Metro Weekly

‘High Drama’ Review: Adam Lambert’s Cover Charge

Adam Lambert shows off his incredible vocal chops on "High Drama," an inspired collection of covers.

Adam Lambert -- Photo: Joseph Sinclair
Adam Lambert — Photo: Joseph Sinclair

The idea of a former American Idol contestant releasing a covers album is so on-the-nose that it’s not hard to see why Adam Lambert once openly laughed off the idea.

Somewhere along the way, though, he had a change of heart and threw himself into an ambitious project to cover 11 well-known beloved songs. The result, High Drama, (★★★★☆) is more than a throwback to his Idol origins — it’s the kind of collection that could only have been put together and delivered by someone confident in his identity as an artist.

The songs Lambert chose to cover for the album range from contemporary hits to decades-old classics, and vary in tone from camp anthems to iconic tearjerker ballads. One thing they do have in common is that they are all heavy on raw, often over-the-top emotion, which happens to perfectly suit the energy he brings to the project.

With a mix of songs that allow him to show off a range and versatility, High Drama highlights Lambert’s skill as a curator, a side of himself that he has not really shown off much up until this point.

Lambert makes the most of his careful selection of songs, helped along the way by an impressive roster of producers that includes Tommy English and Andrew Wells. Having promised us high drama, he sets out to deliver it right from the outset.

Opening the album with a larger-than-life cover of “Holding Out For A Hero” makes his MO clear. His self-styled “glam-rock makeover” of the Bonnie Tyler hit has him belting her lines over thudding bass, injecting the classic earworm with a heavy dose of Lambert. It’s dramatic and extravagant in all the right ways, in a way that feels as true to the original as it does to his own sense of showmanship.

High Drama works best in those moments where Lambert manages to make a cover feel like it belongs to him as much as to the original artist. His rendition of Billie Eilish’s “Getting Older” delivers a masterclass in adding layers of emotional depth to a song with simple tweaks to its underlying structure.

Notwithstanding the Queen-like a capella intro, he not only captures the poignant intimacy and stark vulnerability in Eilish’s lyrics, but takes it a step further. Put bluntly, its lyrics about coming to terms with the passage of time hit a bit differently coming from someone a fair bit older and further into his career.

Lambert’s own story and personality creep into his covers in plenty of other big and small ways. His queerness is present, from the subtle pronoun shift he sneaks into “Chandelier” to his masterful cover of “Mad About the Boy,” his own proud contribution to a tradition of decidedly gay interpretations of the Noel Coward song. Arguably his boldest choice on the album is his reimagining of “Sex on Fire” as a sweaty, gratuitous dancefloor anthem.

Although he does a great job of adding his own flair to the songs he covers and the standout moments are those where he takes a song in a slightly unexpected and very Adam Lambert direction, he maintains a consistent respect for the original tracks.

Often, that respect leads him to stay closer to the source material. There’s nothing really wrong with that approach, which gives us safe-but-solid versions of Lana Del Rey’s “West Coast” and Pink’s “My Attic,” two songs where he avoids diverging much from the originals. A notable standout among those more true-to-source tracks is his Duran Duran cut, “Ordinary World,” in which he hews close to the original but runs with the opportunity to flex his incredible vocal range.

With High Drama, Lambert has delivered a collection of unsurprisingly solid and well-executed covers. In its best moments it approaches brilliance, and its relative lows still stand out as solidly crafted.

Lambert may not aspire to be another k.d. lang or Kelly Clarkson, but High Drama makes it easy to imagine an alternate timeline where he made a name for himself as a covers artist.

As unexpected as the album was and as odd as it may have sounded on paper, it is obvious in retrospect what a good fit it was. If there’s one lesson to be drawn here, it seems to be not to underestimate Adam Lambert.

High Drama is available for streaming and purchase on all major platforms. Visit

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