Until this point, much of the press surrounding Miranda Lambert’s uniformly excellent music has praised it with vaguely sexist terms like “sass”, and whilst Lambert has very much played into this image (her breakout album was titled Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), her real strength has always lied in the emotional honesty at the core of her work. Her strongest songs are the quieter, more emotional ones, like her rumination on small town intimacy Famous in a Small Town. She has long excelled at subverting expectations, which Vice, the lead single from her currently untitled sixth album, does handily.
As her first song after her very public divorce from Blake Shelton, it would fall very much within Lambert’s established style to release an angry barn-burner of a song, but instead Vice sees her taking a different approach. After an overly literal intro of vinyl crackle, Lambert sings a moving ballad about trying to find “another vice” to drown her sorrows in. The instrumental oscillates between washes of new-wave synth, and more typical bluesy guitar noodling, providing an appropriately downcast atmosphere for Lambert’s defeatism.
She sings about the expected vices of whiskey and casual sex – “at 7AM with shoes in my hand” – but also explores the idea that she compulsively travels to escape her problems – “if you need me / I’ll be where my reputation don’t precede me”. By the third verse, she has reached rock bottom – “standing at the sink not looking at the mirror / don’t know where I am or how I got here” – but the song doesn’t offer any respite from her self-destruction. Instead, she simply repeats the central refrain, “another vice”. It’s an impressive change of tack for Lambert, and whilst its instrumental hews a tad to close to the rest of country radio at times, Vice bodes well for her upcoming album.