Miranda Lambert's new album is called Platinum. Lambert has become one of the best-selling artists in country music, and one of the most critically acclaimed. Rock critic Ken Tucker says her new album continues Lambert's ongoing project to create songs about women who are complex, fun-loving, and assertive.
DAVE DAVIES, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. Best-selling and award-winning country music artist Miranda Lambert has a new album called "Platinum." Rock critic Ken Tucker says the new album continues Lambert's mission to create songs about women who are complex, fun-loving and assertive.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GIRLS")
MIRANDA LAMBERT: (Singing) Imagine a fighter with a centerfold face, comes from a long line of blue collars and lace, with a grip like reins to a steed and kisses for days. And imagine a winner holding pink champagne, who still loves her daddy, but changes her name. An overachiever, even she don't believe her own fame.
KEN TUCKER: Miranda Lambert leads off her enormously entertaining album "Platinum" with that song, "Girls." It's a mini-manifesto of country feminism, nicely complicated by Lambert's cheerful acknowledgment that making a blanket statement about all women is a fool's game. And Miranda is no fool. She began her career opining about everything from domestic violence to smoking and drinking. Now, a superstar at the center of her industry, she's - well, she's devising new ways to sing about smoking and drinking.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SMOKIN' AND DRINKIN'")
LAMBERT: (Singing) It was one of those times when a real good time felt like a long time ago. It was one of those fires that burned all night and make your blue jeans smell like smoke. Hangin' with friends, going again, start upbringing, smokin' and drinkin'. It was one of those girls and one of those guys who didn't know quite what to do. We were going along with what was going on saying, I think I love you. And I think about us now, every time that I go out smokin' and drinkin'. Smokin' and drinkin' on a weekend, like we did back in the day.
TUCKER: Miranda Lambert is joined on that song by another mega-selling country act, "Little Big Town," for a ballad with a distinctly nostalgic air. Some of the pleasing tension in Lambert's music increasingly arises from the disparity between the working-class Texas upbringing she's left behind for top-tier country music fame.
She doesn't waste our time with false piety for the confinements of small-town life or with complaints about life at the top. Instead, she's found ways to dramatize that disparity with vivid details that can be poignant, or, in the case of the title song, rife with puns and self parody.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PLATINUM")
LAMBERT: (Singing) My disposition permeates the room when I walk in a place. I'm sorry. By calculation, I'm way too much. Pretentiously, I bitch a buck. But you bought it. I can't exceed my reputation. A small-town girl with compensation, exploiting all my possibilities. Well, don't you know I blaze a trail, but hell, you can come with me. 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 on me.
TUCKER: Over the course of this album, Lambert covers a lot of musical ground - from old-timey Western swing to a hard-rock stomp duet with Carrie Underwood. She continues her habit of unearthing excellent songs from her precursors. In this case, Tom T. Hall's "All That's Left." Yet on the only song here that she wrote all by her lonesome - the brilliant "Bathroom Sink" - she owns up to a vulnerability that uses the metaphor of applying makeup as a way of covering up flaws that are deeper than skin deep.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BATHROOM SINK")
LAMBERT: (Singing) I'm at it again with Mama. Everybody's so tired of the drama. We're still fighting like I'm 16, and I guess we always will be. She taught me how to pray and drink and how to clean the bathroom sink. It's amazing the amount of rejection that I see in my reflection, and I can't get out of the way. I'm lookin' forward to the girl I want to be. But regret has got a way of starin' me right in the face. So I try not to waste too much time at the bathroom sink.
TUCKER: On another song on this album, Lambert boasts, you can't step to this backyard swagger. The pose is bold and the language is telling, borrowing from the hip-hop slang that's increasingly infiltrating the country mainstream. "Platinum" is a collection of very disparate songs that cohere around notions of inclusion and creations of identity. That old-fashioned concept of the self-made man becomes, over the course of "Platinum," the chronicle of a self-created woman.
DAVIES: Rock critic Ken Tucker reviewed Miranda Lambert's new album "Platinum."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL THAT'S LEFT")
LAMBERT: (Singing) Get your shoes on. Get your suitcase, your stereo and all of your CDs. No more talking, just start walking 'cause all that's left for you to do is leave. Tell your lawyer it's all over. Forget what he's got up his sleeve. No more signing, no more whining 'cause all that's left for you to do is leave. All that's left for you to do is leave. Said goodbye a long, long time ago. There's the door. There's your car. Here's the keys. And all that's left for you to do is leave.
DAVIES: For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.