Adam Lambert 'Unplugged': Watch his stripped-down VH1 performances here

What happens to Adam Lambert when you take away the pyrotechnics, the glossy production — in short, everything that makes him the over-the-top phenomenon his fans love? That’s the idea behind the latest episode of VH1’s Unplugged. You can watch a few of the American Idol alum’s acoustic performances at VH1’s site, or right here in this post. So how did he do?

Very well, actually! I’ve never been the hugest fan of Lambert’s music, but even I have to admit that the stripped-down, low-key approach really works for him. It’s hard to fake an unplugged performance. You can’t just scream as a shortcut to emotion, the way Lambert sometimes has in the past, and you obviously can’t rely on studio polish to help you hit those notes. So I’ll give credit where credit is due: There’s a subtle, natural quality to Lambert’s singing here that impresses me. Watching these clips hasn’t made me any more likely to revisit For Your Entertainment, but it has made me respect him a lot more as a vocalist. (Yes, Lambert fans, now is your cue to tell me in the comments section that I’ve been underestimating him all along.)

Watch Lambert’s unplugged “Whataya Want From Me” below, and his unplugged “Mad World” after the jump. Then let us know what you think of his acoustic turn.

“Whataya Want From Me”

“Mad World”

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

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Comments (296 total) Add your comment
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  • Destry

    I think out of the four vids, Broken Open is my fave. It’s a weird song to strip down but it totally worked.

    • Aunty Gokey

      I loved Down The Rabbit Hole – to perform that song “unplugged” is impressive!

      • mick

        I am so in love with the unplugged version of Down The Rabbit Hole. Totally fantastic.

      • Uncle Gokey

        @Aunty Gokey……….LOL!! I just had to laugh at the handle.

        I like the stripped down version

    • VH1

      I liked hearing him talk about it.
      All his video interviews are gold but the public only know him from text articles. F-n shame. He is hilarious, warm and mad smart.

    • Cookie

      And, he co-wrote that song!

    • Leah

      Mine too – it is gorgeous.

  • Ambee

    I’m so impressed with how easily he hits the high notes singing that softly. Singing clear notes in your upper register when you’re that quiet is so difficult.

    I’ve always been impressed with his vocal abilities, but this is quite a treat!

    • Dwight K Schrute

      Oh get real. His voice is auto-tuned and enhanced to cover up all imperfections.

      • Jet

        Are you nuts? These are live accoustic performances. Adam has never needed or used autotone – sorry you are so jealous of his talent.

      • B.

        You are either very stupid (and deaf) or you are just trying to get people riled!!

        What part of these performances have been auto-tuned?

      • Tomi in DE

        No imperfections. These are live and I have been there..three in February. And he makes sure he changes it up so that you know he ain’t lip synching. Adam EXCELS in the acoustic, stripped down, but I also adore the ROCK.

      • Zoey

        Either you didn’t click on the videos for the unplugged performances for you have no concept of what “unplugged” means. He’s singing without mechanical distortion and sounds great doing it.

      • Luke

        lol! Can you say troll.

      • TRY AGAIN

      • kct

        @Dwight: Ok, I’m a huge Kris fan, and I think that comment is nuts. I really liked the way Adam sounded.

      • Jeanne

        Obviously you are deaf!

      • B.

        to kct,

        Finally a voice of reason! Thank you for calling @Dwight on his stupid comment.

        If more people were like you……well it’s a start!

      • kct

        @B.- Back at ya!!

      • Stacy

        Dwight, you are either a complete idiot or immature. Say what you will about Adam, like him, don’t like him, but one thing you CAN’T say is that he is not super talented beyond anyone we have seen in a long, long time.

      • Mike

        @Dwight, are you 101 years old??? Or maybe you need to buy some Qtips for your ears!!!

      • follow the sun

        There’s a troll, in the dungeon!!!

      • terie

        SORRY Dwight: LOL … didn’t work this time. Not when the TRUTH is right there for everyone to see. ADAM is a VOCAL GENIUS!!

      • quinn

        dwight i really try not to make personal comments AT people – I am sure if Adam reads your ignorant remark he will laugh out loud at you all the way to the bank.

      • Jennifer Popky

        He is from musical theatre. It’s really hard to auto tune live stage performances. Or do you always talk out of your -?

      • fireflyfan

        Actually Jennifer it’s really not, I can name quite a few bands that use auto-tune live: Blink 182 is a big one. But this is “unplugged” so there really shouldn’t be any alterations to his voice if VH1 is true to their word.

      • vladdy

        tee hee…Look at DDD music forums, where he’s rated the #2 popular vocalist of our times, Jealous much?

    • Cookie

      @Ambee: You are so right! Adam Lambert stripped down and acoustic, live, is not to be believed. I love Broken Open and DTRH. Check out his Broken Open from Fantasy Springs recently… will bring tears to your eyes. I wish he would perform this acoustic number when he comes back to perform on American Idol. He would SLAY everyone. And it is a song he co-wrote.

      • Ambee

        I think I will. I think I would really enjoy getting a bit more into his music. Thanks for the tip!

      • DD

        If RCA is reading this they should put out an unplugged Adam Lambert CD this year!!!!!!!! That will be a bestseller!!!! I trust my instincts!!

  • Alaina

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but I am a fan of his voice – the ‘over the top phenomenon’ part? That’s just fun! Not the real reason I love his music. Acoustic sensitive Adam is as entertaining as is glammed up sexy dirty Adam.

    • Jilly

      Agree Alaina. Love Adam’s voice. It’s fabulous. He’s a wonderful entertainer.

    • DD

      I love his voice too!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Lorrae

      You said it perfectly, Alaina!

      I love Adam’s music in all its incarnations, but I would LOVE a stripped album of his music — would buy it immediately if offered. Any execs out there reading this?

  • PattyH

    I only have one thing to say, “Duh!”

  • vicky

    Never been a fan because of the screeching he always seemed to do at the end of his songs, but I really enjoyed these two.

    • Jason

      He does no “screeching” on his album either. That was more of an Idol thing. Adam has a very well trained voice. I love his rock screech myself – but not really part of what he does on this album.

      • Ugonna

        sorry, but I’ve seen do his screeching in recent performances as well, so its not just an idol thing. I like Rock screeches, but he does them too often, too long, and in the wrong places. That said, good job here!

    • LOL

      I love the “screeching”.

      • TK

        Screeching my butt. That is called singing Ugonna. How about you get an earpiece then maybe you can actually hear better?

      • DD

        Whatever you people call it “screeching” “screaming” “yelling”- it gives me ear orgasms every single time!!!! That says it all!! It’s 100 times better than all the snoozefest going on these days with YOU KNOW WHO!!!

      • voiceworkstk

        At least his “screeches” are a musical note.

    • fromthegreyfort

      That’s not screeching – those are called high notes. Maybe your speakers and/or ears are defective and can’t convey them accurately.

  • Sam

    Really beautiful, soft vocals. Kinda surprising from Lambert.

    • Lynn

      His ability to sing beautiful soft vocals is not all that surprising to Idol fans of Adam. He did this same styling for “Tracks of my Tears”.

    • ………..not really

      “kinda surprising” only if you don’t know anything about him.
      Having a 5 range voice means you can hit every note on the guitar, literally every note. His approach to every song is like a mini story, he interprets the LYRICS to the core, and adapts to his surroundings.

    • TK

      Sam where the hell has YOUR head been? If you knew anything about Adam Lambert you wouldn’t be “surprised”. He has done so many acoustic soft sounding performances lately that it is hard NOT to be surprised at how wonderful his vocals are.

      @Not Really……you said it all. Good written comment.

    • Rebekah

      Um…did the people repyling to Sam’s comment not realize that he was complimenting Adam’s acoustic performances? Probably not, seeing as they attacked Sam’s statement. So Sam was surprised to hear Adam sound like this. So what? Maybe Sam just hasn’t heard Adam sing that much yet. The point is Sam liked what he/she heard here. That is good news, Glamberts. Learn how to read. BTW, I love Adam. His voice and his album are amazing!

      • teacher

        “kind of a surpise from him” is a passive-agressive put-down. (“But I was COMPLIMENTING him!”) We can read. Can you comprehend?

    • Kelly

      Actually, none of these soft performances are surprising to me at all. The all-time best performance of his from Idol was Mad World so I’m not getting where the soft surprise idea is even coming from.

    • vladdy

      It’s 6 months later. Have you caught on yet that this singing is no “surprise” for Adam Lambert?

  • Wendy

    Wow, these performances are just beautiful.


      If anyone can find the full version of this acoustic jam at Marble Bar, I will…umm give them sexual favors.

      (watch IT)

  • Taylor

    The sexiest thing I’ve ever seen Adam do was an acoustic version of Whole Lotta Love. Very soft. Very hot.

    • Agreed

      God yes!

    • Kells


      • Jenn

        Very sexy, very beautiful!

    • Jeanne


    • Leah

      Loved it. <33333

    • :D

      OMG YESSS!!
      he literally makes love with the music for seven minutes!..sensuality personified

  • MH

    Lambert is a chameleon. Bombastic glory notes one minute, soft sensuality the next. And don’t undercut his rock scream Simon or I’ll lock you in a room with a remix tape of Gokey singing Dream On.

    • thunder13

      Ha! That’ll teach him!

    • Kiki

      Agreed. A rock scream is a perfectly legitimate form of musical expression, just as legitimate as singing softly and often is just as difficult –as “Scream On” demonstrates so well.

  • sandra

    I have to say that Adam is one of the best singers today, i can’t find sombody else to top Adam Lambert abilities as a singer (sorry for the mistakes, i am from Europe and my Engish is not perfect)
    I love Adam!!!!!

    • Don’t apologize

      Your English (spelling and punctuation)is better than most of the native speakers on most comment boards.

    • Tully

      Totally agree with you, Sandra.

    • Emma

      He has a huge range too.

    • Victoria

      Then you haven’t heard of Muse. The lead singer, Matthew Bellamy, has one hell of a voice as well and like Adam, has frequently been compared to Freddie Mercury. I’m not here to debate that he’s better than Adam, I’m just pointing out that there are some great singers out there you may have not have heard of.

      • Jurnee

        Adam sang Starlight on tour this summer and I’ve played Muses version against his many times to compare (I happen to LOVE that song). They are both crazy-good vocalists but for that song, I have to give the edge to Adam because he infuses it with so much emotion and his voice has a sonewhat purer quality. However, they are both wonderful and I only hope the world starts to recognize the insane talent that is Adam Lambert in the same way Matt Bellamy has been embraced. The earmark of every Adam performance is that it’s always fresh. he can be theatrical or he can be acoustic – it doesn’t matter because either way it’s perfection.

      • Tagrid

        As another example, when FYE first came out I searched for the Muse version of “Soaked.” When I played it, then Adam’s version for my 83 year old mother even SHE could hear the differences. She liked the Muse version, but when Adam’s was about half way through she said, “Ahhhhh… much, much better.” Muse is great, as long as they have Bellamy. Adam is just plain fantastic all on his own, even a capella. In fact, for Adam’s voice, a capella is even preferable. I thought Monte’s guitar was too loud in WWFM.

        As for the comments on Adam screaming – clearly those complaining know nothing about vocalization. Many rock screams are just that – loud, uncontrolled, throat-wrenching, screaming. But for Adam it’s different – his is a controlled, ON-KEY, soprano, head vocalization. He’d never make a sound that would hurt his thoat, he knows exactly what he’s doing.

      • Erik

        Matt Bellamy is amazing too, that’s why Adam picked him to work with on his album! (listened to “Soaked”) If you love Muse then you’ll love this song! AND, be jealous cuz I have front row tickets to see Muse on April 10th!

      • Victoria

        Erik, I’m happy for you and jealous of you all at once, lol. God, what I would do to see Muse in concert.

    • Victoria

      Additionally, I should also mention that Adam cites Muse as one of his influences.

  • Jess

    What’s surprising to me is that you’re actually surprised that someone with Lambert’s range can soudn amazing singing unplugged. What the heck do you think he was doing before AI? Upright Cabaret? Wicked? This guy has a mean set of pipes and the flawless way he moves from rock, to pop to acoustic is a sure telling point for that talent.

  • Jonny

    I’m not at all surprised he can go unplugged. Any time someones calls him a “screamer”, I point them directly to his version of “Tracks Of My Tears”. The amount of control he demonstrates is staggering. Even Smokey was on his feet! :-)

    • Agreed

      Yeah, I do the same thing. And Ring of Fire? Those notes were outrageous, soft and fluid. I try not to laugh to hard, and find some pity, for the hard of hearing who call this guy a “screamer”.

  • Lisa

    I find it hysterical and bizarre that you didn’t know the guy could strip it down and sing. I guess people just see what they want to see and judge based on very few facts (even if they’re right in front of you).

    • Eric

      People outside fandom don’t know much about Lambert aside from the media’s portrayal of him, gossip blogs and so forth. Which is a shame.

      • Rebekah

        Exactly. If people haven’t heard much of Adam on their own, they don’t have a clear or accurate picture of his vocal abilities. Having said that, due to this, we can’t expect everyone to know how good Adam is or to enjoy him as a singer.

  • Michelle

    I always thought Adam was an excellent vocalist, but I also never really felt an emotional connection in his music: it felt too much like theatrics. So I was also pleasantly shocked by these performances – really achingly emotional. Good stuff! I might buy the Unplugged album if they release one.

    • evilgrin

      Kris ALlen fans never seem to see the connection betweem Lambert and his music. My apologies if you’re not one.

    • Wendy

      Hmmmm…have you heard Sleepwalker? Broken Open? Soaked? Whataya Want From Me? And from Idol…Mad World? Tracks of My Tears? If I Can’t Have You?

      No emotion? Really?

      I will never understand how people can say he is all theatrics. Never.

    • Leah

      I hope he will release an Unplugged album!!

  • Nancy

    What a voice!!!! I like that he can be over the top & also do such, beautiful, sensitive performances!!! That is also what I love about his eclectic CD –it has it all!!!!Adam is amazing!!!!

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