I don’t know how much of an introduction this album necessitates, but here’s a brief one. Miranda Lambert is one of the hottest Country singers out of Nashville today. Her career has been nothing but flourish: multiple Billboard #1 hits, a marriage to Blake Shelton (who’s been the face of Nashville recently), and now we have Platinum: an album that debuted at #1, and went on to win the Grammy for Country Album Of The Year 2014. So it’s big. It’s got the power and poise of the industry behind it. So what are we in for?
* I have to preface this review, as I joined Button Masher a few weeks into my project. This project has been a personal journey of mine. I’ve been challenging myself to listen to more music, and especially material I wouldn’t normally gravitate towards. This album falls right into that category. I’ve not been particular of most Country Music I’ve been exposed to in the past. This is my first honest foray into the genre, and as it turns out, I’m out of place, but we’ll come back to that.
As expected from a release on this grandiose of a scale, Platinum is put together incredibly well. Turn it up! It’s one of those albums that’s very radio-pop friendly, but taking the blinders off, it’s incredibly well recorded and mixed. I was surprised to find synths, and not just a few. They fundamentally support the music at times. I also wasn’t prepared for the use of Slide Guitar in Country Music (but I should have expected it) that creates a glassy and smooth texture that’s instantly recognizable. The twang is real on all fronts. We’ve almost come to expect incredibly clarity from modern pop vocals, and this album doesn’t fall short. But that stated, it’s still worth mentioning that the production of this album was centred around Mrs. Lambert’s voice, and it shows.
I was incredibly impressed by the variety on Platinum. There’s a noticeable dynamic contrast that seems to flow with each song. It’s… odd. At times, the album feels like it’s victim of the “Nashville Machine” of turning out constant singles, but I can’t knock it because the songs are catchy. Most of them. The first half is generally more upbeat with songs like Priscilla (yes, Priscilla Presley) and Little Red Wagon: a song which borrows a rough call-and-response chorus that’s a little reminiscent of The Who’s My Generation, and feels as if Miranda is really fronting her band. But the album is long. It clocks in at close to an hour over 16 tracks. That’s not necessarily always a bad thing, but there are too many songs without substance that would have been better as EP tracks, or B-Sides, or promo releases.
I mentioned that I haven’t been overly fond of Country Music in the past. Platinum suffers from my main issue with the genre: there are so many recycled clichés here. I’ve been putting that aside for this review, because I’ve had to learn that that in itself is the appeal for a large portion of its target audience. There’s a mention of a Dodge Ram or two, and drinking and smoking by the lake, and how the past was so much better, and well, most of the other ones you can think of. Personally, my main grievance with this album is its contrast in being so diverse musically, but being so one-dimensional lyrically. However, I do understand that this is my bias. If you’re a fan of Country Music, it ticks off all the boxes you’d expect it to. I just wish it pushed the envelope a lot further than it does.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. There are some solid moments on Platinum. Gravity Is A Bitch is a tongue-in-cheek gem about growing old. All That’s Left is a toe-tapping hoe-down of a tune with some stellar fiddle, accordion, and jazz guitar work. “Leave the dog here, he don’t like you | And we’ll go walking anytime we please | Leave the cat here, leave my hat here, | ‘Cause all that’s left for you to do is leave”. Everything about Girls works for me, from a heartfelt vocal performance, to a really warm and pleasing bass that fills out the low end, and offsets the twang of the guitars.
I’m going to have a hard time chalking this one up. Platinum hasn’t exactly changed my opinion on Country Music, but it has made me a little more open to it. The album definitely drags at times, but after cutting the fat, there’s substance. The most staying feature of this album is Miranda herself. She’s struck the perfect balance of being a powerful, confident woman, but bringing it all back down to a very relatable level. It’s a real “for girls” album, but not exclusively so. I lack the background to place this album anywhere amongst its counterparts, but Platinum feels like a wholesome album that scores well on all of Country’s fronts. By the end of it, even I wanted a beer, some warm weather, and a top-down cruise down south!