He came in second in season eight, but Adam Lambert, 34, scored a radio hit on his first try. “Whataya Want From Me,” from his 2009 RCA debut, For Your Entertainment, peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. No surprise here: He got a little help from Sweden.
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Cast A Wide Net
“[A&R executive] Ashley Newton was my hero at the label. He and Iain Pirie at 19 Entertainment helped me put together a list of people that I wanted to work with. Max Martin and Dr. Luke were on that list, pop’s hottest guys at that time. I did some of my own writing but it was such a fast process that we needed songs, and we got songs from Lady Gaga, Matt Bellamy of Muse, Rivers Cuomo and Linda Perry. Now that I look back, it’s like, ‘Damn! They really showed up for me.’ ”
Hire Max Martin
“Max knew exactly what he wanted in the studio. He was so chill, I immediately got comfortable. He helped me achieve a really emotional, intimate vocal.”
Don’t Fear The Reject
“Pink wrote ‘Whataya Want From Me’ and then decided she didn’t want to put it on her album for personal reasons. I think she was quoted saying she didn’t want to go into the sentiment of the song. I did! A great song is a song that means different things to different people. It was a really honest sentiment and a great hook.”
Stir Up Some Controversy
“My concept for the album was modern-day glam rock. I was pushing for [the title track] to be the first single, but after performing it on the American Music Awards [controversy erupted over a crotch grab and a kiss], RCA decided to release ‘Whataya Want From Me’ instead. To me, the AMAs was really tame. But as an artist. I think you want conversation. You want people to talk about what you’re doing.”
— Reporting by Fred Bronson
A version of this story originally appeared in the March 25 issue of Billboard.