by Aprille Hanson
When I first heard the single “Me and Charlie Talking” coming out of my radio speakers, I was immediately hooked. The sweet tune of innocent love was so different than anything else on the radio, it made me an immediate fan of a singer named Miranda Lambert. As hard as it is to believe, it’s been 10 years since that song debuted and her third place finish on the reality singing competition “Nashville Star” is pretty well forgotten. What Lambert has done in 10 years is forge a new path in country music to become a powerful and badass female voice that is truly the modern day queen of the genre. Sure, she took along some influences from the original tough cookie Loretta Lynn, but Lambert is truly her own artist.
10. “New Strings” (Kerosene, 2005)
While this might not be the go-to song for many fans of Lambert, it’s one of her best. Written by her and reaching 25 on the Billboard charts, the song tells the story of a girl making her get away, breaking free from a bad relationship. But it’s not the hard-kicking melody with foot stomping and guitars blazing. The girl is just simply making her getaway out west, packing the good, leaving the rest because she’ll have all she’ll ever need: “I got this old guitar and a brand new set of strings.” It shows Lambert’s heart as a songwriter and her love for just pure music, which makes it an important song in her legacy.
9. “All That’s Left” (featuring The Time Jumpers) (Platinum, 2014)
Lambert moved into a new sound with her most recent album with songs like “Platinum,” “Little Red Wagon” and “Something Bad,” her duet with Carrie Underwood. But people that write her off as trying to conform to the new country sound are way off base. Sure, this album does take some risks and some songs have more of a pop sound than fans are used to from her. However, it’s certainly a hybrid. There’s no better song to explain that then “All That’s Left” that is Texas Swing at its finest, with help from the incredible ensemble The Time Jumpers. Lambert is a Texas girl and her roots come out full-force in this song, about a woman who is just done with the divorce process – “no more signin’, no more whinin’, cause all that’s left for you to do is leave.” It’s a cute song, co-written by the great Tom T. Hall (which is so easy to detect), but why it’s so important in her discography is her willingness to explore new sounds but always staying true to her country sound.
8. “Famous in a Small Town” (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, 2007)
In 2006, the population of Lindale, Texas, where Lambert grew up, hovered just above 5,000. Co-written by Lambert, “Famous in a Small Town” is pretty much her story. She explained that her lyrics really do convey what life was like in her town. What’s important to note is that there’s no mention of dirt roads, parties in a hayfield or tractors backing up a two lane road. What it does explain is how people search out fame, but in a small town, everyone dies famous. Some of the best lyrics include:
“I dreamed of going to Nashville / Put my money down and placed my bet / But I just got the first buck of the season / I made the front page of the Turner Town Gazette” and “Whether you're late for church or you're stuck in jail / hey words gonna get around,” because it’s just so believable. That is small town living.
7. “All Kinds of Kinds” (Four the Record, 2011)
While it’s safe to say that Lambert’s most recent album Platinum pushed her sound to new areas, “All Kinds of Kinds” was her first forte into a new realm. This was a message song, without a hint of sap. She starts out by singing “Ilsa was an acrobat who went and fell in love with that / Horatio the human cannonball / A weddin' 'neath the big top tent with barkers, clowns and elephants / Sideshow family oddities and all.” Yeah, this is not your typical country song. She goes on to sing about a cross-dressing congressmen and an over-dosing pharmacist. But the final message of the song is how people “point the finger / let ignorance linger / if they’d look in the mirror they’d find” that this world is made up of “all kinds of kinds.” In the hands of anyone else, this song would never have been played on the radio, but thank God Lambert got the message out there.
6. “White Liar” (Revolution, 2009)
The album Revolution revolutionized Lambert’s career. She won Grammys, country award honors and was thrust into the spotlight more than ever before, while still making fantastic music. “White Liar” is similar to the sound on her first album, talking about a woman who finds out her significant other is a white liar and how those lies can spread “just like a fire.” The music video makes this song even more special, as Lambert, playing the bride, walks down the aisle past her soon-to-be husband’s affairs. But she’s got a secret – she’s been lying too, and runs off with the best man. The severely underrated Jamey Johnson makes a cameo as the preacher. It’s such an important moment in her career, the original handwritten copy of “White Liar” is in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
5. “Over You” (Four the Record, 2011)
By now, most people know the backstory of “Over You,” but as a refresher: as a teenager, her husband, country superstar Blake Shelton, lost his older brother in a car accident. The two co-wrote the song about losing a loved one and Shelton could not emotionally handle singing it, so it was given to Lambert. For as tough as Lambert is, this song shows how she can dig down deep and deliver a song with such heart wrenching emotion on lines like, “But you went away / how dare you / I miss you.” Her emotions made this song an award-winner, taking both the ACM and CMA Song of the Year honors. This song added another layer to her talents as an artist.
4. “Mama’s Broken Heart” (Four the Record, 2011)
“Mama’s Broken Heart” was such a fun one for Lambert to play with. I say “play” because it’s about an emotionally unstable woman after a break-up. The song starts out a bit slow, with Lambert’s sigh at the beginning, before jumping into the lyrics “I cut my bangs with some rusty kitchen scissors / I screamed his name ‘til the neighbors called the cops / I numbed the pain at the expense of my liver / don’t know what I did next all I know I couldn’t stop.” Soon, word got around to the “barflies and the Baptists” and enters the mother. It’s a generational gap song, when a Southern lady doesn’t lose her mind over a guy. After all, it’s just a break-up, but as Lambert sings, “this ain’t my mama’s broken heart.” The song is pulsating in the verses before exploding in the chorus. It’s a song so perfect for Lambert to sing it’s hard to believe she didn’t have a hand in writing it. Those lyrical geniuses are Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally and Kacey Musgraves, which makes total sense. I could easily see Clark or Musgraves singing this song, but it wouldn’t have the grit and crazy Lambert brings to it.
3. “Kerosene” (Kerosene, 2005)
Ladies and gentlemen, step right up to see history in the making. “Kerosene” off of her first album of the same name set the tone for Lambert’s entire career. She’s had so many badass songs in her repertoire, but this song started it all. The fact that she made such a bold statement on her first album shows her talent for taking risks. The third single off her album, it reached No. 15 on the Hot Country Songs charts, her first top 20 hit. Written by Lambert, the song is about a woman who is out for revenge after her love cheats on her. She’s a woman who is “giving up on love cause love's given up on me.” If the song weren’t just great on its own, then came the unforgettable music video, of Lambert walking on a mission, emptying a container of kerosene as she sings straight into the camera. The best lyrics are: “Forget your high society, I'm soakin' it in Kerosene / Light 'em up and watch them burn, teach them what they need to learn HA!” To go from the sweet “Me and Charlie Talking” to this was masterful.
2. “Gunpowder and Lead” (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, 2007)
The second you hear the opening beats of “Gunpowder and Lead” you know what’s coming. Fanwise, it has to be Lambert’s most popular song. Co-written by Lambert, the song talks about a woman who plans to shoot her abusive husband who just got released from prison. If “Kerosene” set up her reputation, this song solidified it. Who knows if the real Lambert is as tough as the women she sings about and it really doesn’t matter – we, as fans, believe she is because of how honest and true to these characters she becomes. The song is from her own experience growing up, watching her parents take in women who had been abused and sharing a room with them. You can almost imagine a young Lambert seeing these bruised and battered women and not quite understanding why this happens. The adult Lambert understands the reality and put forth the right amount of sass and grit to pull a song like this off – no other artist could have done it. She’s not the first to sing about this theme ("Goodbye Earl" by the Dixie Chicks and "Independence Day" by Martina McBride) but she’s certainly the first to take it to the level of: “I’m gonna show him what little girls are made of / gunpowder and lead.”
1. “The House That Built Me” (Revolution, 2009).
It’s funny to think that an artist built on a tough persona, releasing badass songs that revolutionized the female sound in country music would have her best song be a nostalgic ballad. But, you can’t put Lambert in just one box. Written by Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin, ‘House’ is about a woman who goes back to her childhood home, reminiscing with the homeowner about how its where she learned to play guitar, the fact that her favorite dog is buried in the yard and how her father gave life to her mother’s dream by building the house. She’s gotten lost in this world and the only way to find herself is to go back home. Even before this song, I thought, as I’m sure so many people have, about going back to my childhood home and what that’d be like – to see the ghosts of myself growing up. Shamblin went back home to his childhood home in Texas at least once a year and based his experience off of that. However, her best song almost went to her husband. Blake Shelton was supposed to record the song, but Lambert fell in love with it. I have no doubt Shelton would have made it a hit. But Lambert brought a woman’s heart to it that would have been lost on Shelton’s version, when she quietly sings, “If I could just come in, I swear I’ll leave / won’t take nothin’ but a memory / from the house that, built me.”