Adam Lambert became a fan favorite on the eighth season of American Idol and quickly stormed the pop charts thereafter. An androgynous, raven-haired showman, Lambert has a penchant for classic rock, leather pants and black eyeliner and camp of all sorts. (The cover of his debut album, For Your Entertainment, featuring the singer's heavily made-up face, peering seductively into the camera, suggested a tongue-in-cheek update of David Bowie's Hunky Dory sleeve.) Lambert is also one of the bigger openly gay stars in pop today. (He came out in a Rolling Stone cover story in June, 2009.)
On Idol, Lambert drew comparisons to David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and Robert Plant, and though he eventually finished runner up to Kris Allen, Lambert's Idol run vaulted him from virtual unknown to pop sensation over night.
Raised in suburban San Diego, Lambert began taking vocal lessons as a young child and cut his teeth performing in local choirs and musicals. After high school, he attended Cal State Fullerton for five weeks before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a music career. He got his big break in 2004 starring in The Ten Commandments: The Musical, performing alongside Val Kilmer, and joined the Broadway touring cast of Wicked as an understudy in 2005.
Lambert's American Idol audition performances of Michael Jackson's "Rock With You" and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" landed him a spot in the show's second round, though cantankerous judge Simon Cowell called Lambert "theatrical, and therefore not current." Lambert breezed into the final round of 13 and built a loyal following with performances of Michael Jackson's "Black or White" and Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love." His Idol high point came when he performed an ethereal version of Tears for Fears' "Mad World" and earned a standing ovation from Cowell.
Though many fans speculated that Lambert was gay, he never broached the subject on "Idol." After he finished second to Allen, many wondered if Lambert's sexuality was an issue with voters, and when asked whether he agreed, Lambert replied with a laugh, "Probably."
Finishing second didn't appear to hold Lambert's career back, and he quickly signed with RCA Records. HiFi Recordings jumped at the chance to release Take One (Number 72, 2009) a compilation of tracks Lambert had recorded in 2005 a week before RCA could release his first legitimate album. For Your Entertainment (Number Three, 2009), a mix of radio-ready rock and electropop, sold nearly 200,000 copies in its first week.
During a performance of the For Your Entertainment's title track at the 2009 American Music Awards, Lambert stirred up controversy and drew the ire of conservative critics by kissing and groping male members of his band. "Female performers have been doing this for years," Lamber said, "and the minute a man does it, everybody freaks out…My goal was not to piss people off. It was to promote freedom of expression and artistic freedom."