Adam Lambert's AMAs Performance Draws 1,500 Complaints

November 24, 2009 12:00 AM ET

Of the over 14 million viewers who watched the American Music Awards Sunday night, only 1,500 people called in complaints to ABC following Adam Lambert's controversial, show-closing performance. According to Reuters, the Federal Communications Commission would not confirm nor deny whether viewers registered complaints with the agency following Lambert's "For Your Entertainment," which featured simulated oral sex with a male backup dancer, a brief make-out session with a male keyboardist and a middle finger to the stunned audience. (Read Rob Sheffield's account of the Full-Frontal Glambgasm.) MTV reports the event pulled in 14.2 million viewers this year, for the awards' best showing since 2002.

Adam Lambert shocks, Taylor Swift soars: the 2009 AMAs in photos.

ABC also confirmed the network did edit a portion of Lambert's performance for the West Coast feed, removing the performance's most controversial moment — "Lambert rubbing the face of a male dancer in his crotch," Reuters colorfully writes — but Lambert's kiss with his keyboardist remained in the final cut. Dick Clark Productions, who produced the AMAs, said in a statement that they "did not expect the impromptu moments" based on Lambert's pre-show rehearsals.

Infamous crotch-rock moments, from Lambert's AMAs to "Dick in a Box."

By comparison, when Justin Timberlake tore open Janet Jackson's shirt during halftime of Super Bowl XXXVIII, viewers lodged 500,000 complaints — but that's likely because Nipplegate occurred during prime-time hours during the most-watched televised event of the year. Lambert's performance went down just before 11 p.m. ET, avoiding the FCC's rule of no indecent material between the hours of 6-10 p.m., so it appears unlikely that ABC will be fined over Lambert's performance, even though "For Your Entertainment" was broadcast before 10 p.m. in the Central Time Zone.

Backstage at the AMAs just minutes after closing out the show, Lambert defended his controversial performance to Rolling Stone. "I think that there's a double standard going on in the entertainment community right now," Lambert told RS. "Female performers have been doing this for years — pushing the envelope about sexuality — and the minute a man does it, everybody freaks out. We're 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."

American Idol's glam-rock sex god: Lambert in action.

Related Stories:
Adam Lambert Shocks American Music Awards With Racy "For Your Entertainment"
Adam Lambert Says Censorship of American Music Awards Song Would Be "Discrimination"
Adam Lambert Breaks Down AMAs "Controversy" as Stars React to His Wild Night

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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