Robert Hampton

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18th May 2009

Idol Chatter
Posted by at 9.18pm | No responses | Music, Television

Adam Lambert Entertainment Weekly CoverEurovision may be over for another year, but in the US, another high-profile singing competition is storming towards its finale: namely, American Idol.

I seem to have become addicted to these sorts of shows recently. The Apprentice and (oh, I’m ashamed of this one) Britain’s Got Talent have both sucked me in and got me watching. It’s quite worrying for me: what if I can’t stop it? Will I be grabbing the Daily Star off the newsagent’s shelf during the summer to catch up on Big Bruv? (dear God, no)

Anyway, I have a perfect excuse for plonking myself down in front of ITV2 (aka the Katie and Peter channel) to watch Idol, and that reason is Adam Lambert.

Lambert is an anomaly in the history of televised talent contests. Indeed, with his tight trousers, copious amounts of eyeliner and barely-concealed homosexuality, it’s hard to imagine a more atypical contestant.

He’s survived through to the grand final despite numerous attempts to sabotage his progress. In the early stages of the finals, pictures surfaced online showing him in drag, then more showing him kissing another man. They were published in gossip magazines and looped endlessly on right-wing TV news shows, with the American public invited to look at them and think, “ewww, homo!”

The following week, he gave a flawless performance of Black or White. Against the backdrop described above, it felt like a defiant gesture to all his detractors. He easily avoided elimination.

Week after week he has, as Americans like to say, knocked it out of the park. His emotionally-charged performance of Mad World earned a standing ovation. Led Zeppelin granted permission to perform one of their songs for the first time ever on the show, ostensibly because it was Lambert who would sing it. If he did occasionally go slightly wrong (his take on Ring of Fire bemused everyone and was described as “indulgent rubbish”), it only further cemented his reputation as a risk-taker.

I could be accused of taking this too seriously, and that may be right, but there is an issue at the heart of the matter which needs to be aired: has America reached the point where it can treat sexual orientation as a non-issue and vote for an obviously-talented gay man to win a competition like this? It’s a stark choice: Adam’s opponent is all-American, churchgoing boy-next-door Kris Allen (who, to be fair, is also very good). Fox News is already salivating over a final which seems to symbolise the so-called “Culture War”.

Will he win? He’s the favourite, but I don’t think it’s the foregone conclusion many are making it out to be. Lambert has been subjected to immense media coverage, both positive and negative. Crucially, he has aroused interest among people who normally avoid Idol like the plague; if Google Trends is to be believed, he’s already well in front purely in terms of audience interest. If those casual viewers pick up the phone on Tuesday night to vote, it could make all the difference. On the other hand, he is a polarising figure and the haters who want to knock him down can’t be discounted.

In a sense, it doesn’t matter if Lambert wins — he has clearly impressed Simon Cowell and is guaranteed a lucrative recording contract in any event. But I want him to win, not least because it will be a big F-you to those who have directed endless amounts of homophobic vitriol at him.

The results are announced on Wednesday night in the US (ITV2 will show the finale in the UK on Thursday and Friday). For Adam’s fans — and I will happily include myself in that list — it’s going to be a long wait.

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