Miranda Lambert is back at it again, giving the world yet another hit album to add to her already impressive resume of previous hit albums. The Weight of These Wings is Lambert’s sixth album and its lyrics were written about her divorce from Blake Shelton after four years of marriage and her current relationship with country singer Anderson East. The album is divided into two sections on two discs: ‘The Nerve’ and ‘The Heart.’ As a whole, Wings marks a noticeable change from past Lambert work in sound and maturity, as she reflects on her past lovers, her life, and her tendency to fight broken hearts with bad decisions.
Gone is the more polished country sound of Lambert’s early work. Wings is raw, with fuzzy guitars and strong percussion taking the lead. The arrangement leans more towards garage-band at certain points, as vocals and guitars are occasionally amplified to the point of distortion, but that only adds to the The minimalist sound lets Lambert’s vocals soar–especially her lower register, which Lambert digs deep into with reckless abandon. With Wings, Lambert joins the ever-growing echelon of country artists attempting to navigate a place between the current slick CMT sound and the stripped-down, traditionalist aesthetic of older country music.
I don’t know if Lambert succeeds at bridging that divide, but she certainly makes one of the best efforts I’ve seen: songs like “Ugly Lights” and “Highway Vagabond” trend more towards Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, with a few traits of more mainstream country slipping in. “On the Road” again even gets a title drop, fitting as a good chunk of the album is about the same aimless travel Nelson espouses. ‘The Nerve’ is undoubtedly where this blend succeeds more–after all, the current two singles off of Wings are from ‘The Nerve’ side. That’s not to discourage ‘The Heart’, which is undoubtedly the more personal side of the album as well as the one where Lambert has a writing credit on each song.
Lambert undoubtedly has matured with this album, with time and heartbreak turning her from a girl to a woman. Miranda Lambert in her twenties gleefully sang about being a hot mess, relishing her status as overdramatic and making terrible decisions. Songs like “Mama’s Broken Heart”, “Gunpowder and Lead,” and even one of her more recent songs, “Little Red Wagon” celebrate her status as a girl who causes trouble and drinks too much, but people love her despite that. Miranda Lambert in her thirties still sings about being an overdramatic hot mess who makes terrible decisions.
The main difference is The Weight of These Wings does not glorify these decisions–instead of something to wear as a badge of pride, it’s worn as a badge of resignation. The amazing first single “Vice” taps into the sadness of this scenario, describing someone who knows that it’s not a good idea that she’s here in the bar drinking by herself, recognizing her bad habits but succumbing anyway.
Still, the album isn’t a total sobfest. Occasionally, Lambert sneaks in a tune or two that’s borderline happy: “Pink Sunglasses” is one of these tracks, a cute ode to an amazing pair of pink drugstore sunglasses. This song is completely superfluous and completely adorable, briefly hinting at the brattiness of earlier works, while making it’s home in the more minimalist and mature tone of Wings. Likewise, the final song of the album, “I’ve Got Wheels,” puts a beautiful bow on the work as a whole. The lyrics acknowledge the heartbreak, but show Lambert hasn’t been knocked down yet as she sings, with a trace of optimism: “I’ve got wheels, I’m rolling on.”