Welcome to the Show (and today’s pop music)

Last week on Idol My Boy Adam Lambert introduced his new single Welcome to the Show. Before you expect me to automatically love it – a completely fair assessment – let’s separate Adam’s voice which I would love no matter what he sings and the actual song that Adam is singing in this case.

First, let me thank the Millennials for blowing up the music beloved by the typical demographic of Idol and The Voice aka The Game Show With Singing. The music we knew fit into neat little categories: pop, rock, R&B[1] and country. With today’s most popular music, however, those early distinctions are irrelevant. Increasingly, the best pop music today blends genres and even eras of music seamlessly. In her 1989 album, one-time country/pop singer Taylor Swift channels late 80s pop. With Uptown Funk, Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson channel the 80s Minneapolis funk sounds of The Time. Blurred Lines recalls Marvin Gaye’s 70s disco hit Got To Give It Up. Swedish DJ/Producer Avicii teamed up with American soul singer Aloe Blacc to make the hit song Wake Me Up that combines folk, country, electronica and R&B into a dance-club song. And all of these songs use modern technology and production that make them sound current.

With interests in music as wide as mine, it’s this genre/era-spanning quality that explains why I love today’s music so much. And it’s why – above and beyond Adam Lambert’s unrivaled voice – I am addicted to his new song Welcome to the Show.

What kind of song is this? It’s certainly anthemic. It’s electro-pop[2] but it’s very dark and moody in contrast to electro-pop’s typical lightness. And it’s also meant to be inspirational which belies it’s dark and moody tone. And just when you think the beat is going to go big in a disco/house music direction, it stays big in an arena rock way. And finally because he can, Adam throws in a variety of R&B vocal licks.

So, again, what kind of song is this? It’s a rock, pop, moody ballad and a variety of sub-genres all at the same time. And, again, it’s why I love it. Much of the music I listen to today fits this kind of indescribable description but still marked by the artist’s particular talent – in this case Adam’s remarkable voice and vocal ability.

Moreover, it fits the way the business of music – and by the business I mean the industry – is done today where artists can create and publicize their work very spontaneously. In a recent interview Adam said there was really no rhyme or reason to unveiling his new single, which doesn’t belong to any particular album . . . he just liked it.

“I just want to put something new out. Why not? Why do we have to follow any sort of rules?’” he explains. “It’s spring, and it feels like a new year  . . . It also doesn’t necessarily signify that The Original High is over, by any means, either. It was just, hey – we wanted to put out a song.”[3]

As to the details of Welcome to the Show’s origin, it was written by Swedish singer-songwriter Laleh who has written big hits for Demi Lovato (Stone Cold) and Tori Kelly (Should’ve Been Us), as well as three songs on Ellie Goulding’s new album Delirium. And it was produced by Max Martin – The Omniscient and Omnipotent Overlord of the Pop Music Universe[4] – who also produced Adam’s recent album The Original High as well as the songs Whataya Want From Me and If I Had You from Adam’s debut album For Your Entertainment.

Welcome to the Show has garnered it’s deserved share of buzz. And yeah, the actual review here was 80 words. The rest was was another 600+ words of contextual musings. It’s what I do.


[1] A code for “black” music. R&B was seen as a more innocuous and accurate term (although Jerry Wexler who created the term wished he had called it “rhythm and gospel”, instead) than “race’ music as it was first known which essentially separated black music from everything else per the Jim Crow culture of that day. Thankfully Berry Gordy – building on the work of Little Richard – came along and made R&B more desired and widely available, i.e. “The Sound of America” as Berry liked to call Motown.

[2] Nearly every day a new category springs up in a feeble attempt to describe the sound of similar songs.

[3] http://popcrush.com/adam-lambert-welcome-to-the-show-interview/

[4] Take about a week to go through this list: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Martin_production_discography

Explore posts in the same categories: Mindless Rant or Intelligent Commentary, Reviews

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