Miranda Lambert Sold Herself Out to Bro Country on New Album, Platinum

Categories: Columns

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Sony Music Nashville

It's been a pretty terrible past few years for country music. The rise of "bro country," music made for and by red-blooded, America-loving, beer-drinking white guys like Luke Bryan and Eric Church, has turned the country music airwaves largely into a cesspool. There is one glaring exception, though: reigning queen of country music and four-time Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year, Miranda Lambert.

Lambert, a North Texas native, has been a refreshing voice in country music since the release of her first album, Kerosene, in 2005. On Tuesday, the Pink Pistol released her fifth album, Platinum, a slicked-up record full of excellent vocals, so-so songwriting, and evidence that even she hasn't been spared from the influence of bro-tastic country music and all its hallmarks.

Bro country has a specific set of characteristics that differentiate it from the braggadocio and beer drinking of country music past. There's a lot of speak-singing and markedly more Southern stereotypes, like an increased focus on farm equipment and back roads. There is also plenty of country boy hip-hop influence, like Blake Shelton's pseudo-rapping on "Boys 'Round Here" and Jason Aldean's on "Dirt Road Anthem." It almost seems as if it's written into these artists contracts that there must some kind of rapping or "urban" influence on a country record for it to be released.

"Little Red Wagon," arguably the worst track on Platinum, is where this assumed requirement rears its ugly, appropriative head. "You can't step to this backyard swagga," speak-sings Lambert over a frantic and messy Southern rock track. Compared to the rest of the songs on this album, "Little Red Wagon" feels more compulsory than cohesive.

Platinum also plays to other bro-country stereotypes that speak to people living a simple country life, like drinking beer out in the country, flirting with boys' and "watching sun tea in the window." It's clear from previous records that this life is authentic for Lambert, but for the first time in her recording career, it feels exaggerated and strained. Like she just stuffed as many Southern stereotypes as she could into this 16 track album, much like her bro-country contemporaries.

Platinum lacks the lyrical substance of Lambert's previous releases, but has plenty of shine to obscure that fact. As Jody Rosen wrote at Vulture, "Bro-country doesn't bother with politics; it's less thoughtful and conscientious than Paisley but more modern, dragging pop's most hidebound genre into the Obama era without batting an eye." Lambert seems to be doing the same here with Platinum, simplifying her message of southern girl empowerment for the masses.

The title track is an anthem to the power of blonde in a bottle. And yet a line like, "What doesn't kill you only makes you blonder" is the female country vocalist's equivalent of Luke Bryan's "big black jacked-up truck." There also seems to be a lot of country girl "rapping" on this track on top of a heavily hip-hop influenced beat. Substitute a few of the feminine stereotypes like "small town girl" and "Marilyns with curls and curves" for country boy tropes and this song could be as easily performed by Luke Bryan or any of Lambert's other bro-country contemporaries. It sounds no different.

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20 comments
joshflores
joshflores

Wow, I love this new album and path that Miranda is laying down. Shows that she is versatile with her music, and you can't say that for many.

joshflores
joshflores

Wow, I love this new album and path that Miranda is laying down. Shows that she is versatile with her music, and you can't say that for many.

joshflores
joshflores

Wow, I love this new album and path that Miranda is laying down. Shows that she is versatile with her music, and you can't say that for many.

joshflores
joshflores

Wow, I love this new album and path that Miranda is laying down. Shows that she is versatile with her music, and you can't say that for many.

texasjean19
texasjean19

You are an idiot that wrote that article you wouldn't know good music if it slapped you in the face. Anything Miranda Lambert puts out is great. Go get a different job because at this one you SUCK!!!!!!!!!!

Aztransplant
Aztransplant

I hvnt been a regular country listener for some time. So, when I knew I would be hitting some country music bars on a recent visit, I fanatically listened for over a month. I learned the "new artists" and "new country". Funny, went out and never heard one of the newer songs being played. People were dancin, but not to Blake. Maybe it was just the night, etc., but this article got my attention.

jeffro_tull
jeffro_tull

A music critic that quotes another music critic? McCarthy should try harder or get a new job...

mbcrowder
mbcrowder

You (and the commenters) sound like my (our?) parents.  Just as it was 25 years ago... the tastes of the younger generation and our own tastes are not the same.  And just as it was 25 years ago, there's a lot more money to be made, and a lot more success to be had, by catering to the younger crowd.


The reason for the proliferation of music we old people consider awful is that it's not awful to the generation that's spending money.

ColonelAngus
ColonelAngus

Good article, Amy.  This has been going on in rock and pop for decades now.  Anytime a band or artist blows up, other artists immediately copy the formula and mimic the sound and structure - see Pearljam, Nirvana, Nickelback and on and on.  Too bad C&W has joined the bandwagon.  This stuff is absolute crap and insulting to the fans.

JustSaying
JustSaying

There are plenty of people like myself that still dig country music but have no time for the stuff that gets played on current country radio. You should not shit on the whole genre because of whatever the flavor of the day is that the pop country machine in Nashville is trying to force on people. And keep your fucking politics out of it. Would you need to dismiss rap as money loving black guys or tejano as sappy, lovelorn Mexicans? Every time some cracker ass cracker mocks white people it lacks a certain degree of credibility.

djstrat85
djstrat85

@Aztransplant Well if you were in Texas that would be because Texas has it's own "country" music, called Texas Country or Texas Music.  Moreover, the music this seemingly ignorant author is referring to with respect to that prior to the "bro country" referenced is that of the Neo-traditional movement.  This movement came out of the success of George Strait whom is Texas Country through and through.  


As most of those artists imitated George Strait's Texas Music roots, we still play much of that in the myriad of dance halls throughout the state.  However, at the turn of the century a new crop of Texas music erupted as a backlash to the Nashville establishment and a renaissance if you will of honest song-writing, fiddle, steel guitar, two-step, and waltz.  Ref. Aaron Watson, Randy Rogers Band, Kevin Fowler, Pat Green, etc.  Moreover this music exploded in Texas turning heads all over the music industry; "How are these independent bands touring 250+ dates per year between the Red River and the Rio Grande and selling them out wherever they play, while you hear the audience screaming every word to every song?"


Rolling Stone ranked The Randy Rogers Band as one of the TOP TEN BANDS to see live in 2008, it's really an experience in and of itself to witness a Texas Music show in the flesh, especially at an historic dancehall that's been around since the 1800's, as boots still shuffle on the hardwood that's been eroded from centuries of "boot-scootin'"  The author is correct in her assertion that there is a change in Country Music, as those from Georgia and the rest of the south have brought their experiences of what "country" is to the airwaves, but what country is in Texas will remain the gold standard as it was in the days of Bob Wills, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and now the new crop, Josh Abbott Band, Randy Rogers, Reckless Kelly, etc.


You'd do yourself a favor in giving the music a chance, while some from outside Texas don't understand it's appeal, ANYONE, and I mean ANYONE who's ever been to a Texas Music show has never been the same since, I can attest to this in my experience bringing Yankees from Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania down a little south of Nashville's south.  Finally, Texas Music's influence can really be seen in places like Joe's Bar in Chicago where they sell out every time a Texas artist comes to play.  Moreover, Music Fest in Steamboat Spings, CO sells out every year with a bill lined with Texas Musicians.


Forgive this author as people have always criticized what they don't understand, and MIranda's new album in nothing short of fantastic, is it better than her prior albums, maybe not, at least not in my opinion, though as the author suggests, it's still better than most.  However, to suggest "Little Red Wagon" is on par with "bro country" is a stitch at best.  I hope this is not another hipster sticking their heads where they don't belong.  I don't think so, but for those about to comment on something they don't understand because it's not a culture they made up out of white guilt, they can kick rocks to put it nicely...  

ladybugg09
ladybugg09

Yeah, McCarthy, how dare you do something that's totally acceptable. I mean, geez, why'd you even get up this morning?

Moo-Man
Moo-Man

@ColonelAngus  No way you can put Nickelback in the same category of Nirvana and Pearljam. Nirvana and Pearljam were innovators, not a copy cat band. Bands copied them, once they blew up.

Joshstruckoutagain
Joshstruckoutagain

@JustSaying  I'm on 95.9 after 2pm on Saturday when the Sirois's'sss's show is over..until Monday morn when the Gentle ones are musing.

texasjean19
texasjean19

He's great love his music best male vocalist in a long time!!!!!!

ColonelAngus
ColonelAngus

@Moo-Man @ColonelAngus  I agree with you music-wise, Nickelback sucked from day one.  I hated them, but had numerous family members and friends who got caught up with them.  Nonetheless, several other bands copied them and sold a lot of records.  Maybe they copied someone else first, I do not know because I hated them.  But it seemed that after they blew up, practically every song on the radio sounded just like them.

djstrat85
djstrat85

@paulpsycho78 @JustSaying Why not 95.9??? I think Hank tries a little too hard, Texas Music has everything a real country would ever need... It's shocking to me that all Texan's especially those that like Country Music don't know Texas Music.  As a Minnesota native, college in New York, Texas Music is one of the main reasons I had to live in Texas, you all have no idea how much of a treasure your genre is...  It's the only place in the world that I've been to that has it's own music, and it's phenomenal!  Not to mention the last place in the country where the women can dance and the men actually ask them...  It's great, at dance halls scattered throughout the state there's a sold out show from an artist that no one outside of texas has heard of, but not in a hipster, he plays the bongos to electronic dance sort of way, they're songwriters and you witness raw art at these shows, music the way music was intended to be heard. Straight from the artist to the fan.

JustSaying
JustSaying

@paulpsycho78 Ive seen Hank III live at least 5 times. That guy never lets you down. Four fucking hours of music.

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