Saturday, January 5, 2013

Superb Pop Album; Better than 'FOR YOUR ENTERTAINMENT'

Reviewed Item: Trespassing (Album) by Adam Lambert
Reviewer: Michael Faulkner

American Idol® runner-up Adam Lambert follows up his 2010 `proper' debut For Your Entertainment (excluding his independently released efforts) with 2012's sharper `proper' sophomore effort Trespassing (Deluxe). For Your Entertainment gave Lambert a gold-selling album, though the effort failed to evade controversy with risqué single "For Your Entertainment," which ultimately fizzled at radio. It would be more traditional pop/rock single "Whattaya Want From Me," co-written by P!nk that would ultimately propel Lambert's debut. Trespassing is better conceived than its predecessor, being sharper in both focus and production and ultimately allows Lambert's rangy, dynamic voice to shine brighter. Lambert enlists a slew of producers including Pharrell (of the Neptunes), Dr. Luke, Cirkut, and The Smeezingtons (aka Bruno Mars's writing team) among others to make Trespassing an inescapable pop force in 2012.

Lambert snarls on opener "Trespassing," accompanied by stomping drum programming and a fat bass line. Pharrell yields some of his best production in years, matching up exceptionally with the `over-the-top' singer. Lambert sings more than convincingly on the refrain: "Well I was walkin' for sometime/when I came across this sign/saying who are u and where are u from/we don't like when visitors trespassers, yeah my...wait `til you get a load of me..." The spirited vigor of "Trespassing" transfers into "Cuckoo," a number that opens with a nice crescendoing synth at the onset. Produced by Josh Abraham and Oligee, "Cuckoo" contrasts "Trespassing" but delivers and equally alluring cut. Rich in synthetic texture as well as sass ("Oh walk that walk like u don't give a -), Lambert easily has another captivating hit on his hands. Lamber sounds particularly top-notch on the bridge section.

"Shady" (featuring Nile Rodgers & Sam Sparro) does not dare concede one iota of momentum, finding producer/co-songwriter Lester Mendez in the production chair. The sound is `slinky,' musically representing the title of the track; clever. Lambert's vocals begin rather understated and controlled, but build up given their treatment - harmonized vocals on the pre-chorus and soaring, commanding vocals on the refrain. The best production highlight might be the funky, Prince-like guitar allusions. "Never Close Our Eyes," the second single from Trespassing follows. Produced by Dr. Luke, Cirkut, and The Smeezingtons (Bruno Mars is a co-writer), the track is as solid as anything else, if less standout than the previous three `heavy-hitters.' Regardless, Lambert sounds exceptional and the production is nothing short of fantastic, as to be expected. "Kickin' In" is a stronger cut, opening with a nice odd-ball synth contributed by Pharrell. After the synth lasts for about :30, the groove of the cut kicks in in stable form. Again, Pharrell's production work is top-rate, the songwriting is manic yet clever, and Lambert's falsetto works well in tandem with his natural voice.

"Naked Love" features production work by Josh Abraham and Oligee once more, and smartly allows for room for Lambert's voice to shine on the verses. The refrain is `larger than life,' featuring standard techno-infused pop a la 2012. "Naked Love" does not stand out as much as the earlier cuts, but it is both solid and effective. Similarly, "Pop That Lock" is not the album's most distinct number, but certainly well-produced (Robert Marvin & Josh Crosby) and enjoyable. A slithering synth opens the cut with a predictable, yet grooving four-on-the-floor beat following to buttress the cut. The most memorable line from Lambert comes from the second verse: " don't gotta stress this/got `em feeling restless/show `em how it's done..."

Promo/buzz single "Better Than I Know Myself" slows the tempo of the album down slowly and reunites Lambert with master producers Dr. Luke, Cirkut, and adds Ammo to the mix. The restraint that "Better Than Myself" initially exudes contrasts the manic, snarling nature of "Pop That Lock." Of course by the chorus, Dr. Luke & Company's signature gargantuan, synth-driven sounds are in full glory and Lambert is `lovin' it' vocally. "Broken English" opens with an interesting, edgy timbre, eventually delving into pulsating synths once the track settles in. Another collaborative `match made in heaven,' Lester Mendez's production suits Lambert's extraordinary vocals perfectly. "Underneath," produced by Josh Crosby and Robert Marvin, possess a dark, minor key and is absent of percussive backdrop until the end of the cut. Lambert sells this dark ballad with passion.

"Chokehold" contrasts the slower tempo of "Underneath" in favor of a groovy, dark-driven dance cut. As always, the refrain is catchy and both well-executed and well-written. "Outlaws of Love" closes the standard edition rather restrained at first. By the second verse, a hip-hop/rock groove buttresses the cut. The bridge may be most alluring, delivering a haunting, mysterious moment from the singer. Three bonus cuts grace the deluxe edition ("Runnin'," "Take Back," and "Nirvana." None of the three stand out to the degree of the standard edition's best tracks, making perhaps the standard edition's package most advantageous for the `casual' fan.

Overall, Trespassing (Deluxe) is a stronger effort than Lambert's debut by all means. While Lambert may not have a huge assist by a single the likes of "Whattaya Want From Me," he does have the assists of great producers, songwriters, and overall well written records. Vocally, Lambert sounds better than ever and his vocal prowess translates better this time around. Highly recommended.

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