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REVIEW: Miranda Lambert – Platinum

Miranda Lambert released her fifth album on Wednesday, choosing a simple play on the word Platinum for the title. She could be referring to her platinum blonde hair but, seeing as how her last four albums all went platinum in sales, it is more likely an easy prediction. This album finds Lambert at her most introspective and nostalgic, everything from the lyrical content to the adventurous spirit of the compositions, Platinum relishes the past. Though she presents more of her rootsy side, she blends it with the modern pop sensibility, pushing herself as only a fully-developed artist is able to do.

It is musically her most diverse album to date, going from lively guitar shredding in “Little Red Wagon” to a lap-steel ballad in “Smokin’ and Drinkin’ (feat. Little Big Town)”. On Platinum we find Lambert stretching the limits of the genre and experimenting sonically while keeping her strong voice and persona intact. It is this voice that holds the album together, guiding us through her corner of the south, sharing the perspective of a confident, strong and charismatic woman who offers no apologies. From feminist issues to her marriage to Blake Shelton, she takes her daily concerns and filters them through her realistic and often humorous perspective.

She guides us with a wink and nudge but just when that sort of rye humour might grow tired she lets down her guard and shows us her more vulnerable side on tracks like “Bathroom Sink”, a song about facing yourself in the mirror and the depth (or shallowness) it could entail. She gives us these vulnerable moments only after presenting herself as self-assured, resulting in an endearing three-dimensional persona that is easy to relate to and admire. As far as role-models go, the youth of today could do a lot worst, Lambert advocates generosity and good-intentions but she constantly reminds us that she isn’t perfect nor does she pull her punches.

Lambert includes a lot of radio-ready pop-country in Platinum but also songs like “Old Sh!t”, a tune where you can almost hear the creaking of a rocking chair on a porch, and “Gravity is a B**ch”, a honky-tonk stomper with so many great lines about getting old it would be difficult to highlight the best. Both songs contain expletives in their titles, something not usually seen on country music records, and they both sound like they consciously avoid pop-country production. Instead they harken back to more simple times, melding southern grit with some modern sensibilities.

Unfortunately, there is a bit of a contradiction when listening to the more subversive songs that represent a reaction against pop-country, like the folksy “All That’s Left”, next to those that fit the mold like the lead single “Automatic”. Lambert co-wrote the song with lyrics that look back fondly on the days before everything seemed so easy. It’s a relevant message that can hold several meanings, the obvious one being the advent of technology but the more interesting one would relate to Lamberts process. The more adventurous songs sound like reactions against being more comfortable with the song writing process. While “Automatic” has an infectious melody and a relevant message, Lambert seems to forget this very message in the song itself and relies on predictable pop-country devices without taking much risk, but assuring radio play.

A good blend of Lambert’s risk taking and mainstream sensibility is her duet with Carrie Underwood, “Somethin’ Bad”. The drums take centre stage in the production and hit hard as the two talented voices take turns snarling with ferocity and cooing gently. It’s like the Queen classic “We Will Rock You” filtered through the Lambert lens but keeping all of that sneering attitude that can only come from winning. That is the essence of Platinum, Lambert knew going into it that this was her victory lap.
Is all this to say that Platinum is lazy? It is actually very ambitious in scope, encompassing many different styles with Lambert’s vision keeping it cohesive. Having both deeper cuts and big pop-country choruses suitable for the summer just makes the album more diverse. Platinum is the vision of a unique talent with an incredible voice that despite world-wide success can still write some of the most humble and honest songs out there. You can’t help but be won over by the end, as she caps the album off with “Another Sunday in the South”, a track with imagery that captures the heat of those afternoons perfectly. It’s got sultry guitars and organs creating the kind of closer that makes you want to start the album over again.

Let us know what you thought of one of the biggest name in country music’s latest effort in the comments below.