Adam Lambert defends sexually-charged TV performance
By Jill Serjeant
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "American Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert defended his sexually-charged performance at the American Music Awards on Sunday, saying his goal was to promote "artistic freedom" rather than upset the television audience.
Millions of viewers saw Lambert simulate oral sex with a back-up dancer, plant a passionate kiss on the mouth of a male keyboard player and gesture to the audience with his middle finger during the closing act of the live music awards show.
Broadcaster ABC cut away from one moment in which Lambert rubbed his crotch for its U.S. West Coast version that aired later on Sunday evening. But by then, the singer's racy rendition of his debut single "For Your Entertainment" was already on its way to becoming the talking point of the show.
"Female performers have been doing this for years -- pushing the envelope about sexuality -- and the minute a man does it, everybody freaks out," said Lambert, who publicly declared he was gay after "American Idol" ended in May.
"We're in 2009; it's time to take risks, be a little more brave, time to open people's eyes and if it offends them, then maybe I'm not for them. My goal was not to piss people off, it was to promote freedom of expression and artistic freedom," the singer, 27, told Rolling Stone magazine after Sunday's show.
Lambert's performance -- the day before his debut album "For Your Entertainment" was released -- may be the most provocative TV moment in the music industry since Madonna and Britney Spears exchanged a passionate kiss live on the MTV Video Music Awards show in 2003.
Lambert told CNN that much of his sexual energy was "in the moment."
"Adrenaline is a crazy, crazy, crazy feeling. Some of the things I love most about performing is when you're up there and all of the sudden you just have these feelings, this rush that comes over you," he told CNN afterward.
Entertainment Weekly music reporter Michael Slezak wrote that Lambert's first major TV outing since the "American Idol" show "felt less like a genuine expression of his high-octane sexuality...and more like a carefully planned stab at dominating the post-AMA blogosphere/water-cooler discussion."
An estimated 14.2 million viewers watched the "American Music Awards" telecast -- the largest audience since 2002, ABC said on Monday, based on preliminary viewing figures.
Many viewers were shocked at Lambert's sado-masochistic theme, which featured male and female dancers in bondage costumes.
"His face in the guy's stomach and the kiss was over the top for my 12 year-old. I didn't expect that from a guy who was on 'American Idol!'" wrote N Smith on the Rolling Stone.com message board.
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)