I have heard the future of pop. It sounds a bit like '90s pop. It also sounds amazing. It is “Ghost Town,” the forthcoming single by Adam Lambert, and true to its title, it is hauntingly catchy.
The Season 8 American Idol runner-up fondly nicknamed “Glambert” dabbled in '70s rock on his debut album, For Your Entertainment, and in daft, punky '80s rollerdisco on the follow-up, Trespassing; he’s also spent the last couple years belting out '70s and '80s classics fronting Queen on an international tour. But if his thrilling new single is any indication, he’s going totally '90s on his forthcoming third album, The Original High. It’s a natural progression for the ever-evolving, decade- and genre-straddling artist, of course — but ironically, despite “Ghost Town’s” throwback house vibe, it’s the most modern-sounding thing Adam has ever recorded.
And, also, it rules. Yes, there were at least four tracks on the criminally underrated Trespassing that should have been megahits, but “Ghost Town” has major song-of-the-summer potential. Seriously, if this Max Martin-produced Eurodance floor-filler isn’t playing in every club from L.A. to Tokyo by July, I will eat one of Adam’s many dapper hats.
Fitting right into the current pop spectrum alongside Years & Years, Disclosure, and Clean Bandit, the beat-tastic, remix-ready “Ghost Town” alternates between witch-housey minimalism, thumping hard house, and acoustic melancholia. (Sample sorrowful lyrics, sung with all the heart-on-designer-sleeve, keening intensity of Adam in full-on “Mad World”/“Tracks of My Tears” mode: “Died last night in my dreams / Walking the streets of some old ghost town / I tried to believe in God and James Dean / But Hollywood sold out / Saw all of the saints lock up the gates / I could not enter / Walked into the flames, called out your name / But there was no answer / And now I know my heart is a ghost town.”)
And it’s all laced with some of the most earwormy canned pop whistling since Peter Bjorn & John’s “Young Folks” or Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks.” This is a happy/sad track that works, and werks, on so many levels.
It’s an extremely good sign that it feels like “Ghost Town” ends way too soon, even though it actually clocks in at the standard radio-edit length of 3:28. But hey, that’s what the Repeat button is for, right? And I’ve personally been whacking Repeat like a mouse banging against a food-pellet lever in a science lab experiment ever since I first cued up this tasty cut. I’d apologize to my adjacent co-workers in the Yahoo cubicle farm who’ve had to hear “Ghost Town” about 52,000 times at full volume… but honestly, none of them have complained. Yet another good sign!
Adam has been posting snippets of “Ghost Town” on Instagram over the past couple weeks, but the song has finally made its official debut. (Side note: Some enterprising DJ needs to make an Adam Lambert “Ghost Town”/Madonna “Ghosttown” mashup, stat. Suggested title: “Madamma.”) Get your Repeat buttons ready, people.