Critics and fans are disputing whether Adam Lambert's oral-sex-simulating, S&M-tinged American Music Awards performance was inspired or insipid, but any doubts that Lambert can overcome his bland "American Idol" roots are gone, says Todd Martens at the Los Angeles Times: "Lambert dragged women around onstage and got frisky with dudes—all in what seemed like an overly calculated way…to instantly distance Lambert from the family-friendly 'Idol' fare." As The Week's video timeline shows, however, Lambert's image evolution began a long time ago:

Adam Lambert serenades his high school class (2000)
Unrecognizably blond (his natural hair color) and chubby, Lambert looks about as threatening as a future farmer of America in this clip. His initially pallid rendition of "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" at the Mt. Carmel High School in San Diego, CA appears to leave his fellow graduates cold — until he unleashes some vocal acrobatics at the end. (Watch a blond Adam Lambert sing at his high school graduation)

Lambert asks God to confirm he's listening at a Telethon (2004)
A thinner, brunette, possibly rouged, but still palatably family-friendly Lambert helps raise over $3 million for the Jewish outreach program Chabad, prompting the telethon's host to ask if Lambert does "weddings and bar mitzvahs." (Watch Adam Lambert's appearance on the 2004 Chabad telethon)

Lambert sings "The Prayer," looks heavenward (2005)
At a celebration for former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, the future "American Idol" runner-up wears a respectful suit — and delivers more lyrics that invoke religious faith. (Watch Adam Lambert participate in a duet at a memorial for Yitzhak Rabin)

Lambert sexes up in Biblically accurate ways (2006)
As "Joshua" in a Los Angeles stage production of "The Ten Commandments," Lambert reprises his Chabhad telethon number ("Is Anybody Listening?") in a skimpy, Moses-era loincloth. Lambert's command of musical extremism is fully on display. (Watch Adam Lambert play role of Joshua in "The Ten Commandments")

Lambert sexes up in non-Bible-friendly ways (circa 2006-2008)
At a performance in an unidentified Los Angeles locale, a tightly clad Lambert displays a generous amount of cleavage and infamously "dry-humps" a male back-up dancer. (Watch Adam Lambert get down and dirty with his male dancers)

Lambert auditions for "American Idol" (2008)
A well-scrubbed, if superficially Emo, Lambert joshes with the "Idol" judges and expresses eagerness to overcome what Simon Cowell describes as Lambert's problematic theatricality. (Watch Adam Lambert belt out Queen at his "American Idol" audition)

Lambert fails to overcome his problematic theatricality (2009)
Performing the Rolling Stone's classic "Satisfaction" on "Idol," Adam exudes an over-the-top sexual edge. But even as he growls, hair-tosses, and gives the camera tongue, he still finds time to flash America a reassuring grin. (Watch Adam Lambert give "Satisfaction")

Lambert performs "For Your Entertainment" at the AMAs (2009)
On the eve of the release of his solo album, "For Your Entertainment," Lambert delivers what some commenters have called a cheaply sensationalized, "mean" peformance at the American Music Awards. Though Lambert surrounds himself with largely naked backup dancers of both sexes, it's his pelvic-thrusting interactions with one of the men that make headlines. (Watch Adam Lambert's controversial performance at the American Music Awards)


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