So Who Is Miranda Lambert on Her New Album, ‘Wildcard’?
Miranda Lambert is one of country music's most consistent artists, and it has nothing to do with how her music actually sounds.
In a genre where women constitute the vast majority of sonic envelope pushers and mold breakers, Lambert is a lighthouse of sorts — a proof of concept that being brutally honest with yourself — all aspects of yourself — wins lifelong fans.
So who is Miranda Lambert on her new album, Wildcard?
Her 2016 double album The Weight of These Wings was a sprawling, introspective journey. A heady, ambitious album that often leaned on the assumed premise that listeners were peeking in on private pages. It was almost voyeuristic, and listening all the way through kind of felt like watching The Shawshank Redemption: undeniably enjoyable, but probably not something you'd do every other day, if only to save some ounce of your emotional energy.
By comparison, Wildcard is the complete opposite. Much of the record feels like a public party invitation — thanks in no small part to producer Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Coheed and Cambria) wrapping every catchy melody in a catchy beat.
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Sure, it's as wrought with wit and self-deprecating observations as any of Lambert's work, but it's also the kind of record you could put on to keep the energy up at your company's next never-ending "lunch and learn."
Consider Wildcard's fourth track, "Settling Down." On Lambert's previous album, this track is a slow burner about indecision and tension between being comfortable versus being complacent. But on Wildcard, it's a disco beat-backed song about all of us (complete with possibly the funkiest bass line on a Lambert album).
The brilliance of the album, and Lambert in general, is that either way it's the right decision. It might be possible for Lambert to sound inauthentic, but she hasn't shown it yet in her nearly 15 years of releasing records. In many aspects, her seventh studio album carries a lot of the rock 'n' roll attitude of the first two, just filtered through an extra decade or so of life lessons.
"Locomotive" feels like the result of letting Jay Joyce go full Jay Joyce with one of the only artists in country who probably didn't need Jay Joyce to convince them to do it. "How Dare You Love" and "Fire Escape" (which sit next to each other on the album for pretty obvious reasons) are gorgeously soft moments that remind us how deft Lambert is at taking a universal feeling and making it feel so personal with nothing but her perspective. It's not the only time Lambert pairs songs on the album in a way that suggest they're fraternal twins. Perhaps her most under-appreciated quality is a dedication to truly making an album feel like more than just a collection of songs.
Lambert notes that this album certainly carries influence from her increased time spent in New York City. Blending in with everyone else catching a rock band in damp clubs motivates a different songwriting mindset than the vast expanse of a rural getaway. But no matter where she finds herself, there's just no circumstance under which the product of her surroundings and life events feels anything than genuine. If artists like Maren Morris and Sam Hunt convince pop fans to dip their toe into the country pool, Miranda Lambert is a shameless cannonball into the deep end.
Her country cred is undeniable. Her rock 'n' roll confidence is infectious. Country music: protect her at all costs.
So who is Miranda Lambert on Wildcard? She's the same she's always been. Just different.
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