Undoubtedly one of the biggest stories over the past year in country music has been the fallout of the divorce between superstars Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert. I usually don’t like to discuss stuff that happens in the personal lives of artists and like to keep it about the music. However when it comes to these two it has clearly affected their music direction, so it must be discussed. While the usual gossip rag of “he said, she said” has swirled around, what’s been more telling about the fallout is the public actions of the two. It really began at the 2015 CMA Awards when Blake Shelton showed up with his new girlfriend, pop artist Gwen Stefani. It painted Blake as insensitive, petty and trying to win the breakup by bringing his new woman to an event he knew his ex was attending. It clearly had an effect on Lambert, as you could visibly see she wasn’t enjoying herself and was quite distraught about the whole situation. When she accepted her award for Best Female Vocalist, she didn’t spend hardly anytime discussing her music or herself, rather congratulating the star of the night, Chris Stapleton.
Ever since then we really haven’t seen Miranda Lambert much in the public eye. She’s stayed pretty quiet and hasn’t done any interviews. Unlike Shelton’s very public relationship with Stefani, Lambert has maintained a pretty low-key relationship with Americana artist Anderson East. Outside of her excellent contribution to the universally acclaimed Dave Cobb super project Southern Family, we haven’t heard any new music from her until now. She’s released the lead single for her new upcoming album and it’s titled “Vice.” Needless to say there was ample hype leading up to this release, as there’s been a lot of speculation as to where Lambert would go with her music. After listening to “Vice,” I’m pretty intrigued on the direction she appears to be heading.
“Vice” begins with the fuzzy sound of a needle dropping onto vinyl and playing. Then Lambert begins to sing from a clear place of hurting, a feeling that carries throughout the sound. This feeling not just exuded from Lambert’s vocals, but the production and lyrics. The song is about a woman who acknowledges she’s far from perfect and that she makes mistake after mistake. She relies on several vices such as excessive drinking and sleeping in places, in which she didn’t know how she got there. The whole song is just so vulnerable and Lambert lays her cards right out on the table for the whole world to see. So much country music today lacks this visceral vulnerability that connects with the listeners because it’s real and based in reality. While the songwriting is quite great, the production is even more exciting and goes where Lambert hasn’t really went before. Refreshingly ditching the loud, overproduced sounds of Platinum, it’s based around a heartland rock/country sound, similar to what you heard on Eric Church’s Mr. Misunderstood, and combines it with psychedelic leanings. Dare I say it reminds me of the instrumentation you hear on Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. It’s so weird, yet cool at the same time to hear because I never expected this from Lambert (let alone on a lead single).
“Vice” is melancholy song that draws from so many places instrumentation and lyric-wise. It’s bare, yet expansive. It’s outright dangerous in its approach compared to most lead singles in mainstream country music. That’s what makes this so damn great. I have no clue if radio will get behind this, but I don’t think Lambert had any cares whether or not this would appeal to radio. This is the type of raw, dark emotion a true artist draws from and puts out in the form of a song after a breakup. It makes me more excited to hear what Lambert has in-store for her new album. “Vice” is great music that comes straight from the heart.
Written by Miranda Lambert, Josh Osborne and Shane McAnally