There's no denying the real rebel in country music's reigning royal pair. Miranda Lambert has become Nashville's wildest, twangiest card — hell-raisin' dervish onstage, sonically restless innovator on record — and routinely makes hubby Blake Shelton's Boys 'Round Here Skoal-and-Schlitz shtick seem rote.
The 30-year-old Texas singer-songwriter is edgy with her Pistol Annies side crew, but she's become downright revolutionary as a solo star. New album Platinum, released Tuesday, is her most genre-bending work yet. Fuzzed and distorted in places, pop and punk in others, the album swings from old-timey saloon stomp (Gravity Is a B----) to indie-rock lament about insecurity (Bathroom Sink) to roots-rockin' hip-shaker detailing her sudden similarity to Elvis' bride (the gossip-juicer Priscilla).
There's also a psychedelic Beatles vamp (Two Rings Shy) and a dumb-fun Def Leppard-y duet with Carrie Underwood (Somethin' Bad) to make sure this thing definitely does go platinum. Most of it works and works well, especially the bolder first half. Lambert loves a big ol' buffet, take what you want, leave the rest.
Like contemporary male counterpart Eric Church, she's transcended country if only because country — think Luke Bryan, Lady Antebellum — has remained stationary, safe while she has deconstructed the whole dang thing. She was an outlaw at first (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Gunpowder & Lead) then allowed herself to evolve (Dead Flowers, The House That Built Me) and hone her voice, tone, curiosity.
The former reality-show contestant is now a celebrity, a Grammy winner and one half of a power couple that has grown up and grown famous together. Much like her beloved Loretta Lynn, Lambert has stayed captivating as she's become richer and less like us. She strives to create things never heard before, all without losing a sing-along center and staying truthful and real.
Platinum finds a successful woman unsure of her fame and doubly wary of the pedestal on which she and Shelton have been placed. So she goes after all that with gusto. With primary help from pal and co-writer Natalie Hemby (who also penned Little Big Town's Pontoon and Toby Keith's Drinks After Work), Lambert works through strengths and weaknesses, good days and bad. That several of the songs long for a simpler time, such as No. 1 hit Automatic, whimsically profane Old S---, is understandable.
Oh, she's still a feminist with a wink and a shotgun. "What doesn't kill you only makes you blonder," Lambert quips on the boys-beware title cut, an odd, subversive blast that sounds as if she and her rowdy, harmonizing pals busted into a L'Oreal commercial and shook the joint up.
She's less sure about her role as Shelton's bride, especially on Priscilla, maybe the best thing she's ever recorded. Addressing Elvis Presley's most famous bride circa '67, she sighs: "You and me share a unique position / Married to a man who's married to attention." The song, which borrows acoustic thrust from George Michael's Faith, has already raised a ruckus, with tabloids sniffing trouble in paradise. But kudos to Lambert for letting the marital trials and truths fly.
Bathroom Sink, which she wrote alone, is about staring into the mirror and seeing someone less than perfect staring back: "It's amazing the amount of rejection that I see." It could have been a slow ballad, but Lambert does what she does best when feeling cornered. She shreds guitars and sheds light on how she's now made five killer albums in a row and come to rule Nashville: "I try not to waste too much time at the bathroom sink."
Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.