With his big hair, flamboyant outfits and powerhouse vocals, Adam Lambert has achieved stardom beyond his wildest dreams since coming runner-up on American Idol in 2009.
Auditioning for that contest with Queen’s rock anthem 'Bohemian Rhapsody', in a fortuitous twist of fate, in 2011, glam rocker Adam was asked by guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor to join them as a vocalist.
As Queen + Adam Lambert, they’ve performed sell-out world tours, with Adam putting his unique spin on the hits made famous by the band’s charismatic frontman Freddie Mercury, who died in 1991.
And now Adam is back on the panel for ITV1’s Starstruck season 2 where, alongside Beverley Knight, Jason Manford and new judge Shania Twain, he critiques singers as they transform into their favorite music icons.
In an exclusive interview, Adam tells us about his judging style, the icon who made him Starstruck and his secret passion for a good old British cuppa...
What do you enjoy about being back on the panel of Starstruck?
"The show has a nice energy and I’m really fond of my fellow judges Beverley, Jason and, this series, Shania, who’s seen the industry from the inside-out and brings a lot of expertise to the panel. I was blown away by the talent last series and, this year, it's even better. Every group that comes on stage, I'm continuously like: 'Oh, damn!’"
How do you describe your judging style?
"I'm pretty honest. The stakes aren’t as high for the contestants on this show as they are on, say, American Idol where you’re vying for a recording contract. So, for us judges, we're having a good time; it's like a party celebrating the icons these contestants are honoring. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in it and then realize: 'Oh, yeah, I’ve gotta critique!' Luckily, I don't easily run out of things to say."
Does coming from a talent show yourself give you empathy for the acts on Starstruck?
"It’s been a while since I was on American Idol [Adam came second to crooner Kris Allen] but I do think it provides a little empathy for sure. I know that putting yourself out there and receiving critiques after you perform is not the easiest thing. So I definitely try to keep that in mind. My comments to the singers are usually how can I help you be your best?"
Have any of the transformations really stood out for you this series?
"We have an Ed Sheeran transformation that’s shockingly uncanny. He really looks like him and sounds like him. That was a very strong one for me."
If you were to appear on Starstruck, who would you transform into?
"I could probably do a really good Elvis. I've been told I look like him in certain lights, so I would take that as a compliment. I'd be all over the outfits! I LOVE to shop and I like to put my own spin on things, so it surprises people. The minute you become predictable, you become boring."
Who are your own idols and has anyone left you starstruck?
"I met Madonna years ago and was very starstruck because I grew up watching her, so getting to meet her as an adult was pretty surreal. And, obviously, Freddie Mercury was a huge influence on me; it’s the music of Queen that's taken my career on an adventure."
When you joined Queen, was it important that you were Adam — not a ‘Freddie’ tribute?
"When I first started rehearsing with Queen, Brian and Roger told me: 'Do your own thing. We don’t need an impersonator, we had Freddie, and he was the best. We don’t need someone to imitate him, we just need somebody to sing the songs.’ So I've just tried to honor the spirit with which those songs were sung and capture the essence of Freddie. This makes judging on Starstruck interesting as the performers on our show are meant to be imitating."
Do you ever wonder what Freddie would think of your performance?
"I wish he was still with us. Obviously, if he was, I wouldn't have this amazing gig with Queen but I do wish I’d met him. To be able to pick his brain for a while would be a joy. I’d ask him everything: Why did you write this song? What was it like performing there? I'd just grill him and, by the end of the conversation, he'd be like: 'Okay, I'm exhausted!'"
What do you like about being in the UK?
"Everything from theatre to music to literature; the UK is a cultural touchstone for so much of what I love. And, of course, there's my connection to Queen, so I feel a kinship here. I'm getting into the Sunday roast thing and, as a vocalist, I've always been a tea drinker."
What are your career highlights?
"Working with Queen has been a beautiful part of my career. Doing the Platinum Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace last year was a real honor and opening the 91st Academy Awards in 2019 in Hollywood was incredible. I'm always going to be making music in some way. I'm currently writing a musical, which is really exciting."
How do you think the music industry has changed since you started out?
"When I came on the scene, 13 years ago, the music industry — at least in America — looked very different. In terms of being an openly gay artist, you didn’t see a lot of representation in mainstream music. So if you look at the progress we’ve made, there’s so much more diversity in music now. There’s more work to be done but I think we've come a really long way and it’s nice to look back and realize I've been part of that wave."
Starstruck continues on Saturday at 8.30pm on ITV1.
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With over 20 years’ experience writing about TV and film, Vicky currently writes features for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week magazines plus news and watching guides for WhatToWatch.com, a job which involves chatting to a whole host of famous faces. Our Vicky LOVES light entertainment, with Strictly Come Dancing, Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice UK among her fave shows. Basically, if it’s got a shiny floor, she’s all over it! When she’s not watching TV, you might find Vicky in therapy… retail therapy that is!