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October 7, 2021 29 mins

Glam-rock powerhouse, Adam Lambert, took pop music by storm with his handsome looks, electrifying stage theatrics and jaw-dropping vocal acrobatics. He has entertained across the stage, television and radio...and shocked the world along the way. Despite his success, Adam faced constant criticism about being too bold, too offensive and too gay. Hear interviews with family, friends, industry experts and musical luminaries including Barry Weiss and "American Idol" Season 8 winner Kris Allen. Listen in as Adam Lambert comes clean about who he really is and the obstacles he has overcome to get where he is today.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:05):
He's the glam rock powerhouse that took the pop music
world by storm with flair and a little bit of eyeliner.
But success didn't come easily for Adam Lambert. As a teenager,
he wrestled with his identity and struggled to feel comfortable
with himself. He took refuge in music and theater, blending
his sense of theatrics with pop and dance. But even

though Adam came out, the music industry wasn't ready to
let him in. Adam finally made his mark as a
contestant on American Idol. He ignited the flames of controversy
with his uninhibited attitude and provocative style. Never backing down,
Adam finally hit it big and became an international sensation.

This is Adam Lambert, the story behind the music. It's
another day on the road as Adam Lambert winds down
his six month long Lamb Nation tour, rocking fans in
over one hundred cities worldwide. It's the perfect platform to

preach his mantra of self expression. Being in this position,
being in the public eye, being an artist, It's a
great opportunity to flex your muscle in just being who
you are. I got to meet the fans in every city,
and and there are a handful of occasions where gon
a little choked up with a fan who has expressed
to me, you know what, You've changed my life. You've

given me confidence, or you've made me more open minded
about your lifestyle. Adam is hardly your typical pop star,
and after a cathartic journey searching for his identity both
personally and professionally, Adam soaking up every moment of his success.
I think I'm a result of all the things that
I love about music. You know, I love rock and roll.

I love like that bombastic approach to vocals and sexuality,
and I love the production style of electronic music. I
love all that. I like artists to take risks and
don't want to blend in. That's the kind of person
I am, and that's the kind of artist that I am.
Adam Mitchell Lambridge journey to start him began on January

twenty nine. He grew up in the sunny suburbs of
San Diego with his younger brother Neil, and their loving parents,
Eber and Leela. When Adam was younger, he had an
imagination that was wild. He loved put on costumes and
makeup and um, he played all kinds of different characters.

My parents put me in a theater program and that
was to kind of channel some of my excess energy,
you know. I think they put me an indoor soccer
and t ball, um, and surprisingly neither one of those
really worked out for me. As Adam grew older, is
natural gift for singing became a source of pride, but offstage,

he began to suffer from an intense identity crisis. Just
twelve years old, Adam already knew where he was different.
I think when I was about sixth grade, that's when
I first realized that I was probably not the same
as the other boys. And you know, it was a
weird discovery. And of course I was kind of in
denial for a while, and it was all on my
own head, and to me, it was a deep secret.

I was just not ready to talk about it with anybody,
and I didn't know how that my parents would react,
and I didn't know what that would be like. And
I think at that age was something that I was
ashamed of because it was so different and wasn't the
norm and not encouraged, and no one talks about that
in school, and you know, it's one of the things
that's so hard about being a young person and realizing
that you're you're gay or buy or whatever. We're not

told that that's okay. Adam's insecurities only grew worse, and
by the time he reached high school, he felt like
an outsider. I was awkward and struggling to find out
who I was and where I fit. I didn't know
anybody else that was gay, so I was playing along.
And that's one of the things that is really tough,

is that you you kind of create this persona in
order to be accepted, and that persona is I'm just
like everybody else. So I'm gonna ask the girl to
the dance. I'm gonna wear the clothes that all the
other boys are wearing, and this way, no one will
make fun of me. In this way, I'll be accepted.
The harder became to live this lie, the more Adam
found solace on stage. In high school. Adam jumped right

in as a freshman and was already booking lead roles
and beating out these seniors from the big parts. I
was hiding this other part of myself. But in order
to compensate. I wanted to be the best singer, the
best actor, the best dancer in my theater group, my
one place that I felt like I belonged for years,
Adam's parents had suspected he might be gay. The summer

after high school graduation, Adam and his mother attended to
play about a troubled gay youth whose parents disowned him.
On the way home, his mother sees the opportunity to
have a long overdue discussion. I thought, this is a
golden opportunity for me to say something to him. And
I said, you know, you can tell me anything. Do
you want to have a girlfriend? And he said no,

not really. And I said do you want to have
a boyfriend? And he goes, well, I don't know, maybe,
And so at that moment, that was the first time
he ever really said that. I remember saying, Mom, why
don't you ask me sooner? She says, well, I didn't
want to rush you. I wanted you to come to
me when you were ready. It was very natural. I
was like, oh, finally, thanks for asking. I think we
all had a collective side relief that we you know, okay,

finally it's all I'm the open It felt amazing. It
really did. It felt like a weight was lifted. Having
that freedom of communication about a part of me that
I had kept secret for so long. Inspired, Adam made
another bold decision in the fall of two thousand. After
just five weeks as a freshman it cal State Fullerden,

he abruptly quit and followed his heart to the right
lights of Hollywood. I really sat and evaluated what I wanted.
I loved musical theater. That's what I want to start doing.
Since I was a kid, that would have been my
big dream was I want to be a Broadway star.
If you want something, you have to have the courage
to go and grab it. In two thousand, eighteen year

old Adam Lambert dropped out of college and set out
for Hollywood with visions of one day becoming a Broadway star.
But once in Los Angeles, Adam came face to face
with a cold reality he was starting at the bottom.
I lived on my own in a really rundown apartment
up in North Hollywood, and it was pretty nearly We'd
drive up to it and it's in this really seedy neighborhood.

He opens the door and there are thousands of cockroads
just thousands. It's like Stephen King, we and we're all
just standing in the doorway looking and we're like, wow,
this is bad. I cried the whole way home where
I had been there. I couldn't believe he was living there.
But yet he was like, Oh, I'll be fine, it's okay,

he reassured me. But I wasn't very happy. But I
took a deep breath and stepped away and said, okay,
you know, let's see if he can do this. After
two long years pounding the pavement, Adam finally landed his
first big break, touring Europe as a lead performer in
the musical Hair. But for the still Shine Repressed twenty
one year old, the show's climactic nude scene presented a

special challenge in rehearsal. It was so intimidating. I was like,
Oh my god, I can't believe we have to get naked.
I'm so nervous. You know. I was still really uncomfortable,
kind of in my own body, and I think that
was one of the things that had still kind of
clung onto me from adolescence. Facing his fear, Adam peeled
away his insecurities through that process of having to do

that every night. I really I got a lot more
comfortable in my own skin and shedding that shame away,
just like just like I shed the clothes that came
off my body. I got so infatuated the themes of
the musical and of the whole late sixties hippie movement
that I said, I want to be a hippie here
in Europe, and I'm just gonna live this lifestyle that

we're telling the story of every night on stage. Adams
soon went to his first rave and immersed himself in
Europe's edgy, underground club scene. We spent most of the
time on this tour in Germany and uh their attitudes
towards alternative sexuality, where that just didn't care. I really
appreciated that because it gave me a feeling of freedom

to kind of explore and to express my sexuality. Adam's
transformation was fantastic to watch. He was like, I'm gonna
dye my hair and then went to he had black hair,
and he started adding some jewelry and human shopping, and
the wardrobe got flashier and crazier, and you know, the
self expression was really boring. Through his kind of fantastic
in two thousand three, after the tour ended, Adam moved

back to l A with a completely different attitude. I
was renewed. I felt like this new sense of self.
So I started meeting more are people and going on
at night, dressing up real club kid, wearing crazy shoes
and makeup and weird outfits, and going to these strange
clubs that are downtown in a warehouse and there were
you know, drugs and lots of drag queens. And I

think he kind of dove into that and wanted to
see how wild his life could be. But not everyone
was down with the experiment, as Adam quickly learned when
he was cast as a slave named Joshua in the
musical The Ten Commandments. I would come into rehearsal in
you know, whatever the heck I wanted to wear with
some nail polish on, maybe a little eyeliner from the

night before, you know, all black rock and roll t shirts,
you know. And I actually got criticized for it. They
came to me and they were like, we just feel
like you're you don't understand that's not what Joshua would wear.
I'm like, yo, yo, it's rehearsal. I'm not on stage
in from an audience. Yet cool it coming into this
religious musical and some people who were maybe a little

more conservative, it kind of rubbed them the wrong way.
You know that Adam was wearing nail polish. There was
a little discrimination going on and a little bit of
a lack of being open minded on their part, and
it was really frustrating. Adam realized he no longer fit
into the confining theater world and further his liberation when
friends invited him to join The Zodiac Show, an avant

garde blend of rock and roll theater and performance art. Theater.
People can tend to be a little reserved and kind
of cookie cutter, and these this was a collective of
people that were kind of the wild children of the
theater world, really intense artistic spirits. He was with a
group of people that thought the way he did, and
had an outlook the way he did, and sold the

world the same. In his December two thousand four debut,
Adam chose the appropriately titled Sam Cook classic, A Change
is Gonna Come Now. Finally free to look and sing
however he wanted. A new part of his creative spirit
was unleashed. We just came out of the ten Command
and where there was all this frustration and he really

wanted to kind of come out and express the rebellious
artist that was in there. Was very pivotal and it
was a beautiful, inspiring time. You picked that song because
it kind of embodied that feeling of you know what
you told me, No, you told me I couldn't do it,
You told me I was wrong. And I say that
with his as much of my pent up frustration on

that topic as I possibly could. I think everybody in
the audience just was in shock and off when he
was singing, and then he threw the microphone and you
know it was like here I am, I've arrived, Go
leave yourself. Adam it spent his whole life training for
the theater, but now intoxicated by the freedom of singing

on his own terms, a much different life was beckoning.
All of a sudden, I thought, you know what I
want to make music. This is what I want to do.
Coming up Adam's personal life because MS, the talk of
idol and later pop's new Glam sensation pushes the boundaries
when behind the music continues. In two thousand five, after

training for theater, all his life, Adam Lambert was consumed
with chasing a new dream, rock stardom, but he quickly
discovered that it wasn't going to be as easy as
he had hoped. You have to work really hard, and
I did. But it takes a little bit more to
be a rock star than just the desire. It's really
difficult to convince a middle aged record executive that seven

year old gay guy that wears eyeliner is going to
be the next pop star. It's just it didn't It
didn't make sense. There's so many challenges to make it
in the music industry. You have to get somebody who's
behind you. And I remember Adam coming over to the house.
Me and my wife are watching American Idol. We're like, Adam,
you should go on this show. He would totally win.

And I was like, oh right, Like I'm gonna be
able to be on American Idol. They wouldn't want me.
I wouldn't make it past Simon. There's no way. He
would tell me I'm too Broadway and weird and and
be done. Stuck in a rut, Adam desperately needed a spark,
and in the summer of two thousand seven, that's just
what he got. Partying with friends at Burning Man, an

annual festival advocating self expression, Adam was enjoying a psychedelic
experience when he came to a life changing realization. What
I realized was if I wanted to be a singer
and make that happen, I had to make it happen.
It wasn't just gonna happen to me. And I think
that was the first time that I started realizing that

that I had control over my world. Adam returned home
determined to create his own opportunity, and when friends once
again suggested America an idol, this time he didn't hesitate.
In the summer of two thousand and eight, the year
old singer packed a bag and headed up the coast
to San Francisco, where IDOL was holding tryouts. I thought,

what do I have to lose, might as well do it.
That's my new epiphany. That's my new goal in life
right now, is to just take as many risks as
I can and just see where it lands. If I
didn't take the risk, I was worried that later down
the road I would regret it and regret sucks. I
was like, oh my gosh, this is actually happening. This
is real now. Going up against stiff competition, Adam stood

out and survived to make the top thirteen. But just
as the competition was heating up, he found himself in
the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Risk a photos
of Adam kissing an ex boyfriend were leaked all over
the internet. It was actually my own fault. They were
on a social networking site called Tribe, and I had

totally forgotten I had an account on and the pictures
just started circulating. I thought, oh no, it's over. I said, Adam,
you gotta look because I think it's not going to
be a good thing. I coot freaked out. I don't
want pictures of me making out, you know, all across
the country. These are pictures that were private that I

never really thought twice about taking because I never thought, oh,
what if I'm famous someday and that wasn't I never
thought I would be. As the media began to speculate
about adams sexuality, he addressed the topic with Access Hollywood
in a March two thousand nine interview. Standing tall, Adam
didn't deny anything, but he also failed to kill a
controversy that would only grow stronger. I think it was

less about oh, gosh, now they're gonna know I'm gay,
and it was more just about, wow, that's my personal life.
And at that point I wasn't ready to open the
doors wide open on my entire personal life. And you know,
obviously I wasn't ashamed of it, and I didn't want
to lie about it. But that's not what I was
there to do. Was there to sing, not to talk
about my love life. In the spring of two thousand nine,

knowing this might be his last shot to make it big,
twenty seven year old Adam Lambert seized American Idol spotlight
with daring bravado. I kind of like shocking. I think
everything that I do on stage is meant to provoke
some sort of reaction from the audience. He was a
start for the minute he went on that show. Everything
he did was pushing the envelope. He has this angelic voice,

and he helped to turn American Idol at least that season,
from being what's essentially a pageant into being this kind
of you know, dramatic like burlesque. I don't like to
play it safe. I like to do things, you know,
week after week, viewers couldn't wait to see what Adam
would do next. But it was a poignant rendition of

the Tears for Fear song Mad World that truly captured
hearts across America. The lyrics of that song really do
speak of adam childhood memories and not always fitting in,
just feeling an outsider and feeling depressed. So that was
something that I really identified with, and I decided that

it would be a very emotional and kind of vulnerable
performance for me. I just thought Mad World was soul stirring,
just when he least expected it, you know, his interpretation
of the song, it was just nothing short of brilliant.
Adam catapulted to the final round, where he faced off
against Chris Allen. They were idle roommates, friends and polar opposites.

He was the guyliner guy to make up on, and
that was the guy next store that plays the guitar
and sings the love songs to his girl. The show
knew exactly what they're doing, obviously, they wanted to pit
us against each other. A sign of his growing star power,
Adam appeared solo on the cover of Entertainment Weekly days
before the finale, a first for an Idol singer. The

article praised his showmanship, calling Adam the most exciting Idol
contestant in years, while also questioning whether his sexuality would
affect the voting. The article was speculating whether or not
I was gay or not, and whether or not America
would vote for a gay Idol. I remember reading it
going why does it matter? But I guess it does.

It was pretty crazy. There's a lot of people in
the United States that aren't as open minded as we'd
all like them to be, so they're used to the
black and white cookie cutter shape Idol. You know you're
representing America, so you better be everything it stands for,
and Adam isn't that. And it was hard for me
because I wasn't able to talk technically, being on Idol.

You can't do any interviews individually until you're out of
the show. So I was sitting there going, I can't
really put in my two cents. It felt out of
my control, and feeling out of control is scary. As
fans across America cast their final votes, the outcome remained
very much in doubt. Remember when he said my name,

I was really shocked. Adam is awesome, and he deserved
it just as much as I did, really did. Adam
took the defeat and stride in his eyes he had
already won something much bigger. Chris and I had talked
right before the final show, and we were both like,
it really doesn't matter what happens now, because when you
get to the end of a show like that and

you get the exposure you get from American Idol, your
career is already going to take off into a different stratosphere.
Immediately after the finale, Adam graced the cover of Rolling Stone, and,
in what would become their best selling issue of two
thousand nine, set the record straight once and for all.
At the time that I was assigned this story, we
had no idea, first of all, if he was ever

going to come out, And within ten minutes he was like, Yeah,
so of course I'm gay. He told me this thing
that all of America wanted to know. It was the
easiest scoop I've ever got in my life. Within his
inner circle, Adam had been out for years, but proclaiming
his sexuality to the world was a watershed moment. I

wouldn't want to go through my career hiding anything. Or
trying to cover something up. It's just not my style.
Sexuality is so sensationalized, like everybody feels like they have
to label it and call it out. And I'm proud
of it. I'm proud of my sexuality. I have no
hang ups, I have no shame. But for me, it's
not about wearing a T shirt saying gay. It's Adam

coming up the kiss that shocked America. When Behind the
Music continues In July two thousand nine, Adam Lambert was

a flamboyant new face and pop music at a star
in the making. After finishing his runner up on American Idol,
he was immediately offered a deal by r c A Records.
I knew that this was my big moment, this was
my opportunity, this is what I've been working for the
last ten years that I've been in Los Angeles. He
felt like an arena artist, multi platinum artist from the

first time he saw him. He's extremely charismatic and he
feels like he was built to do this and the
biggest challenge was how are we going to bottle this
in turn us into an album? Collaborating with the likes
of Lady Gaga, Linda Perry King and Muse. Adam mixed
up the musical cocktail, using his glam rock roots with
deeply personal lyrics. I wrote the song Aftermath about the

moment before you come out that's incredibly scary, and that's
why I wrote those lyrics. I wanted to give support
and empowerment to people about to make a big life
decision and to tell them that it's okay that once
you do it, in the aftermath of that big, chaotic decision,
you will find liberation. For me, a lot of the

themes that I was exploring on the have to do
with that search for fulfillment, whatever form it takes. Strutt
is about empowerment. It's, you know, letting it all hang
out and owning your walk, owning your your groove, owning
your vibe, don't hold back. I hope that it can
inspire other people to just be themselves. Adam recorded his
debut album, for Your Entertainment in just two months, and

true to his image, chose a decidedly androgynous photo for
the cover. In November, he continued to play publicly with
his sexuality, posing with a woman for a racy spread
in Details magazine. The concept was She's going to be nude,
and you're gonna be kind of holding her in various
kind of sensual positions, hetero erotic. I thought that would

be really fun and weird and different and kind of
something that I hadn't done before. The photos triggered a
venomous reaction from the media, most notably the editor About magazine,
who criticized Adam for neutralizing his sexuality. I felt like,
aren't I doing enough? What else do you need from me? Yes,
I will be open about my sexuality. Yes I'm proud

about it. But I'm not here to carry the torch.
I'm not here to like be the example of how
to be gay. I didn't sign up for that, and
I even tweeted the guy about that because I was
so piste off. I was like, dude, don't project your
agenda onto me and expect me to carry that load.
That's not my job. I'm not a politician. I'm an entertainer.

On stage at the American Music Awards a few weeks later,
Adam turned the embers of controversy into a roaring blaze,
holding nothing back. He simulated oral sex drag leatherclad mail
dancers around on leashes then spontaneously grabbed his keyboard player
and kissed him. I'm looking at him and then I

see out of the corner of my eye him and
tom Me like they just started making out, and I'm
just like, we're on national TV. I was kind of thinking, like,
did I really just see what I am? But I
thought I saw, Oh man, this is gonna be all
over the news. This was my first televised performance since
coming off of American Idol, and the adrenaline went through

the roof. I got kind of excited. The backlash was instant.
I got off stage and did an interview, and the
first thing was, well, don't you think that you went
a well too far. As the interview was happening, I
literally went, oh, oh, whoops, Oh okay, okay. People are

gonna be pissed about this. ABC received over a thousand complaints,
and Good Morning America canceled adam scheduled appearance the next day.
It felt like I was kind of coming under an
attack for reasons that were probably a little deeper than
actually what I did. In fact, the next day on television,
the talk show that did end up having me on
as a guest last minute showed the kiss between Christina

Madonna and Brittany and then immediately followed it with a
clip of my kiss with my bass player and they
blurt it out. And in that moment, I thought, what
message is this sending the kids? Is this sending that
being two girls and kissing is okay, but two guys
kissing is not okay. It was really frustrating. In November

two thousand nine, just as Adam Lambert was about to
release his debut album, he once again found himself engulfed
by controversy after his edgy performance at the American Music
Awards fueled the torrent of negative press. I got nervous
because I thought, you know, is this going to affect sales?
That I just screw up my chances here? Did I
just alienate myself from my audience? Is my label gonna

drop me now? Did I just kiss my my my
shot goodbye? It was scary, but Adam's fears were soon
put to rest, as for Your Entertainment became a smashing success.
The hit single what Do You Want from Me? Earned
Adam his first Grammy nomination and shot to number one
on the international charts. The album also went platinum abroad.

An individual track sales have totaled over four million worldwide.
This is a crowning achievement for me. I mean, I
definitely feel very accomplished. I feel like I've worked hard
and I feel like the work is paid off. What
more can you ask for, you know? That's why audition
for Idol was to have an album out there that
people wanted to buy. Adams supported the album with the
extravagant glam Nation Tour, playing to sold out arenas around

the world. Most artists who come off of American Idol
don't go beyond America, but Adams can play in markets
all over the world, and that glam Nation tour was
a huge success in every sense. It's incredibly rewarding to
be able to take your music that's on an album
and bring it to life on stage and really make

it a moment that was completely intimate between myself and
my audience. I was so moved to watch the people
around him. You have these little kids with their little
eyeliner and there I love Adam posters, and have these grandparents,
and you have these older women, and I think that
he moves everyone so deeply because he has this message

of of loving yourself and He inspires so many people
to own who they are and and it's okay to
be whoever you are. Offstage, Adam delivers the same message
as a spokesperson for the Trevor Project, an organization that
supports gay and lesbian youth. I think as an entertainer,
that's one of the best things that we have in
our artillery is that we can affect people. I definitely

want my albums to take the listener on a journey.
I think a lot of his upbringing and a lot
of the experiences that he's had in life have given
him the confidence to be expressive. He is on the edge,
that's who he is. Have liberated myself and accepted myself

and learned how to love the person that I am,
And I'm not trying to be anything. I'm just being me.
Adam lambert star power has continued to rise. He has
grown into one of the world's greatest performers, both on
stage and screen. In twenty twelve, Adam joined forces with

the active members of Queen for a special limited concert run.
He returned to television with a multi episode arc on
the hit show Glee. Multiple returns to American item both
as a performer and as a guest judge, and as
one of the stars of the televised remake of The
Rocky Horror Picture Show. Queen and Adam Lambert continued to

tour and headline music festivals across the world, and with
the subject of a documentary highlighting their ongoing collaboration. Even
with constant touring and television appearances, adams solo career continues
to grow, and his fourth studio album, Velvet, was released
in March of twenty twenty. Unabashedly himself, Adam Lambert has

solidified himself as one of the most powerful voices of
his generation. Listen to Behind the Music on the I
Heart Radio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your
favorite podcasts. Want more episodes, you can watch remastered best
of the Vault and new episodes of Behind the Music

only on Paramount Plus.
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