Adam Lambert gives the Pop Idol treatment to a selection of covers on High Drama. It’s the formula that first brought him to fame, applying his powerful voice to eminent pop tunes. You know what you’re getting with Lambert but the album is hit and miss depending on the song selections made. It’s admittedly very difficult to make cover albums stick and hold sustained value as records in themselves. To this effect, High Drama feels like it will only fulfil its potential in live performance. Beyond that, High Drama is well performed, inoffensive and easily forgettable. Lambert puts his own spin on this litany of classics but there aren’t any tracks successfully reinventive enough that would make them worth returning to in place of the originals.
Lambert’s success on High Drama depends on the song choices. Lambert has quite a set style and approach so the best songs on the album depend on what he applies those qualities to. The looseness, the personality of the Ann Peebles’ I Can’t Stand The Rain, for example, is too much of a void to fill. It’s on tracks like I Can’t Stand the Rain where Lambert’s voice is just a bit too perfect, too refined, too clean. Ann Peebles’ original is full of soul that is playful and dynamic with a vital rawness that Lambert can’t muster. Lambert’s version is performed well but adds little to the famous lineage of covers I Can’t Stand The Rain has built up from the likes of Tina Turner and Eruption.
Sia’s Chandelier works well though for the reasons I Can’t Stand The Rain does not with its dramatic, soaring chorus allowing Lambert to flex his range to its fullest. Do You Really Want To Hurt Me represents High Drama’s best arrangement. Some tracks on High Drama sound overloaded instrumentally but Do You Really Want to Hurt Me builds subtly around an intriguing stabbed synth pattern and snappy percussion. It invites Lambert to deliver an understated performance that, while less “impressive”, has more character and distinctiveness than many other songs on the album. I’m A Man is another highlight while Lambert’s take on Billie Eilish’s Getting Older is his most transformative, taking Eilish’s deliberately restrained performance and turning it into something rousing. Indeed that is the stamp Lambert is able to make it on these covers: the “High Drama” of the album title is what unifies the tracks and how Lambert makes them his own. Though Lambert’s Pop Idol-ification works better on some tracks than others, High Drama ultimately delivers on the promise of its title.