It’s been nearly a month since Kris Allen beat out Adam Lambert for the title of American Idol. In that time, both Kris and Adam have done the obligatory post-Idol talk show tour, begun planning their debut albums, and started rehearsals for the upcoming summer Idols Live tour.
In previous seasons, this stretch has been a “down time” in terms of visibility for the Idol winner and runner-up. Casual viewers have moved on and diehard fans are left to speculate amongst themselves about what’s next.
Not so for fans of Season 8’s Adam Lambert, however. This year’s runner-up has become even more visible and accessible than he was during the show, and in the process has become somewhat of a media darling in the weeks since the finale.
The feeding frenzy reached a crescendo with the publication of the June 25 edition of Rolling Stone magazine, which features Lambert on the cover along with an extensive interview in which the Idol runner-up confirms that he is indeed gay.
The Sunday prior to the Rolling Stone launch, Lambert appeared on the red carpet at Hollywood Life’s 11th Annual Young Hollywood Awards in Santa Monica and was named Artist of the Year. On Monday, he was photographed leaving a West Hollywood club holding hands with his boyfriend, Drake LaBry.
While this seemingly spontaneous appearance may have rendered the Rolling Stone revelation somewhat redundant, these photographs propelled Lambert into the headlines. The next day, the feeding frenzy continued as he and DeBry entertained the paparazzi during a casual stroll in Venice Beach.
This was also the week Lambert signed a record deal with 19 Recordings and RCA Records, a foregone conclusion, perhaps, but still newsworthy. Finally, Lambert wrapped up the week with a seven-plus minute interview on ABC’s 20/20 where he admitted he is gay while at the same time indicating he might be slightly “bi-curious.”
Simply put, Adam Lambert is everywhere!
At this point, it is certainly tempting to predict a repeat of Season 2 where the runner-up, Clay Aiken, went on to obliterate that year’s winner, Ruben Studdard, in terms of CD sales and chart placement. The indicators are there, at least in terms of Internet hits and media interest, and it’s hard to ignore the similarities.
Like Lambert, Aiken had his own post-Idol Rolling Stone cover and that summer’s tour was one of the best-attended ever. Aiken also recorded for RCA and in October 2003, his first album, Measure of a Man, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. In its first week, the album sold 613,000 copies and a month later, was certified multi-platinum by the RIAA. To date, Measure of a Man has sold 2.8 million copies in the U.S. When international sales are added in, Aiken’s debut tallied over 4 million copies.
While Studdard’s first album, Soulful, also debuted at No. 1, it only sold 400,000 copies its first week. Ultimately, Soulful sold 1.8 million copies in the U.S.
Six years after he appeared on Idol, Aiken continues to draw intense media scrutiny. Granted, his clout as a recording artist has diminished, and at this point, most of the press he’s getting has been focused more on his personal life than his career.
Aiken is currently on what appears to be a self-imposed hiatus, focusing on raising his son, but it would be foolhardy to predict that his career is over. He has proven his versatility by completing two successful runs on Broadway in Spamalot, and certainly, when he is ready to return to work, there will be opportunities for him.
What does all this have to do with Adam Lambert? There are certainly similarities between these two, beyond the obvious. Many people predicted both of them to win Idol, and their coming in second shocked and angered their fans. Despite being polar opposites musically, they are similar in that their musical styles are pretty tightly defined.
Aiken’s dedicated fan base carried him through the first two albums (Merry Christmas with Love sold 1.4 million copies). Over time, however, his fan base has diminished, and because he was never able to significantly expand that base, his CD sales have slumped in direct proportion.
In describing the album he wants to make, Lambert says he wants to combine glam rock with dancey electronic and rock touches. But unlike Aiken’s power ballads, Lambert’s pop/rock/dance leanings might be money in the bank. If you turn on the radio to any pop station right now, you’ll hear examples of this type of music – think Lady GaGa’s “Poker Face” or Britney’s “If You Seek Amy.” Combine Adam’s appeal, his Idol fan base, and music that is currently in vogue and you have a recipe for almost certain success.
The key is for Lambert to come out with a strong, radio-friendly single that is representative of the album. As a rule, radio stations are not Idol-friendly, a challenge not just for Lambert but for Kris Allen as well. There are exceptions, of course. Kelly Clarkson has never had to struggle to get airplay and other Idols have also had chart-topping hit singles. Lambert’s debut song has to be so hot that stations cannot ignore it, and by hot, I mean current, compelling, and catchy.
And what of the “competition” between Lambert and Allen for post-Idol sales supremacy? Will Lambert ultimately outsell the winner? Allen’s style is also popular these days and with the right material, he has the potential to do very well. Allen also starts off the race with the advantage of being the actual American Idol, which means his single and album will be heavily promoted to ensure its success.
There are already enough people who feel Lambert deserved to be the winner. Allen’s failure to produce a winning album would only add fuel to the fire and ultimately damage what little credibility the show has left. The folks at 19 Entertainment cannot afford to have this winner fail.
However, Lambert is also being managed by 19E and ultimately, they will promote whomever they feel will make them the most money. If he ends up out-selling Allen, so be it.
Idol fans and the media will be watching the tour as another indicator as to what may happen in the fall when Lambert and Allen release their albums. Tickets are selling well for this tour, despite the bad economy, a good sign for both Allen and Lambert. Both of these newly-hatched Idols will be testing their charisma and performing skills in front of huge audiences for the first time in their careers, and it will be interesting to see who gets the best (i.e. loudest) reception.
This doesn’t necessarily mean mega-success, although certainly, Chris Daughtry’s set during the Season 5 tour was extremely popular. All it means is that there could be enough interest to propel sales if the albums are released in a timely manner. It certainly worked out well for Aiken.
It’s too early to draw any conclusions or make any predictions. But, as long as Adam Lambert is generating interest, the media is going keep feeding the beast. If he is as savvy as he appears to be, expect him to be more involved in the orchestration of some of these “spontaneous” events. Interest equals hits equals money, after all, not just for those of us in the media, but for Lambert as well. If this interest continues through the fall when Lambert’s CD drops, he very well could outsell Allen, and join Clay Aiken as the only other Idol runner-up to outsell his season’s winner.