Adam Lambert dubbed ‘a rock god’ on Idol

“Adam’s got pipes, you know?” mused the former Guns-n-Roses lead guitarist, Slash, on tonight’s American Idol.

Still every bit the rock star, with long curly hair and dark aviators, you get the feeling Slash is hard to please. “He’s got so much range and it comes so easy—it’s like effortless,” he gushed about Lambert.

Slash’s assessment is part of a growing chorus of Lambert fanatics who believe that the 26-year-old singing sensation is on the path to becoming a huge star.

Moments before he was to perform in this week’s American Idol rock-themed show, Lambert said, “This is by far my favorite of all the theme weeks and I want to go out there and kill it!”

Tackling one of the most legendary rock-and-roll songs of all time, Lambert claimed Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” as his own, bursting with gravelly notes that peaked and soared and mystified Idol’s judges. All four of them.

“You’re a rock god!” bawled Kara DioGuardi who used the opportunity to suggest Lambert cut a record of either 70s classic rock or 80s glam rock. (No pressure, though.)

“How can you improve a Zeppelin song?” Paula Abdul wondered. “I say you were a ‘whole lotta perfect.’”

Even Simon Cowell, whose cartoonish disparagements are both beloved and reviled by Idol’s audience, had no ill critique for Lambert.

“I thought the performance was a little understated,” Cowell joked. “The only problem is, nobody can top that now.”

When Lambert sang, his eyes squinted with that rock-star faux sexual cunning, his expression recalled a talent worthy of Streisand. 

But some say, Lambert doesn’t represent the rags-to-riches dream that makes an Idol winner so compelling.

Richard Rushfield writes in today’s L.A. Times:

One friend, TR, put the Lambert question like this:  Forget about the personal-life talk or the edgy style.  “American Idol” always has been about the dream of lifting a person from humble origins – a waitress, a bar singer – and bestowing upon him or her the greatest mantle in our civilization: fame and stardom.  

Whatever you say about Adam, he clearly is not from humble, out-of-the-limelight origins.  Lambert gives the impression of having gravitated toward the lights of Hollywood since before he could walk.  As far as this blog is concerned, that is fine.  We have long advocated letting professionals, semipros, rock legends, whomever in to try their luck at earning the “Idol” crown – knowing that if they fell short they lost all. But the question remains, will America be willing to let go of that rags-to-riches narrative?  All previous Idols have in their way paid homage to that legend.  Can Adam Lambert break through the bias against Hollywood?

It’s worthy speculation but whenever politics get in way, I think of what Simon Cowell always says, “‘American Idol’ is a singing competition.” May the best singer win.