Single Review: Adam Lambert – ‘Better Than I Know Myself’

“Sounds like Ryan Tedder trying to sing a song written for Chad Kroeger”

1 STAR

Digital Release: March 11, 2012

Physical Release: N/A

When Adam Lambert ran back to the US with his tail between his legs after a failed attempt at launching a career in the UK with ‘For Your Entertainment’, the eyebrows of many of those who stood at the sidelines watching his efforts raised questioningly – what on Earth went wrong? From a nation who has always accepted the erotic advances of acts like Scissor Sisters and played along to the merry melodies of modern pop’s finest androgynous figures Mika and La Roux, Lambert looked set to reach the same level of success he’s enjoyed in the US. It’s fine enough to throw around questions and comparisons like that – a lot of music journalists do – but the reality of it is that Adam Lambert, for want of a better phrase, was simply too gay; the ardent theatricality of his entire persona skips out the camp stage  that the Scissor Sisters mastered and makes a beeline for overt sexuality. The supporting evidence is right under the music-buying public’s nose. All that one needs to do is focus on the progression of Scissor Sisters. With two hugely successful albums already under their belt, their success was attributed to their ability to take an obviously gay subject and spin it around to open it’s appeal out to anyone with a penchant for 70’s-infused glam-disco. But the moment they released the ill-fated ‘Night Work’, it was obvious that by the dancer’s skin-tight lycra pants and clenched buttocks on the cover, that the band were optionally delving further and further into their subcultural niche of leather and bondage basements, skewing the lens that many viewed them with and potentially alienating a substantial cut of their audience. 

Jake Shears and the crew did it because they didn’t want to be commercial anymore, but Adam Lambert wants to be commercial and he wants to be noticed. In fact, Adam Lambert wants not so much to be noticed as to be adored, admired, revered even as some kind of unattainable god in songs like ‘For Your Entertainment’ and ‘If I Had You’ – a clever ploy to make angsty sob-rock like this a more poignantly emotive affair for those who enjoy that sort of thing. For others who wince at the thought of the sound of a flaccid incarnation of Judas Priest combined with the directionless fiddlings of Dr. Luke (who doesn’t wince at that?), ‘Better Than I Know Myself’ leave you wanting to tell Lambert the man up or shut up. The lyrics are same old, same old Lambert; an air of reluctance evident as he whinges about being an emotional void, etc. It’s times like this you wish he would learn the balance between his homoerotic fantasies and pitiful love life when he sobers back to reality.

Unfortunately for Lambert, balancing isn’t something that comes naturally to him, and ‘Better Than I Know Myself’ sounds like he and Dr. Luke are battling each other to be the main influence of the song; and in doing so both have forgotten what the song was meant to be doing. The result being a song that’s unnecessarily swelled-up and does absolutely nothing to reconcile it’s inflated nothingness.

Structurally and musically, it’s a disaster. Opening to a flatulent synth progression, there’s no give-away as to what style of music Dr. Luke is about to try (and fail) to pull off yet, but then some drums appear with Lambert’s voice filled with the sound of a man barely containing tumultuous amounts of tension. And yet it still feels, quite literally “cold as ice” – there is no emotion here. And Dr. Luke’s beats sound awkward and shoe-horned into place, disrupting any traceable rhythm and leaving Lambert’s voice as if it was just pasted over the top, which it probably was. It feels sterile and calculated, and even when the chorus arrives (which sees Dr. Luke decide he’s now writing a rock song), all the tried-and-tested ingredients of a big Dr. Luke crescendo appear. But alas for Lambert, he now sounds like Ryan Tedder trying to sing a song written for Chad Kroeger and going red in the face trying to squeeze out some big notes that really aren’t worth squeezing out, and also alas for Dr. Luke, who’s disparagingly repetitive sound is fast desensitising audiences from feeling anything. You could sit and listen to Lambert and Luke as they struggle to be overheard over one another and wonder to yourself what you – what anyone – can actually take from a song that sounds so stubbornly internal yet so overblown.

 

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