American Idol singer Adam Lambert arrives at the 2009 American Music Awards in Los Angeles, California November 22, 2009. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

Adam Lambert's racy public outing as a solo artist at Sunday's American Music Awards has grabbed headlines and helped send downloads of his debut album soaring worldwide.

But while the American Idol runner-up won crucial publicity with his sexually-charged performance for his first CD For Your Entertainment, he risked hurting his career by alienating fans and did little to show newcomers his biggest selling point -- his voice -- music industry watchers said.

On a night when some of the biggest names in music performed -- Lady GaGa, Jennifer Lopez, Jay-Z -- the only person anyone is talking about is Adam Lambert, said Entertainment Weekly music reporter Michael Slezak.

But for me, the real risk is that in his first appearance to the world, Adam runs the risk of being dismissed as a one note, shock-tactic artist, as opposed to being known for the music, Slezak told Reuters.

More than 14 million people watched the gay, glam rocker close the live AMA telecast on Sunday with a performance that included dancers in bondage, Lambert kissing a male keyboard player, and pushing the head of a male dancer into his crotch.

The telecast drew more than 1,500 complaints to ABC and caused the network to cancel Lambert's appearance on its news and chat show Good Morning America, planned for Wednesday.

But the furor seems to have boosted early prospects for Lambert's album as he seeks to establish himself in an industry grappling with a 40 percent drop in album sales over the past 10 years.

Released Monday through Sony Music Entertainment, For Your Entertainment was No.4 on iTunes' U.S. album download chart by Tuesday night, No.1 in Finland and No.3 in New Zealand.


It seems like a win-win to me said Steve Knopper, author of Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age.

But Knopper added that Lambert still has much to prove and in order to make money in today's music business, you have got to be a strong concert performer.

Lambert, 27, took a flair for showmanship, a penchant for eyeliner, powerful vocals and sexual ambivalence all the way to the finals of top-rated U.S. TV show American Idol in May.

But many of Glambert's fans were turned off by the sexually-aggressive singer they saw on Sunday at the AMAs.

Adam can do whatever he wants with his private life, but please don't show it to me and the young children watching. I'm so disappointed I'm going to send his CD back as soon as I receive it, wrote Joyce, a self-described grandmother and Idol fan, in a post on Reuters entertainment blog Fan Fare.

Slezak noted that while Madonna has thrived on stunts, she had several hits before bringing shock tactics to the stage.

Entertainment Weekly gave For Your Entertainment a solid B-plus review. But if AMA viewers had been listening to Lambert's music on Sunday, they may not have been impressed. Lambert even admitted he was uncharacteristically off-key.

Whether to put vocals before spectacle in a competitive market is a larger question that the record-buying public, record company executives and artists themselves are really grappling with right now, said Slezak.

Knopper said it was too early to tell whether Lambert's AMA tactics would bring success in the long term.

If in a year from now we are not talking about him, it won't be because of his performance at the AMAs or his vocal performance, but because he can't hack it in the business.