The first single and title track from Adam Lambert's soon-to-be-released debut album couldn't be more of an announcement. "For Your Entertainment" strides into the room, snaps its fingers and declares 2010 the year of Our Gorgeously Airbrushed Overlord.
With a toy whip in his hand and a glittery gleam in his eye, Glambert croons familiar phrases about making it hot, getting rough and staying in control. Scandinavian hit-maker Dr. Luke wrote and produced the track, and it has that compressed, noisy rock 'n' roll circus sound he's created for others, including Britney, Pink and that other neo-vaudevillian troublemaker, Katy Perry.
Some glamthusiasts may bemoan the restraint (and processing) applied to the song's vocal, but Lambert is making another move in this song, one likely to become a signature. He sings with an arched eyebrow, executing a come-on that wryly takes the pfft out of itself.
As on his blockbuster-movie power ballad "Time for Miracles," Lambert practices some pop restraint at first, only really letting go at the song's three-minute mark. "Let me entertain you till you scream," he wails, his voice fully entering the androgynous zone. It's a game that's led from the dance floor to the bedroom: seduction as a wicked parlor trick fully enjoyed by the master and his victim, the light fantasy of dominance and submission that's a metaphor for what happens between performer and fan.
Though Madonna and Britney Spears have both traveled this ground before, Lambert does it in a way that's very male. The song's beat is definitely contemporary, traceable to early-2000s electro-pop artists such as Goldfrapp (thanks to critic Barry Walters for that observation) and typical of work by the aforementioned female pop stars, who push the dance floor in ways that are distinctly reminiscent of rock.
For a male artist like Lambert, the move is a resurrection -- of glam (his often-stated goal) and its later streams, new Wave and Brit-pop. With his way of combining camp with the humor and solidity of an All-American Boy, Lambert finally might accomplish what sometimes expat Robbie Williams and Euro favorites the Scissor Sisters haven't quite yet done: invent an American take on comfortable male androgyny.
I should qualify my point by saying, a white American take. Little Richard, Sylvester, Prince and Michael Jackson already have proved that dance music and rock can come together in a sound that has both rough edges and a certain softness, a hard thump and a high wail.
Hair metal sometimes got there too, but in that world, cartoonishness or a certain fear of losing male credibility usually took over.
In recent years, mainstream rock has cultivated a masculine frown, with only a few outliers -- Of Montreal, Scissor Sisters -- treading the ground artists such as T. Rex, Roxy Music and David Bowie first mapped. "For Your Entertainment" takes that lineage into today's clubs. It's deliberately light fare, but with a big sparkly ring on a slightly calloused finger; it points in a good direction.
Oh, and at times, it really reminds me of George Michael.