had teased his fans with the six-track EP Velvet: Side A, which showcased the songs "Feel Something" and "Superpower." Along with those tracks, Velvet also included the spotlight tracks "New Eyes," "Comin' in Hot," and "Roses," the latter-of-which featured legendary Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers. ~ Andrew Leahey