If our outrage over rock stars is nothing new, then neither are our rock stars. From Elvis' pelvis on down, they are nothing if not dedicated to sex, more sex, the next new single, which is probably about sex, and ticking off people who prefer their s-e-x to be not so explicit, thankyouverymuch.
And the other night, Lambert did his job very well.
It should be left to music critics and Ellen DeGeneres to judge whether Lambert's vocals and song selection were spot-on. But any doubt the performance was off the mark should have been erased with every angry word from the PTC, every angry phone call to ABC (1,500-plus and counting, per reports) and, above all, the network's censored AMAs broadcast for tender West Coast audiences too young to see Jennifer Lopez fall down and go boom, much less witness "another dancer [simulate] oral sex on Lambert." (Thanks again, PTC! You always put it just right!)
Together, Lambert's offenses are nothing less than the work of a rock star in his tight-pants prime. Can you imagine how hard it must have been to work the townfolk into a huff only weeks after the nation relost its innocence to the Gossip Girl threesome?
It could be argued that Elvis, rarely painted as a social progressive, would not approve of Lambert's act. But it could be pointed out that the King had no problem singing about the inmates' various couplings in "Jailhouse Rock."
It could be argued that Lambert hoodwinked his American Idol fans into thinking he was as harmless as a Danny Gokey R&B ballad. But it could be pointed out that if you didn't know Lambert was playing nice in order to play, and possibly win, the game, then you weren't paying attention. At all. (And also your Rolling Stone subscription lapsed.)
Lambert wasn't straying from who he was; he was being who he is. He wasn't dishonoring the stage; he was honoring music's shock-and-awe tradition. (According to Lambert, he was getting more blowback for it because he was a gyrating guy, and not a writhing Madonna, but he was probably more in the crosshairs because he was a gyrating guy on free TV, and not a writhing Madonna on cable.)
Ultimately, Lambert was doing what he was supposed to do, and if it was displeasing that a child somewhere saw him do it in prime time, then somebody's bedtime needs to be moved up. (The show-closing number didn't air until almost 11 p.m. ET/PT.)
"All hail freedom of expression and artistic integrity," Lambert tweeted Monday.
And, the certified rock star could've added, the satisfaction of a job done right.
Want to ogle Lambert? Celebrate Taylor Swift's big wins? Check out our 2009 American Music Awards gallery for all the highlights.