Miranda Lambert • Platinum • RCA Nashville • US Release Date: June 3, 2014
“I live in Oklahoma / and I’ve got long, blonde hair / and I play guitar, and I go on the road / and I do all the sh-t you wanna do…” Okay then! When one thinks of Miranda Lambert, the first word that comes to mind is ‘attitude’ (or maybe Blake Shelton, LOL). Anyways, throughout her latest, highly anticipated album Platinum, Lambert exudes the upmost confidence, delivering an album that’s as feisty as they come. Fearless, Lambert’s ‘firecracker’ spirit truly makes Platinum a worthwhile listen, 16 tracks deep.
“Girls” opens Platinum with a six-feel and a relaxed, moderate tempo. Vocally, Lambert rises above the production, always delivering with a sound tone. The chorus is the most notable section of the opener: “You can’t change her mind / you can always try / if you think you’re the only one she’ll want in this world / then you don’t know nothin’ ‘bout girls”. Overall, “Girls” is a solid opener exemplifying a more traditional country sound.
“Platinum” proceeds, definitely catching the ear with its opening lyrics: “My disposition permeates / the room when I walk in the place / I’m sorry / by calculation I’m way too much / Pretentiously I b*tch a buck / but I just bought you!” Vocally, Lambert’s tone is incredibly playful – ‘tongue in cheek’ if you will – contrasting “Girls” more straight-ahead sound. The most memorable lyrics come by the chorus, where Lambert playfully sings “What doesn’t kill you / only makes you blonder / my heels and my hotel / they just got taller / somethin’ ‘bout platinum irrefutably / looks as good on records / as it does to me”. Platinum starts off excellent.
“Little Red Wagon” opens with a driving groove which definitely possesses a rock-sensibility about it. Lambert is even more playful on “Little Red Wagon”, though approaches it in a different way than “Platinum” did. Vocal harmonies and bold guitars shape “Little Red Wagon” into one of Platinum’s best songs. The manic, ‘all over the place’ production also plays well into Lambert’s hands, making it one of the more interesting country songs of the year.
On “Smokin’ and Drinkin’” (featuring Little Big Town), Lambert reins herself in, with the tempo slackening, pedal steel appearing within the mix, and a soulful bass line providing the foundation. “Smokin’ and Drinkin’” is a song of reminiscing, evidenced by its lyrics throughout. On the chorus, this sentiment is summed up: “Smokin’ and drinkin’ on the weekend like we did back in the day / smokin’ and drinkin’ got cha thinkin’ about the one that got away / so here’s to all those nights all we felt was life smokin’ and drinkin’”. The harmonies are lovely and the song is memorable. It’s on the long side, but that doesn’t diminish its appeal or consistency.
“It’s a difficult thing being Queen to the King”. Sho nuff is, Miranda – sho nuff is. “Priscilla” speeds things up, getting the blood rushing and the heart jumping. Cleverly referencing Elvis Presley’s ex-wife Priscilla Presley, Lambert asks the question “Priscilla, Priscilla / How’d you get him to yourself? / Between the whistle calls and Southern dolls / it’s enough to put a home through Hell”. “Priscilla” not only benefits from its clever, feisty writing, but also its traditional, rollicking country sound.
“Automatic” maintains a balance, slowing down things to a more moderate pace and also lowering the energy level. Even with more restraint than “Priscilla”, Lambert doesn’t lose her ‘edge’. Like tracks “Smokin’ and Drinkin’” and “Priscilla”, Lambert seems to hearken back to the ‘good ole days’: “It all just seemed so good the way we had it / back before everything became automatic”. Perhaps “Automatic” isn’t as high-flying as the trio preceding it, but it’s as consistent and as enjoyable as anything else gracing Platinum.
On “Bathroom Sink”, Lambert sings of “Fake smile and eyelashes”, later following it up with “Glamour at its finest / just means someone’s hidin’ / from their own reality”. She ties the message all together on the chorus, where she sings “It’s amazing, the amount of rejections / that I see in my reflection…I’m lookin’ forward to the girl I wanna be / but regret has got a way of staring me right in the face.” Ultimately, the bathroom sink isn’t nearly as important as Miranda’s message in regards to becoming the real, genuine person beyond the makeup, etc.
She goes traditional once more on the irresistible “Old Sh*t”, which again thinks ‘simpler’ than ornate. “One man’s trash is another mans treasure / one man’s pain is another man’s pleasure / it it’s out of style, sure drives me wild / I’m a fan of it, old sh*t.” There seems to be a figurative spin here, as Lambert seems to be alluding to the fact that she’s traditional and has an old soul. “Old Sh*t” is definitely a clever way of putting it.
“All That’s Left” continues classicism, amplified by the guest appearance by The Time Jumpers. The fiddle, upright bass, and accordion definitely stand out. Of course, so does Lambert, who continues to flex her sensational voice and untouchable attitude. “Gravity Is a B**ch” has a honky tonk, near cabaret quality, thanks to groove and the piano. Continuing on her old-school kick, Lambert keeps things contemporary enough with her sass. “Gravity Is a B**ch” has the tongue in cheek quality about it that made title track “Platinum” interesting. Again, Lambert is incredibly confident: “Your reflection in the glass is gonna knock you on your ass / you wonder how the hell to get down here.” There it is my friends.
Then comes the tried-and-true, purist sentiment that is “Babies Makin’ Babies”: “Too soon to be a mother and father / but too late for the alma mater / yeah it’s always in the water / babies makin’ babies”. It’s not new or shocking territory, but like everything else, plays well in Lambert’s hands. After all, “it’s a tried and true equation / maintains a small town population”.
“Somethin’ Bad” was the superstar duet that everyone was buzzing about between Lambert and country-pop queen Carrie Underwood. “Somethin’ Bad” has an aggressive beat that even pop musicians and listeners can appreciate. Maybe it’s a bit on the corny side – well a lot on the corny side – but there’s always something special when two big stars collaborate. “Stand on the box, stomp you feet, start clapping / got areal good feeling something bad about to happen…whoa – something bad.” Not bad ladies, something good…addictive…infectious…you catch the drift.
“Holding on to You” proceeds much lazier and slower, contrasting the ‘bad’ energy of the previous superstar duet. The restraint is appreciated here, with Lambert singing beautifully over the stripped production. Basically, the song is summed up by the lyrics of the refrain: “Ain’t no moment like when I’m holding onto you”.
“Two Rings Shy” features some of the album’s most best production work. What’s unique about the mix is the panning; drums are panned to the left, while banjo is panned to the right. The song itself – as well as Lambert’s vocal performance – stands out, but the sound is definitely a selling point. Penultimate cut “Hard Staying Sober” sticks with the traditionalist approach that has boded so successful for her throughout the album. The songwriting is simple and to the point. Perhaps most importantly, it references a ‘must’ in country these days – alcohol, LOL!
“Another Sunday in the South” concludes the effort with the laziness of the south in mind: “Baby, I know that it’s only 11:30 / but sure as hell or high water / I’m gettin’ kinda thirsty.” Perhaps it overplays clichés and stereotypes of the south, but overall “Another Sunday in the South” feels like a fitting way to close Platinum.
Ultimately, Miranda Lambert hits a home run with Platinum. While it’s a bit long at an hour in duration, all 16 of the songs are consistently enjoyable. Honestly, the duration is about the only rub worth noting – and its nitpicking! Lambert keeps things contemporary while constantly referencing the past, specifically more traditional country. Always in exceptional voice and keeping things ‘feisty’, Lambert goes H.A.M. here; she’s definitely on autopilot. The best country album of the year – I think so.
Favorites: “Little Red Wagon”; “Smokin’ and Drinkin’”; “Priscilla”; “Old Sh!t”; “Somethin’ Bad”