As Lambert plays the role, a rock star doesn't have to be an angry punk, a brooding post-grunge puritan or a hair-metal style macho dude in a dress. These approaches all have their purpose, but Lambert projects something different: outrageousness that's totally at peace with itself.
He does this by connecting countercultural ideas -- values he learned as a kid touring Germany in a production of "Hair," the musical that first brought rock's spirit to Broadway -- with a trouper's sense of artistic performance as work, which takes brains and a certain sharpness as well as talent.
Lambert studied opera as a teenager, then turned away from lessons for a while. "I started rejecting the proper way to sing and I started singing," he said. "I was listening to more and more rock music and wondering, wow, how does that person do that with their voice?"
He discovered there was no name for what rock singers do. Lambert's singing, like his taste and his personal style, put him beyond a boundary.
"I met with [a vocal coach] over the summer and talked to him about it, and the funny thing was, you know when I do those little, crazy, screamy notes? He's like, 'We don't really have a way to teach that. It kind of goes outside of our box.' Those notes that sound sort of like rock-scream, no one ever taught me to do. I sort of had to teach myself. You just do it. It's just a sound you make."