'Velvet' Review: Adam Lambert gets funky and embraces a rich, vintage sound on his most authentic album yet
Adam Lambert, the talented singer-songwriter best known as the current frontman of the rock band Queen (and one of the most popular 'American Idol' contestants of all time) has released his fourth solo studio album called 'Velvet' on March 20. And as the title suggests, it's as smooth and chic as the 38-year-old artist himself. Lambert is well known for his flamboyant theatricality, ridiculous vocal range and incredible ability to spontaneously transform any live show into a visual spectacle.
We'd already been treated to a sneak preview of the first six songs from this new record, since Lambert released the first half as the 'Velvet: Side A' EP back in September 2019. Based on those songs alone, we knew Adam was going for a more retro, funky sound, yet fused with enough modern elements and new-age production to make the listening experience both compelling and in vogue.
Not many people can pull off mixing vintage '70s sounds with shiny, futuristic dance vibes, but Lambert manages to pull off the feat with both style and aplomb. Look no further than the single 'Roses' which features the work of Nile Rogers, of Chic and 'Get Lucky' fame to get an idea of this groovy new sound.
In what can be seen as a welcome evolution, Lambert has returned to the retro sounds that he relished while growing up. "I dug up albums I listened to as a kid... a lot from the '70s and '80s," he said. While his current band Queen was obviously a big influence on his new sound, Adam also listed the late great musical icons, David Bowie and Prince as musical touchstones. "There's definitely a little Motown influence on there. There's some funk. Some Sly Stone, maybe." he added.
But what prompted this change to a more authentic, rootsy mindset? "I was listening to a lot of Top 40 — what was next and what was new — playing the pop game," he revealed. "I realized at a certain point I was missing a trick. I had to look at things differently." So Lambert decided to take more creative control, and trust his instincts more. "This is about me being more in the driver's seat, making more decisions and compromising less," the singer admitted. "This is me, my vibe I want to put out. I co-wrote all the songs."
'I've been feeling nostalgic/and I know I'm not the only one" croons Lambert on the record's title track, 'Velvet' which is an infectious, vintage banger with a soaring high chorus. Describing the album as "Thirteen slinky numbers to catch a vibe to," the resulting sound is fresh, creamy smooth, and effortless. Adam oozes confidence on all 13 tracks, buoyed by his increasing maturity and authenticity as a songwriter. 'New Eyes' is a dreamy, floating number that almost seems to suspend the listener in a velvety cocoon. 'Superpower' is another single that features a groovy bassline and the singer's trademark, glorious high notes. "You try to put me in a box / Make me something I’m not/ Don’t give a f*** / 'Cause I’m gonna take back my superpower," asserts Lambert defiantly.
The production on this album is outstanding as well. 'Overglow' is a gliding, striding piece of furiously strummed magic, while 'Closer to You' is a piano ballad that gradually morphs into a transcendental outpouring of emotion. 'Loverboy' is a blazing funk track whose sexual overtones and vocal pyrotechnics would have made Prince proud- "I don't wanna be another number/ wanna feel like your loverboy," Adam howls.
Love and relationships definitely seem to play a big part in this album. 'Velvet' reflects all parts of my personality when it comes to love: loving yourself, looking for love, love lost," Lambert candidly revealed in an interview. "It's the most authentic version of myself I've ever been."
'On The Moon' is a slow, sultry, soulful number, while 'Love Don't is another euphoric, 80's-tinged epic groover that beckons you to get up and dance the night away. The album's closer 'Feel Something' is a resounding reminder of what a gifted vocalist Lambert really is. Thanks to the slick production on most of his studio tracks, it's easy to overlook the fact that he has consistently been singing his heart out for us over the last decade - and this track really showcases the fragile delicacy and raw power in his voice.
All in all, this latest album's sound really feels like Adam has hit on something new while mining sounds from the past to express his true inner voice. And as grateful listeners, we're really glad to see him progress in this manner.
With 'Velvet' we feel, Lambert has outdone himself with this modern fusion of rock, dance-pop, R&B, funk, and disco.