Song: ‘Whataya Want From Me’
Artist: Adam Lambert
US chart peak: 10
Release date: November 24, 2009
Writers: Pink, Max Martin, Shellback
Producers: Max Martin, Shellback
Quintessential Max moment: The way the synths rise up just before the final explosive chorus
Video synopsis: Adam being harassed by a cameraman in a fancy loft apartment
As you can hopefully see above, the grammatically frivolous ‘Whataya Want From Me’ – Adam Lambert’s first and so far only US Top Ten single and hailed as “Not bad” by the Houston Chronicle’s Joey Guerra – was ‘co-penned’ by regular Max collaborator Pink. Originally written for her ‘Funhouse’ album, the decision in the end was made to leave it off the final tracklisting (her version later cropped up on the Australian edition of 2010’s ‘Greatest Hits…So Far!!!’). While it’s not clear exactly why it didn’t fit for Pink (it has all the hallmarks of the ideal Pink shouty anthem), it’s pretty clear why it ended up with Adam.
Released as the second single from his debut album ‘For Your Entertainment’, it can be read as a reaction to the whirlwind that greeted his American Idol appearances (he finished the competition in second behind creative firebrand, unit-shifting musical behemoth and very straight Kris ‘Kris’ Allen). ‘Outed’ as gay during the competition after photos of him leaked kissing another man, speculation as to how this ‘revelation’ would harm Lambert’s chances of winning swirled around right-wing American media. In the end Lambert confirmed his sexuality during an interview with Rolling Stone, but the sheer scale of people he was suddenly speaking to about something so personal left its mark.
“I was flying blind,” he told me last year in an interview with Notion magazine. “At that time, I was reading things that were being written about me and it was affecting me both negatively and positively. It was really intense to get dropped into that whole world really quickly.”
It’s perhaps for this reason rather than any reasons connected to his sexuality that the only lyrical difference between Pink’s version and Adam’s is one line in the chorus. While Pink sings “he messed me up, need a second to breath”, Adam croons “it messed me up” instead, fixing the attention back to the American Idol blitzkrieg that had only just finished (much of his debut was recorded during the American Idol tour, with its release date just six months after the final). In fact, Adam said as much during an interview with Entertainment Weekly: “[The song] works on a relationship level, but I also relate to the sense of talking to the public. Like, ‘This whole thing’s a little freaked out, but please have faith in me, because I won’t disappoint you.’”
Released in the last throes of Max’s sort of glam-rock-meets-arena-pop stage, it’s a chunky, instantly catchy and pinpoint relatable anthem that almost begs for an over wrought vocal performance (HIYA ADAM!). Recorded during a relentless schedule, and with Adam wanting to prove himself to Max and Shellback (they’d also co-write and co-produce the album’s third single ‘If I Had To’, before returning in 2015 to executive produce ‘The Original High’), you can almost sense his desperation throughout, which ultimately works in the song’s favour.
As to whose version of ‘Whataya Want From Me’ is better, I’ll let ‘Glambert’ number8gurl have the final word.
“I prefer Adam’s version over Pink’s. She doesn’t seem to emote as much as Adam and her voice sounds small and tinny against Adam’s untouchable instrument.”
You can have a listen to Pink’s one below and work out who’s instrument is better.