“Foremost is the music, but the first thing that I saw as a spectator was how he looked and his image and his styling and his concepts that he pushed forward that were so out of the box and so forward-thinking,” he told Billboard on Monday, the day Bowie’s death at age 69 was announced. “I loved how he challenged people as far as what he thought of how gender was represented. I love that he borrowed from the mime culture in some of his early stuff and how he reinvented himself decade by decade. I think he really inspired a lot of pop artists that way.”
Lambert was only 1 when Bowie released Let’s Dance in 1983, and years later, the American Idol alum had the opportunity to record with that album’s legendary producer, Nile Rodgers.
“I have a particular fond spot for Bowie’s collaboration with Nile Rodgers because I, too, got to work with Nile, so I’ve heard stories and I love that sound that he put forth with that era,” Lambert says. “I loved the funky kind of dance hybrid stuff that he was doing.”
While working with Rodgers, Lambert was a willing student and asked many questions about Bowie and what it was like to work on that project. “He said [Bowie] was so brilliant, and he said he was always impressed by all of his ideas,” he says. “He was an idea person, and I am fascinated by that.”
Lambert also said he learned a lot about Bowie’s artistry when he performed with Queen and was particularly interested in the crafting of the single “Under Pressure,” which Bowie recorded with late singer Freddie Mercury. “That song was based mostly on them freestyling on ad libs, and then they sort of stitched together a song out of it, which was kind of fascinating,” he said. “They didn’t write the song in the traditional sense, which is the proof of Bowie and Mercury’s genius and how much they were the music.”
Bowie’s final album, Blackstar, is a testament to Bowie’s artistry, Lambert says. “It is really beautiful. I think he knew that he was sick and kind of timed it to be a sort of farewell to his fans, and I think that is so beautiful that he treated his departure like a work of art. That’s fantastic, and it’s so him.”
Lambert paid tribute to Bowie with a cover of his favorite song — “Let’s Dance” — at a show in Osaka, Japan, on Monday night. “I loved him so much,” he says onstage.