Adam Lambert’s AMA act featured bondage, simulated fellatio to fight “double standard”

Adam Lambert is still a trending topic on Twitter this morning thanks to his performance of “For Your Entertainment” on the American Music Awards last night, which featured Adam making out with his keyboardist, groping with various male and female dancers, dragging dancers around the stage by their limbs and leashes, and having a male dancer plow his face into Adam’s crotch for some simulated fellatio. In other words, just your typical ABC prime-time broadcast.

The AMAs also featured Michael Jackson winning four posthumous awards and performances by Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, but Adam closed the show and is dominating headlines today. His season’s actual winner, Kris Allen, was left to present.

Adam’s performance, which is below, perhaps shouldn’t have surprised anyone considering the lyrics to the song (“Push the limit/Are you with it?/Baby, don’t be afraid”), and anyone who’s making any arguments about the poor, innocent, fragile children is an idiot, because his performance aired just before 11 p.m. ET/PT. But there still is such criticism, and The Los Angeles Times’ report includes some of the reaction from its readers.

If there was something worthwhile to complain about, it was the actual singing. Entertainment Weekly’s Mikchael Slezak argues Adam “emphasized shock-and-awe imagery over his standard-operating vocal excellence,” although “the entire telecast was racked with sound-mix issues that left even seasoned pros (except for maybe Kelly Clarkson, Lady Gaga, and Jay-Z) sounding distant and tinny.” Slezak also adds that while “the idea of saucy boy-on-boy/boy-on-girl/boy-on-not-quite-sure action does not rattle my cage … Adam could’ve had tongues wagging just from his vocals alone. Instead, that golden voice took a backseat tonight.”

Adam responded, sort of, to criticism writing, “All hail freedom of expression and artistic integrity. :) fans: I adore u.” Backstage, he told Rolling Stone, “there’s a double standard going on in the entertainment community right now. Female performers have been doing this for years — pushing the envelope about sexuality — and the minute a man does it, everybody freaks out. We’e in 2009; it’s time to take risks, be a little more brave, time to open people’s eyes and if it offends them, then maybe I’m not for them. My goal was not to piss people off, it was to promote freedom of expression and artistic freedom.”

The broadcast was slightly edited for its non-live West coast airing; Rolling Stone reports that “ABC kept the kiss with Lambert’s keyboardist, but cut away from the simulated oral sex with his male backup dancer.” Adam said that if anything was censored, “In a roundabout way it’s a form of discrimination because it is a double standard. They didn’t censor Britney and Madonna macking onstage did they? But yet two men kissing they’ll censor?”

Earlier, he told the AP, “We’ve seen female pop and rock performers do that for the last 10 years. They’ve been very provocative, owning their power and sexuality. You just don’t see men doing it very often. And I’m hoping to break down that double standard with this number.”

Adam Lambert on his racy American Music Awards performance: ‘There’s a huge double standard’ [Los Angeles Times]
Adam Lambert Says Censorship of American Music Awards Song Would Be “Discrimination” [Rolling Stone]
Adam Lambert ready to shake up pop world with CD [AP]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.