Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton have broken up. Whether you saw that one coming or not, what’s done is done—except when it comes to Miranda’s musical career. As is the case with the best country musicians, Lambert should have some great tracks to offer up in the relative near future.
In 2004, Lambert released her first album Kerosene, with the first single off the album bearing the same name. She’d gotten a burst of fame after appearing on the reality TV show Nashville Star, but Lambert wasn’t just another American Idol-esque winner: she actually wrote her songs. Lambert garnered comparisons to the Dixie Chicks (they shared a manager), which made sense, given her songs about family life and leaving home, like “Greyhound Bound For Nowhere” and “Mama I’m Alright”; it’s an album full of songs that bear the traditional country stamp of explicit storytelling.
On her songs about love, Lambert told CMT that her relationships hadn’t been that bad, despite some of her strong lyrics. “I’ve loved a lot, and I’m one of those people who love very deeply when I do,” she said. “I get hurt more easily because I do love so deeply. But all of these songs aren’t from experience.”
“I gave it everything I had and everything I got was bad,” she almost matter-of-factly states on the title track. “Life ain’t hard but it’s too long to live it like some country song/Trade the truth in for a lie, cheating really ain’t a crime.”
“I’m giving up on love cause love’s given up on me,” goes the refrain.
In 2007, Lambert released Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and as you might be able to tell from the title, it revealed a more forceful persona than the singer had previously revealed, the one she’s more closely associated with now. Tracks like “Gunpowder & Lead” (about killing an abusive ex), “More Like Her” (about an ex-flame’s new girl) and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (about...you can guess) made up the album, which was largely about angry heartbreak.
“I definitely put more of myself out there on this one,” Lambert said of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which she noted had some softer, more vulnerable songs on it than usually got the attention of her fans. “And at first I was like, ‘Crap, I just said a whole lot about myself and now there’s no going back!’ but fans and critics have responded so well I guess it was a good thing to do!”
In 2009, Lambert put out Revolution, most of which she co-wrote. At this point, she had started dating her future husband Blake Shelton. This album spoke, as Lambert’s music increasingly would as she became more famous, of the pressures and competitions among women, especially in the song/video for “Only Prettier,” which starred fellow artists like Kellie Pickler and Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum.
This album featured my personal favorite Lambert song, “Me And Your Cigarettes,” which she co-wrote in part with Shelton:
Always there every time you need me
It isn’t love but just like nicotine
You’re addicted to a feeling you can only get
From me and your cigarettes
In 2011, Blake and Miranda got married. That year she also released Four the Record, which featured the couple singing together on the lackluster “Better In The Long Run.”
“Oh maybe somewhere a little down the line/I’ll get a little better leaving us behind/Maybe someday, Oh I’ll be fine,” Shelton sang on this song about a couple dealing with the finality of their break-up.
The album was more a mixed bag than her others, in that it didn’t have a specific focus on heartbreak and/or badass empowerment. As Lambert explained to Taste of Country:
As you made the album, did a theme emerge?
Not really because every song has its own personality. And somehow when you listen to all 14 they all go together, but each one is so different. It’s one of those records where if you just buy the single you’re not going to understand what this record is.
Songs that peaked off Four the Record were “Fastest Girl In Town” and “Baggage Claim,” both of which had a slightly more pop country sound than Lambert’s previous singles.
Lambert’s most recent album, Platinum, was released last year. Songs off it include “Little Red Wagon,” which has her denying a lover the opportunity to be the Johnny Cash to her June Carter. Add that to “Priscilla,” in which Lambert is heard asking Priscilla Presley for advice about how to be a high-profile relationship, and the album did more than allude to Lambert’s issues with the visibility of her relationship with Shelton. “How do you or don’t you get the love you want when everybody wants your man?” Lambert sings. “It’s a difficult thing being Queen to the King”:
Golden gate, we have to put up a gate
To find time to procreate
Or at least that’s what we read
Bodyguard, Didn’t know I was his bodyguard
And I shouldn’t have to play the part
At least while we’re not in bed
Other songs, like “Babies Makin’ Babies,” also spoke out against people who are too young to have kids having them, which, given the current crop of rumors about Lambert and Shelton’s divorce, certainly have an ominous ring to them.
While promoting the album, Lambert had an interesting spin (to Spin, hah) on how she was able to write sad love songs while married to one man:
I think it’s made it maybe easier, because even though I’m happy, I can still write sad songs. I can put myself in a place for a minute to write about not being happy. But it’s different songs than it used to be, you know? This whole record is in a different place than my second record, because I’m going through different things, different kinds of relationship problems. Back in the day, I would’ve written about cheating boyfriends, burning their house down. And now I’m singing songs like “Priscilla,” because problems change as you get older.
Did you ever end up burning anything—
That’s why I write about it. So I don’t actually have to get arrested and go to jail. [Laughs.]
Lambert’s music has always been good, classic country songs with twists that catch you after the third listen. While she might have started off writing most specifically about her childhood and family life, the older she gets, the more she’s drawn on her personal romantic struggles. Her collaborations with Shelton have revaled less about the couple’s romantic or work relationship and more about the nature of music: sometimes you have a hit, and sometimes you don’t. Certainly her break-up will fuel whatever future music she makes without him and/or about him, but as Lambert’s made clear from the beginning, she can make good music about most topics, whether she’s with a man or without one.
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