Tickets to the new Queen show had been burning a hole in our pockets for nearly a year. Not completely unexpected, we got the news in March that they had to postpone the tour for a year. To ease the long wait between the cancellation and the new tour dates, Queen released a live album. After live albums such as ‘Live Killers’ from 1979 and ‘Live at Wembley ’86’, they have now released ‘Live around the world’. The biggest difference of course is that Freddie no longer sings along on this album. It’s time for their new singer, Adam Lambert, to show what he has to offer. Is there a more difficult task than filling Freddie’s big shoes?! When you open YouTube, you can’t miss the countless videos that compare Adam with Freddie. I don’t think it’s a fair game, because it’s really like comparing apples and oranges. In addition, absolutely nothing bad can be said about Freddie or you are a blasphemer! ‘Adam Lambert Vs Freddie Mercury’ cannot possibly come to an objective conclusion. I listened to the live album carefully and would like to explain why they both come out as losers and winners in this blogpost.
Who the heck is Adam Lambert?
The world met Adam Lambert through his successful participation in American Idol back in 2009. Although he wouldn’t meet Brian May and Roger Taylor until the finales, he sang ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in his first audition. Very coincidental, but the choice of this song turned out to be of enormous importance for his future with Queen. By choosing Queen’s legendary hit, Brian and Roger got a ton of messages from fans and friends about Adam. Brian May watched the audition and was immediately impressed by this young performer. Without knowing each other, a connection immediately began to grow. In the documentary ‘The show must go on’, Brian talks about their collaboration during the American Idol finale. “Although we were on stage with two incredible singers, the chemistry between us and Adam was undeniable”, May said. Although Adam Lambert didn’t win the competition, his big adventure was still to come!
Two years later, both Adam Lambert and Queen were invited as musical guests to the same award show in Belfast. The idea to do some songs together was proposed immediately. Both parties were very enthusiastic about the collaboration! After a few rehearsals and performing together on the award show, they didn’t feel like calling it a day quite yet. And so the fantastic team ‘Queen + Adam Lambert’ was founded.
Is Adam the new Freddie?
ABSOLUTELY NOT! Nor was it ever the intention of Queen or Adam Lambert. By going with the name ‘Queen + Adam Lambert’ it’s also made very clear that this is not a new Queen formation. This is the old Queen, who unfortunately has to continue without Freddie and is therefore touring with a different singer.
Adam is very clear about the fact that he is a huge fan of Mercury. Freddie inspired Adam as a vocalist and as a performer. Mercury is also a great example in his personal life. Freddie is seen as a pioneer by many people in the LGBTQ community. In the 80’s it was still quite difficult to talk openly about your sexuality. Even more so if you were a public figure, spending your days in the spotlight like the members of Queen. Adam has mentioned in several interviews that Freddie is also a great role model for him in being open and honest about himself.
If Queen wanted to take on a ‘new Freddie’ as frontman, they could have easily asked Marc Martel. Marc sings with ‘Queen Extravaganza’, a Queen coverband founded by May and Taylor themselves. For example, Marc Martel was brought in to sing some of the songs in the biopic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, because the voice almost identical to Freddie’s.
However, it would be suicide for the band to try to put a ‘new Freddie’ in Queen. Nobody can and will ever replace Freddie. He is simply irreplaceable. That’s why Brian and Roger have done a very good job of adding a singer like Adam to the team.
Lambert is quite far on the other side of the rock spectrum as a singer if you compare his style to Freddie’s. Adam Lambert is an incredible performer. He might be nervous or restless at times due to the various factors involved in performing live, you will never see it in his body language. Lambert is the embodiment of confidence and energy.
The fact that Adam is also gay will certainly not have been the key aspect in choosing him as the new singer, but in my opinion it is also a fantastic addition to the whole band. By putting a flamboyant singer front and center, the band does not fall into a kind of gray character that bands like AC/DC, ZZ Top and others from the older garde fall into. Because of his outspoken fashion choices, young energy and age, this band with – let’s face it – grandpa’s still is fresh and young. In this way they remain attractive to the younger generations.
This lines up perfectly with the image Queen had before their collaboration with Adam. Freddie was by no means shy to make a bolt fashion statement. Read more about it in our blogpost about Freddie Mercury’s clothes – the style icon.
Adam Lambert Vs Freddie Mercury
You can find hundreds of videos comparing the two singers online. However, as I said in the intro, this is completely useless. The singers’ styles are so far apart on the rock spectrum that’s impossible to compare the two. It would be better to compare Adam and Kelly Clarkson. Or have Freddie duel with a Robert Plant. In those cases you’d have some vocal similarities somewhere, but Adam and Freddie are just lions from completely different pride.
Both Freddie and Adam can easily come out as winners or losers from a comparison. It all depends on what appeals to you most about a singer. Agreed, it wouldn’t be fair to write a blogpost titled ‘Adam Lambert Vs Freddie Mercury’ and then refuse to make a comparison. So here is a small face-off.
If we were to make the comparison based on vocal technique, we must first talk about the styles of each singer. Adam sings everything squeaky clean. He clearly has a background in musical theater and that is reflected in a very fresh, clear and dramatic sound. Freddie was clearly a loose rock projectile. If you listen to acappella versions of Freddie’s recordings, you rarely hear notes that don’t have any effects on it like some kind of distortion. Even if you use these effects in the most healthy of ways, it takes its toll. If you don’t use this correctly, you will very quickly run into vocal problems. Unfortunately that was the issue with Freddie, who sang with principle that the right emotion was much more important than singing everything ‘correctly’.
Personally, I am a bigger fan of Freddie’s style for rock music. With Adam it all sounds a bit too clean to put the right rock feel in the songs. Apart from that, the medal for best vocal technique clearly goes to Adam Lambert. He sings the songs with an ease that reveals a much larger range. Sometimes he even plays with the vocal lines with which Freddie had problems by throwing in some higher notes. Freddie’s voice quickly broke on the higher notes. To hide that, Roger Taylor often sang the high vocal lines in unison with Freddie. Adam doesn’t need that at all. The downside is that sometimes you might have the feeling that you’re listening to a broadway version of the Queen songs.
Where to begin ?! They are both incredible performers on the stage. Adam Lambert looks very confident and has quite a few androgynous features in his movements. However, he knows perfectly how to keep the scales in balance. He’s not feminine or super macho. A very difficult thing to do, but I think he shows a very successful implementation of what he is aiming for.
Freddie has developed enormously in his career. You can hear it in his singing, but certainly also in his stage performance. In the beginning you also saw the androgynous in his movements and voice color. But if you compare performances like ‘A night at the Odeon’ with ‘Wembley ’86’, you see two completely different people on stage. In the 80’s Freddie was much more macho and the feminine touch was almost completely gone. Nevertheless, he remains very unique in his performance. We almost see the perfect symbiosis of a snappy boxer and a graceful ballet dancer.
I cannot name a winner here. This is too personal. So I would like to give them both a point!
If you can handle an audience of thousands without breaking a sweat, you are simply a master of your trade. Let that be the most absolute truth for both giants!
Check the video below to find out what Freddie thought of his own stage persona.
Here it comes! As I wrote in the part about the vocal technique, ‘singing’ is a knife that cuts both ways. You have ‘attention to the technique’ on the one hand and ’emotional storytelling’ on the other. If you go too technical, you often lose emotion. But if you go too far in that emotion, your technique will suffer and the audience will start wondering if you’ll make it to the end of your song. As a result, they are no longer submerged in the story you are telling, but are concerned about the singer. It’s similar to a bad actor who constantly pulls you out of the story.
I can find songs that are sung perfectly in every way! Very skilled, but it doesn’t affect me. It has almost too little humanity. On the other hand, I know many performances by singers who have sung with some out of tune notes here and there and maybe even a vocal break or two, but where every note went straight to my heart. Then of course you have the people who can balance it perfectly and that’s where the absolute unique performances live. No singer can can walk that tight rope every single time. There are singers who can do it once and maybe even a few times in their career, but it is so rare.
What about Adam and Freddie?
I’ve actually already given it away in the first comparison. Where the medal for vocal technique went to Adam, the medal for emotionam delivery should go to Freddie. Mercury often sacrifices his technique in order to give the right emotion in a performance. Partly because of this, he is the iconic singer that everyone loves so much. Don’t get me wrong! Adam Lambert is a fantastic storyteller, but it will never hit me like Freddie. With Freddie you can sometimes literally feel the pain in your own body. Because Adam sings everything very cleanly, I sometimes get an almost plastic feel in some songs, because of that the raw energy gets lost a bit. I can write 17 more pages here about why Freddie is such a fantastic medium for an emotional journey, but I think I made my point.
This one is for Freddie!
Finally, we have come to ‘energy’. It goes without saying that this also has a lot to do with your personal taste. However, no one can deny that both Adam and Freddie demonstrate an unwearying energy on stage. Freddie shows it his physical appearance. He runs the full length of the stage, up the stairs, pole dancing with the scaffolding, down the stairs, boxing, kicking, spinning, up the stairs again, …
Adam displays it more in his almost dangerous look and attitude. Most of all, you just hear a sound coming from Adam’s body that is almost superhuman. Dynamite with a laser beam! With neither of them you ever fear that they’re almost depleted. Quite the opposite, you would think that after a performance they could just do it all again.
They seem to give everything they have and they prove to be tireless. Truly two giants to look up to.
Who is the real winner here? We are! We are allowed to watch and listen to those bright stars and enjoy every note and every run. The beautiful costumes and the stylish way in which they move.
I think it might be best to leave it here or I will found a new religion around these gentlemen.