Debut albums from American Idol alums are notoriously rushed efforts. Even the best of these albums fail to show the full potential of the artists recording them. More than with most artists, the second album is usually key in determining where the artist will go in the future.
That’s the place Adam Lambert is at right now. His debut, 2009’s For Your Entertainment, was a surprisingly strong collection of songs with a wide range of input from artists and producers like Lady Gaga, P!nk, Linda Perry, Max Martin and Dr. Luke. The result was a sometimes thrilling, sometimes maddening album that showed a lot of potential, but also felt a tad too schizophrenic at points.
With his sophomore effort, Trespassing, Lambert establishes a more solid musical personality: the wild child of the Idol bunch. Trespassing is an arresting collection of fierce, funky dance tracks and deep, pensive ballads. Rather than mix the two styles, the album splits the two into separate halves.
The first seven tracks serving as a non-stop barrage of sassy fun over dubstep-influenced pop. The tracks take on different styles. The title track and “Kickin’ In” both come from Pharrell, and include his signature production style. There’s more attitude on these two tracks alone than you’ll find on an entire Katy Perry album. “Shady,” meanwhile, pairs Adam with Sam Sparro and Nile Rodgers (of Chic fame), and is probably the single coolest song Adam’s recorded to date.
Another pair of songs on the front half of the album are just begging for single release. The first, “Cuckoo,” is a dance song with an immediately catchy chorus. The second, “Naked Love,” is a slightly more laidback song that sounds like a Bruno Mars track with a dance beat. It’s a good thing.
The five tracks that make up the back end of the standard edition are, by comparison, a lot slower. The second half opens with lead single “Better Than I Know Myself,” which works surprisingly well at transitioning the album. It’s the closest Adam comes to replicating his biggest hit, “Whataya Want from Me.” It also starts a theme covered in the back half of the album about troubled relationships. “Broken English” tackles problems with communicating, while “Chokehold” describes the thrill of a toxic relationship.
The highlight of the album is its closer, “Outlaws of Love.” While For Your Entertainment didn’t exactly avoid Adam’s sexuality (with “Fever” being the most prominent example), Trespassing is a bit more explicit in its subject matter, and “Outlaws of Love” is the most haunting example of songs performed from an LGBT perspective. It’s all about the longing for acceptance, a topic that should resonate with many of the album’s listeners.
Trespassing is one of the stronger, more consistent mainstream pop albums to come out in the past year, and with the right push from RCA Records, it could be a big hit. My one complaint? The singles released so far, while good, do not do this album justice. Releasing “Cuckoo” would be a step in the right direction.