100 & Single: Answering Questions On Adam Lambert's Historic Chart-Topping Album
Q. Why isn't Billboard acknowledging the history-making status of Trespassing?
I can't speak for the music industry bible, but I can't say I blame themit's a hard feat to verify. "First chart-topping album by a publicly out gay performer" isn't something Billboard is equipped to declare.
Among mainstream media outlets, only the Huffington Post felt confident enough to lead with the headline, "Adam Lambert's 'Trespassing' Makes No. 1 Debut, Becomes First Openly Gay Male Artist To Top Charts". Numerous other gay-oriented blogs also trumpeted the news.
How you regard Adam Lambert's feat this week is directly proportional to what your definition of "out of the closet" is. I am no expert, obviously, and was basing my research on easily searchable public sources. My only point, in proposing that pro-gay-rights music fans rally behind Lambert, was to note how unusual his out status was for an act so early in his career, and to recount a long history of gay artists who found it difficult to be fully public at the peak of their chart-topping fame.
Admittedly, there are a number of asterisks on Lambert's achievement. As I noted in my earlier column, at least two now-fully-uncloseted artistsQueen's Freddie Mercury and R.E.M.'s Michael Stipewere partially out to some subset of the public when their respective groups reached No. 1. Mercury was out very early in his career, then effectively slipped back into the closet before Queen became megastars and 1980's The Game reached No. 1. And Stipe was making fairly overt hints in the press by 1994, the year R.E.M.'s Monster reached the top.
These technicalities make it difficult for a balls-and-strikes-calling umpire like Billboard to make any definitive statements. And then there's one other wrinkle...