'Tuned In' review: Adam Lambert goes from standing apart to fitting in

In this CD cover image released by RCA, the latest release by Adam Lambert 'Trespassing,' is shown. (AP Photo/RCA)

In this CD cover image released by RCA, the latest release by Adam Lambert "Trespassing," is shown. (AP Photo/RCA)

“Trespassing,” Adam Lambert (RCA)

When Adam Lambert competed on “American Idol” in 2009, he stood apart from the other contestants, electrifying the show (and polarizing the audience) with his flamboyant style and soaring, theatrical vocal. His best performances evoked such icons as Freddie Mercury and David Bowie.

Lambert eventually finished second on “Idol” and has gone on to create a minor stir with a few hits and a little bit of controversy (as when the openly gay singer kissed a male musician during his performance on the American Music Awards). Yet he has hardly revolutionized music.

In fact, Lambert proves himself to be deeply entrenched in the establishment on his new “Trespassing.” Perhaps that’s just the way it goes when a burgeoning star on a major label has an army of hit-making songwriters and producers working for him, but Lambert sounds more comfortable on the often-lackluster “Trespassing” than he should.

Whether he’s merely a professional reluctantly acquiescing to orders or he’s got no aspirations to produce anything more noteworthy than “Trespassing,” Lambert frequently sounds perfunctory or even unconvincing as a cog on the generic dance/pop assembly line.

When he sings, “You know I wish that this night would never be over” on “Never Close Our Eyes,” he falls flat. Even when he screams, “Gotta get out of this straightjacket!” on the 1980s-styled “Cuckoo,” he sounds like he’s playing it safe.

Still, although there are filler songs aplenty, there are highlights: Pharrell Williams gives Lambert the clap-and-stomp funk force he needs on the punchy title track, “Pop That Lock” rewards with grinding electronica, and the vocalist twists along in the playful groove of “Kickin’ In.” Also, Lambert absolutely turns it out for the power ballad “Underneath,” and he works in some poignancy on behalf of the LGBT community with the timely “Outlaws of Love”: “They say we’ll rot in hell/Well, I don’t think we will.”

Ultimately, Lambert’s potential appears to be squandered in this flurry of unremarkable, albeit contemporary, pop fluff.

Clearly his story isn’t over, however, so time will tell if he was even on his home turf with “Trespassing.”

Rating (five possible): 3

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