On Nov. 1, 2019 country super-star Miranda Lambert released her seventh studio album, “Wildcard.” This fourteen-track album features a decent hand of songs.
The album opens with three songs that all seem to have been crafted for the radio. It begins with “White Trash,” an upbeat track with pop production that shows Lambert on the “up and up,” embracing her higher class lifestyle and new marriage to Brendan McLoughlin.
She states through obvious imagery that she will always be herself no matter what she has. She expresses herself by decorating her fancy house with “carnations from a flowerbed in a whiskey bottle vase.” Although “White Trash” is not one of my favorites from the album by any means, it sets the tone for the record.
The next track, “Mess With My Head,” while not overflowing with originality, continues the same narrative. It presents the same house referred to in the first track as a metaphor for Lambert’s mental state. She sings, “waking up to a wreck with blue jeans on the floor. It ain’t love but I like it better than before,” symbolizing the disarray she feels while trying to navigate her feelings for someone.
The third song and the leading single for the album, “It All Comes Out in the Wash,” uses the signature type of embarrassing but lovable hometown stories that are normally reserved for Pistol Annies tracks to craft a country-pop tune about always being able to start over.
Whether you admit to liking it or not, I still cannot fully commit to saying I’m a fan; it is undeniable that the hook, “you take the sin and the men, and you throw ‘em all in, and you put that sucker on spin,” is just as catchy as it is clever.
“Settling Down” begins to delve into the real lyrical substance held by the album. On this question-filled track, Lambert openly discusses her feelings and worries about getting married for the second time at age 35, a life choice that many would refer to as settling down.
She wonders if this complacent life is better than the life she gave up for it, and poses the question, “Am I settling up or settling down?” Although many analogies are used, the track is perhaps best summarized by the line “Is happiness on the highway, or is it parked in the driveway?”
I feel that I cannot complete this review without discussing “Way Too Pretty for Prison,” the collaboration track with fellow country-pop it-girl, Maren Morris. Although it is one of my least favorites, its high profile presence on the album begs to be talked about.
The song shows Lambert and Morris seeking revenge on a cheating ex. It is poison in the veins of Lambert’s own “Kerosene” and Carrie Underwood’s classic, “Before He Cheats,” with the collaboration power of 2014’s “Something Bad.” However, this one features a few too many cliches for my liking and does not have the lasting power of the similar songs that precede it.
“Bluebird,” the song which gave “Wildcard” its name, is the song that I kept wanting to return to when listening. This beautiful ballad comes across as heartfelt and sincere. It encapsulates Lambert’s multifaceted diamond-in-the-rough persona in all its glory, while presenting a simple, but poignant message about staying positive.
The later half of the album glistens with beautifully detailed lyrics. “How Dare You Love,” co-written with Pistol Annies’ band mate Ashley Monroe, puts the smile behind Lambert’s playful stringency on the listener’s face.
“Fire Escape” paints a clear picture of a passionate romance and uses nostalgic lines such as “We’ll smoke like a couple in the 1960s, lit up like a pair of Woodstock hippies, up all night like New York City,” to portray the timeless and classic love story she is staring in.
“Track Record” runs the unfortunate risk of falling into the category of forgettable B-side tracks; however, it proves to be one of my favorites on the album and one that I keep returning to. The track explores Lambert’s journey to accepting that being a hopeless romantic in today’s world has gotten and probably will continue to leave her hurt. It is a hidden gem on this album that does not deserve to be swept under the rug.
Lambert closes with “Dark Bars,” a song that shows the opposite side of the same message she started with on “White Trash.” Although Lambert is in a better place than she once was, she still sees and empathizes with the pain in the world. She remains true to herself from the beginning to the end.
The songs on “Wildcard” tended to be hit or miss for me personally, and overall nothing about the album surprised me. They all do an excellent job of following the theme that is present in the album artwork and overall presentation of the project.
While I do not believe the album as a whole is Lambert’s best work, it contains defining moments for her, doing an excellent job of putting a picture frame around the current point she is at in her life. “Wildcard” is worth a listen for fans of country music.