Gosh, I wish I'd seen Adam Lambert's performance at the American Music Awards. Instead, I woke up to an uproar -- faces in crotches, girls on leashes, big, fat, same-sex kisses! Oh my.
As a former professional performer, I know that during a big appearance like Adam's, the adrenaline is flowing. If you're well prepared, e.g., if you've rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed to the point you could do it in your sleep, combined with the adrenaline rush, there is an amazing type of freedom that settles in during actual performance. Sounds like that's what happened with Adam. He said as much in interviews, post AMA, though he did not explain it in this way.
Some people were shocked, shocked! by his moves. I get that. I have young kids and if I'd let them stay up because they were fans of Adam, I might have had a similar reaction, though I don't think it would stop me from buying this truly brilliant performer's albums.
What it mostly showed was Adam's lack of experience. And he continues to show it in his post-performance "reputation management" interviews. Whatever you thought of him then or now, there are a couple of lessons about public performance skills and professional image making we can take away:
1. Rehearse like Adam: If you have to give a presentation or do a speech, rehearse until you can’t stand it anymore. What? You don’t have enough time? Then settle for mediocrity or worse. Aim for the freedom Adam – and every great performer – experiences. There is no greater feeling and no better marketing tool.
2. Know Your Audience: Adam claims that due to the late hour, he really didn’t think about the possibility that kids might be watching. (BTW, ABC needs to take some responsibility here. They were blindsided? Give me a break!) Next time, I’m guessing he’ll be more cognizant of that vital element.
3. When You Err, Apologize: No excuses, please. No one cares about the double-standard, or what Brittany, Madonna or Eminem have gotten away with. It is YOUR moment and you are alone. Own up, take responsibility, move on. I have said this so many times, I’m getting bored with myself, but if you want it to go away, just APOLOGIZE. (And don’t make it one of those weasely, “If I offended anyone…” mea culpas.)
One more thing: it’s possible Adam’s push-the-envelope performance was on purpose and he knew exactly what he was doing. I can vividly remember seeing Queen in concert with Freddy Mercury and thinking, “whoa, this guy is a complete sex machine.” He was unbelievably good. Of course, he wasn’t doing what Adam did, but somehow I think Freddy would approve.
Go Adam. You’re so talented. Take good care of your voice. Be nice to your audience. Remember who buys your music.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.
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Ruth Sherman Associates LLC  / High-Stakes Communication / Greenwich, CT