Adam Lambert's 'One': The Story Behind The Cover

'American Idol' judge Simon Cowell selected the moving U2 hit for Lambert.

Adam Lambert is not shy. The 28-year-old Los Angeles musical-theater veteran has made plenty of brash choices so far this year on [url id="/news/topic/american_idol/index.jhtml"]"American Idol,"[/url] which is one of the reasons he's in the top three and likely headed to the finals next week.

But his boldest song choice on Tuesday night's performance show wasn't his own; it was Simon Cowell's. The judge, not known for showing a soft, emotional side, appeared to give Lambert a big, fat home run right down the middle by choosing [artist id="1022"]U2[/artist]'s [video id="10251"]"One"[/video] for the singer. But given the song's iconic status as one of the group's biggest, most beloved hits — which Cowell said Bono personally gave him approval to use on the show — the choice could have turned into a tender trap for Lambert.

(Read about Kris Allen's cover of Kanye West's "Heartless" here.)

Standing center stage under a blue spotlight with an angelic look on his face, his typically wild hair tamed to match his atypically muted denim ensemble, Lambert took the song to church, bringing some gospel-via-Broadway flavor to the Irish rock band's 1991 hit. Lambert got a bit of flak from judge Randy Jackson for switching up the song's melody, but overall, the panel once again gave him high praise.

The song, which U2 have played at every single concert since its live debut in February 1992 (according to, is often mistakenly thought of as a love ballad. But Bono has said that it is about how our differences force us to get along in order to survive in this world, whether we like it or not.

Considering the difficulty U2 endured over what musical direction to take while trying to finish the album "One" appeared on, 1992's electronica-edged Achtung Baby, it could very well be interpreted as a metaphor for the band's own creative strife. It has also been interpreted as being about a woman, or an AIDS patient telling his parents he's dying from the disease.

In the end, many people took inspiration from what they saw as the song's uplifting message: "One love/ One blood/ One life/ You got to do what you should/ One life with each other/ Sisters, brothers/ One life, but we're not the same/ We get to carry each other/ Carry each other."

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The gay community adopted the song as a plea for tolerance. In keeping with the theme, some of the proceeds from the single were donated to AIDS research, and the song's title has also been lent to the One Campaign, a Bono-led charity initiative against global poverty.

"One" was voted the Best Song Ever by Q magazine in 2003, dubbed the best single of 1992 in a Rolling Stone reader's poll, named the 36th greatest song of all time by the magazine and ranked #2 among the Greatest Songs of the '90s by VH1. Curiously, the band made three different videos for the tune, one of which featured the group's members in drag (with Bono singing to his father), another that was mostly footage of buffaloes and flowers with the song's title in different languages and a third that focused on Bono sitting at a bar smoking a cigarette and drinking beer.

Mary J. Blige recorded a gospel cover of the tune for her 2005 The Breakthrough album, and she performed it with Bono and the group at the 2006 Grammy Awards. That same year, it was used in ads for the World Cup soccer tournament. Among the other acts that have covered the song: Johnny Cash, the Cowboy Junkies, Joe Cocker and Warren Haynes.

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