You’ll notice that the first thing critics always call Miranda Lambert out on is this bad-girl thing she affects in a lot of her up-tempo hits. She’s obviously a sweetheart, they point out, and she’s not fooling anyone. But she’s not really trying to fool anyone, I don’t think.
Lady performers under 30 often get stuck in this symbolism trap where they’re more appreciated as jump-off points for debates about adolescent girls and the evil media and blah blah hell in a hand basket than for their actual entertainment value. And I suspect this is frustrating even for someone like Miley Cirus, whose entire career is based on being a catalyst for Poor Susceptible Tweens Outrage. Because even if you’re not super talented, you’re still working pretty damn hard to be a good entertainer, and only being asked questions about the length of your cut-off jeans when you’ve just finished busting your ass to nail that super-difficult choreography must just be maddening.
So I think the bad-girl thing is just Lambert’s way of trying to bypass all of that hot-young-country business and get to respected country artist territory with minimal hassle. When she sings lyrics like, “I ain’t the kind you take home to mama,” and “Well, I’ll keep drinking/and you’ll keep getting skinnier,” I think she means it more in the traditional, honky-tonk angel sense than in the current, in-your-face Ke$ha sense. She’s not trying to challenge anything; she’s just asking us nicely to all pretend she’s 10 years older with a couple of scandals long behind her so everything doesn’t seem so fraught and high-stakes, and her record label won’t try to limit her range of material or make her act because of an image she needs to maintain or break down or whatever.
And it seems to be working. She has some very big hits, and tons of fans, but she gets to take on ever more ambitious and diverse material without any fallout. And she got to do that Pistol Annies gig, which is pretty good, too. People are watching, but they’re not staring…if that makes sense.
Lord knows I’m grateful for the “oh-don’t-mind-me” freedom she’s attained, because it means she consistently gets to write and cover songs that make full use of her excellent voice (unlike say…Carrie Underwood). It’s sort of a deeper, richer version of Dolly Parton’s gentle warble, and no less memorable.
This is my favorite song off of her new album so far.
You know what’s nice about Leann Womack? She’s one of the small handful of artists left in Nashville who still faithfully believe in the almighty power of the play-on-words. Behold:
I can’t decide if my favorite part is the “That’s the only love I get,” line in the second verse, or the way she spits out “cheatin’ song!” in the second refrain.
You know what’s nice about Bobbie Gentry?
Everything: that’s what! She’s the nicest.
This is the sultriest song you’ve ever heard. It makes me think of once-lonely 40-year-olds having exciting affairs in cross-town hotel rooms. That little bouncy bass noise followed by “Trembling fingers down my spine/shadows on the wall entwine.” Mmm. So nice.