Published Jun 03, 2014Miranda Lambert's ascent to the top of the country music world has always been marked by contradictions. Lambert is a reality TV (Nashville Star) also-ran who broke into the country charts with hard-charging, uncompromising singles like "Kerosene" and "Gunpowder & Lead." She's an artist who reinvents songs by fiercely idiosyncratic songwriters (John Prine, Fred Eaglesmith, Tom T. Hall) and duets with Nash Vegas royalty (Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood). She's a gifted songwriter who releases purposely low-key records with Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe as Pistol Annies while appearing on the cover of People or Us Weekly with her country-and-TV-star husband Blake Shelton. These contradictions are never more apparent than on her fifth full-length, the genre-hopping and career-defining Platinum.
Lambert tries a lot of things on Platinum and very nearly all of it works. She can be cocky and confident on the manifesto-like title track ("My heels and hotels just got taller/ Something 'bout platinum irrefutably/ Looks as good on records as it does on me"), quietly reflective on first single "Automatic" and "Smokin' and Drinkin'" ("...on the weekend like we did back in the day") or just plain funny on the rollicking "Gravity is a B**ch" ("You can nip it, tuck it, squeeze it but you're never gonna beat it"). Musically, Lambert sounds as comfortable tackling hard country ("Old Sh!t"), Western swing (the Dixie Hall/Tom T. Hall cover "All That's Left," featuring the Time Jumpers) or baroque pop ("Two Rings Shy," whose carnivalesque arrangement recalls Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake's work) as she does singing crisp modern country productions like the absurdly catchy "Priscilla" or the elegant "Babies Making Babies." In a genre that emphasizes songwriting above all else, Platinum finds room for the work of both the cream of Music Row (Natalie Hemby, Jimmy Robbins, Shane McAnally) and critically acclaimed writers (Monroe, Brandy Clark), but also serves as an excellent showcase for Lambert's own chops (she is credited on eight songs and the self-penned "Bathroom Sink," which bears the influence of Transcendental Blues¬-era Steve Earle, is one of the album's highlights).
While the sonic breadth of Platinum's sixteen songs may not appeal to everyone, the album certainly has something for everyone and is a superb summation of the state of modern country music in 2014. Whatever shade of country Lambert tries on looks good on her, but she certainly wears Platinum best. (RCA Nashville)