To the extreme: Adam Lambert's AMA performance shocks some viewers and fans

Michael Jackson won four posthumous awards, Taylor Swift took home top honors and Adam Lambert brought some controversy to Sunday night's American Music Awards in Los Angeles.
By Chris Richards
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 23, 2009; 1:40 PM

Where can a singer thrust a man's face into his crotch, walk his dancers on a leash and force his keyboardist into a lip lock -- all while mewling like a hair metal hero of yore?

The American Music Awards, believe it or not.

Adam Lambert closed Sunday's AMAs -- usually one of the year's sleepiest of awards shows -- with a stunt-laden performance of "For Your Entertainment," the sexed-up title track of his debut album, landing in stores Monday.

"I'm about to turn up the heat," Lambert promised during the song's chorus, after a male dancer simulated oral sex on the "American Idol" alum. Moments later, Lambert grabbed one of his backing musicians by the nape of the neck and gave him an open-mouthed kiss.

With a gaggle of scantily clad dancers writhing in S&M get-ups, the performance at Los Angeles's Nokia Theatre effectively erased the prior events of the evening: a handful of posthumous awards for Michael Jackson, numerous wins for Taylor Swift, even an eye-popping performance from Lady Gaga. The pompadoured singer's performance immediately sent ripples across the Twitterverse, with many viewers criticizing Lambert for what they found to be excessive.

"It's a shame because I think that there's a double standard going on in the entertainment community right now," Lambert told Rolling Stone after the show. "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."

Reports say ABC did not edit out any portions of the performance from the West Coast feed. And the network can't say they didn't see it coming. On Friday, Lambert was boasting about leather, chains and copious writhing to come, saying the same thing as he did Sunday night.

"We've seen female pop and rock performers do that for the last 10 years," the singer told the Associated Press last week. "You just don't see men doing it very often. And I'm hoping to break down that double standard with this number."

Discussion dominated the blogosphere Monday morning, with Perez Hilton lining up in support: "Was it over-the-top? Yes. And we loved it!"

In many ways, the performance felt like a calculated response to the controversy that bubbled last week after Out magazine editor Aaron Hicklin criticized Lambert's management for agreeing to a cover shoot only if the magazine didn't make Lambert look "too gay." Lambert fired back at Hicklin via Twitter last week, but he appeared Sunday to let the world know where he stands onstage at the AMAs.

Regardless of whose face is being thrust into whose crotch, a performance this racy is bound to shock fans of the family-friendly fare associated with "American Idol." Those fans should keep their eyes covered: Lambert is scheduled to perform on "Good Morning America" and the "Late Show with David Letterman" Wednesday.

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