In Tune: An open letter on Queen, Adam Lambert

In Tune: An open letter on Queen, Adam Lambert

March 13th, 2014 by Casey Phillips in Chattnow Music

Dear Universe,

You've messed up my order. I specifically requested no Adam Lambert in my Queen. I'd like to take this up with management.

In 2009, I wrote a column about how unsettling it was to hear the rumor mill spinning wildly about a supposed reunion of the British rock band with Lambert - an "American Idol" runner-up - subbing in as lead vocalist.

I asked that this idea be dismissed. This wasn't some half-hearted request. It was an entreaty made on bended knee on my birthday.

There have been a couple of one-off exceptions I'm willing to overlook, such as when Lambert joined Queen in London, Kiev and Moscow in 2012 and for a medley performance at last year's iHeartRadio Music Festival.

For the most part, however, you've upheld your end of the sacred birthday wish bargain, Universe.

Until last week.

On March 6, Queen announced a summer tour - 19 dates, from Chicago to Los Angeles and back - with Lambert front and center. (The closest they'll be to Chattanooga is the final date July 20 in Washington, D.C.)

This was a bad idea in 2009, and it's just as bad now. Here's why - again.

Lambert is a phenomenal vocalist, but he is doing himself a disservice by standing in the shadow of Freddie Mercury, a vocalist who is the definition of peerless. Are his pipes good? Yes, they're operatic, occasionally stunning. But is he on Mercury's level? No, and whether he likes it or not, that's what many people are going to expect, however unreasonably.

Along with Brian May's signature guitar tone, Mercury's voice was Queen's heart and its soul. Seeing the band drag itself out of somewhat-graceful retirement with anyone other than Mercury behind the mike will feel to some, myself included, like a cover band.

We see this happen all the time, such as when The Beach Boys headlined Riverbend in 2012, but really it was "Beach Boy," since Mike Love was the only original member onstage. Was it entertaining? Sure. Was it The Beach Boys? Not to me.

Fronting Queen is a super-high-profile gig for Lambert, but does he need the attention? Arguably not, since both his albums have landed in the Billboard Top 10, the first one eventually earning platinum sales certification. In 2011, he was nominated for a Best Male Pop Vocal Performance Grammy.

Clearly, he can stand on his own two feet, so why should he choose to try to put them in Mercury's shoes?

Disappointedly,

Casey

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.