Singer Adam Lambert has come out in praise of rapper Lil Nas X following the latter’s much-discussed BET Awards show performance that saw him kiss another man. Lambert also spoke about his own history trying tow integrate queer themes into his work as a pop star, and the backlash he endured.
“I thought it was hot,” Lambert said of Lil Nas X’s performance, in an interview with Billboard. “I mean, he’s really giving it to us. I think he is definitely like the gay pop star that is 2021 — he’s bold, he’s controversial, he’s pushing boundaries. That’s what we want our pop stars to do. It’s just taken this long to have it be a gay one.”
“He’s so grounded and firm in who he is and what he’s about, he won’t apologize to anybody,” Lambert elaborated. “What I love right now with Lil Nas is we need him to be outspoken about it. He is in a position where that works for him, and he’s using it. In the music industry, it’s like, ‘How many streams do you have, how many sales, what position is it on radio?’ Once you hit a certain point, you get more leeway, you get more credibility; the industry gives you a longer leash, so to speak. And I feel like one of the great things about Lil Nas is when you look at ‘Old Town Road,’ you see that this massive worldwide hit helped give him some freedom to make some statements and to make some real art. Timing is everything.”
Lambert speaks from experience. Back in 2009, he made headlines for a performance of his song “For Your Entertainment” at the American Music Awards, in which he kissed his male keyboard player. The backlash came swift, and hard.
“I was pulled off of ABC for a little while,” he recalled. “They were freaked out, they had Christian parent groups writing in, the censors were freaked out. The thing I found so funny was like, ‘Censors? It’s a kiss. When was that indecent?'”
Lambert later did an interview with the ABC morning show Good Morning America to defend his performance. He wasn’t prepared for the near-hostility of the questions.
“They showed a clip, trying to draw a comparison to Madonna kissing Britney and Christina at the VMAs a couple years before that. So they showed a clip of that moment, and then right afterward, they cut to clip of my performance the night before of me kissing a guy onstage, and they had censored our mouths,” he remembers. “I just remember thinking that was the biggest slap in the face — it’s like, that proved my point. It’s so crazy to me that this double standard was so blatant and obvious, where two women kissing was not indecent, but two men kissing was.”
Fortunately, for Lambert, he sees signs of progress. “Two men kissing is sort of old news,” he joked. “Of course, there’s still a lot of problems, and there’s still a lot of work to be done, but I think for a lot of people, we’ve moved past the shock and the alien nature of seeing gay representation in action. We are in a very divided, polarized time, but I feel we are on the positive side of that polarity. There is so much goodwill for someone like [Lil Nas X], and I’m just happy to be able to have the perspective to appreciate it.”
Since his 2009 AMA performance, Adam Lambert has enjoyed much career success. His albums Tresspassing, The Original High and Velvet all earned him positive notice and sold well. Tours for each album also became major draws. In addition to his solo work, Lambert also became the lead singer of the reformed band Queen, taking the place of original singer Freddie Mercury. Lambert has also enjoyed wide praise for his philanthropic efforts, especially in the area of LGBTQ activism.