Review – Miranda Lambert’s “Vice”

Miranda Lambert Vice

Undoubtedly one of the biggest stories over the past year in country music has been the fallout of the divorce between superstars Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert. I usually don’t like to discuss stuff that happens in the personal lives of artists and like to keep it about the music. However when it comes to these two it has clearly affected their music direction, so it must be discussed. While the usual gossip rag of “he said, she said” has swirled around, what’s been more telling about the fallout is the public actions of the two. It really began at the 2015 CMA Awards when Blake Shelton showed up with his new girlfriend, pop artist Gwen Stefani. It painted Blake as insensitive, petty and trying to win the breakup by bringing his new woman to an event he knew his ex was attending. It clearly had an effect on Lambert, as you could visibly see she wasn’t enjoying herself and was quite distraught about the whole situation. When she accepted her award for Best Female Vocalist, she didn’t spend hardly anytime discussing her music or herself, rather congratulating the star of the night, Chris Stapleton.

Ever since then we really haven’t seen Miranda Lambert much in the public eye. She’s stayed pretty quiet and hasn’t done any interviews. Unlike Shelton’s very public relationship with Stefani, Lambert has maintained a pretty low-key relationship with Americana artist Anderson East. Outside of her excellent contribution to the universally acclaimed Dave Cobb super project Southern Family, we haven’t heard any new music from her until now. She’s released the lead single for her new upcoming album and it’s titled “Vice.” Needless to say there was ample hype leading up to this release, as there’s been a lot of speculation as to where Lambert would go with her music. After listening to “Vice,” I’m pretty intrigued on the direction she appears to be heading.

“Vice” begins with the fuzzy sound of a needle dropping onto vinyl and playing. Then Lambert begins to sing from a clear place of hurting, a feeling that carries throughout the sound. This feeling not just exuded from Lambert’s vocals, but the production and lyrics. The song is about a woman who acknowledges she’s far from perfect and that she makes mistake after mistake. She relies on several vices such as excessive drinking and sleeping in places, in which she didn’t know how she got there. The whole song is just so vulnerable and Lambert lays her cards right out on the table for the whole world to see. So much country music today lacks this visceral vulnerability that connects with the listeners because it’s real and based in reality. While the songwriting is quite great, the production is even more exciting and goes where Lambert hasn’t really went before. Refreshingly ditching the loud, overproduced sounds of Platinum, it’s based around a heartland rock/country sound, similar to what you heard on Eric Church’s Mr. Misunderstood, and combines it with psychedelic leanings. Dare I say it reminds me of the instrumentation you hear on Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. It’s so weird, yet cool at the same time to hear because I never expected this from Lambert (let alone on a lead single).

“Vice” is melancholy song that draws from so many places instrumentation and lyric-wise. It’s bare, yet expansive. It’s outright dangerous in its approach compared to most lead singles in mainstream country music. That’s what makes this so damn great. I have no clue if radio will get behind this, but I don’t think Lambert had any cares whether or not this would appeal to radio. This is the type of raw, dark emotion a true artist draws from and puts out in the form of a song after a breakup. It makes me more excited to hear what Lambert has in-store for her new album. “Vice” is great music that comes straight from the heart.

Grade: 8/10

Written by Miranda Lambert, Josh Osborne and Shane McAnally

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31 thoughts on “Review – Miranda Lambert’s “Vice”

  1. I just listened to this and this might be my favorite Miranda Lambert single since “All Kinds of Kinds”. Miranda Lambert sounds great vocally and the production doesn’t get in the way and really lets Miranda shine.

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  2. LOVE this song! I haven’t stopped listening to it since I bought it. 4 hours in and it is already #1 on ITunes country, yeah to good music. Once again Miranda has gone her own way and bucked the usual mainstream country ways.

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  3. This is definitely what I was hoping to hear Miranda Lambert return with (for the most part).

    Prior to the release of this, I was stating how I was hoping Miranda will take a more nuanced approach in articulating the complex emotions surrounding her much-publicized break-up with Blake Shelton. In other words……………………..the complete opposite of what Blake Shelton has chosen to do with “She Has A Way With Words” ( -__- )

    I was also hoping she would dial down the production that weakened much of “Platinum”. One of the things I’ve always liked most about Miranda Lambert is that you can count on a blend of various soundscapes, grooves and instrumentation that sound equal parts country and progressive: much like the likes of Eric Church and now, perhaps, The Brothers Osbourne. Yet with “Platinum”, I felt one too many songs veered too heavily towards polish and loudness wars. There were certainly moments that didn’t like “All That’s Left” and “Holding on to You”, but they were fewer and further between compared to previous efforts and so that gave me relative cause for concern.

    *

    Fortunately, “Vice” goes a long way to relieve those concerns, and is her best single since “All Kinds of Kinds”.

    The strongest aspect of this song is Miranda Lambert herself. This is, by far and large, her most vulnerable and compelling vocal performance in a long time, likely since “The House That Built Me”. The verses have a hushed confessional mood to them, while the chorus conveys a sort of mix of exasperation and desperation on her part, culminating in a fragile bridge that seems like a nod to “Bathroom Sink” but with a less confident outcome.

    The lyrics are also very evocative. Considering all three writers (including Lambert herself) can be considered decidedly mainstream by now, you can tell they put a lot of time and thought into quilting Lambert’s heartaches and restlessness into visual poetry. The description of “sweet salvation on a dining room table” waiting on her where the numb and lonely meet alone leaves it up to the listener to draw conclusions on and is poignant for its ambiguity. Other lines like “I wear this town like a leather jacket…” are easier to connect with, but are no less alluring with the imagery they leave in their wake. And then, of course, the visuals set the stage for a chorus that reveals this shadowy cycle she’s entangled in: with what’s most refreshing about it being that she doesn’t make any value judgments or excuses for her behavior like many songs that play on the Saturday nights/Sunday mornings motif do. She just sort of shrugs and entertains the thought: “Maybe I’m addicted to goodbyes!”

    I love that. I love that she doesn’t succumb to rehashed “right” or “wrong” preconditions in summing up the state she’s in but, rather, showcases what it’s like like a PBS program like “Frontier” or “Nova”, and it just is what it is. That’s a rarity on mainstream country airwaves, and country radio is all the better for that alone.

    *

    As for the production, it’s strong as a whole.

    The way the verses undulate kind of remind me of The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young”, we get some spacey electronic whoosh effects that remind me of those in Eric Church’s “Roller Coaster Ride”, and the near-lack of vocal production indeed reminds me of what to expect from Sturgill Simpson. I do think some of the percussion and guitars sound a bit too busy and compressed by the latter half of the track, but not to the point where they drown out the intimacy of Lambert’s compelling vocal. I will also admit that the wah wah-infused guitar solo sounds a bit odd and I’m not really convinced was a necessary inclusion (I would have preferred atmospheric steel), but it’s not a liability all the same.

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    “Vice” is nearly EXACTLY what I was hoping Miranda Lambert would return with in terms of songwriting and mood.

    I will admit that I’m not optimistic about its prospects at radio. As is, she hasn’t had a hit single with lasting impact since “Mama’s Broken Heart”, and I’m not convinced this will stick the landing. “Vice”, sadly, just sounds like one of those type of tracks I can see garnering above-average heavy burnout and high negative scores out of the gate when it is first surveyed for it being another slower song being released at a time where there is ballad burnout among some radio programmers, and sung by a female. My prediction is it will have its obvious high debut, retreat in its second week, climb again from then on, and ultimately peak around #15 or #16 much like where “Mr. Misunderstood” peaked last autumn.

    That said, I doubt Lambert’s intention was to pander to radio. She clearly knows what she is doing, and that is singing what needs to be sung. All else comes second to her. And that is precisely why Miranda Lambert is as beloved as is.

    I’m thinking a Strong 7 to a Light 8 for this.

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  4. Wow. This is probably my favorite single Miranda Lambert has released. Glad to see shes taken the more mature approach to the situation, though I doubt it’ll make the same impact at radio that “She’s Got A Way With Words” seems to be getting.

    Can’t wait to hear the entire album.

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  5. The voice of ML saves the song. Love the melody, but instrumentation & production are not country. I can’t praise ML for “Vice” & trash other artists for not-so-country songs & production. (7/10)

    Billboard Country Update – 7/18:
    Billboard Country Airplay – #1 – Carrie Underwood – “Church Bells”
    Billboard Hot Country Songs – #1 – FGL – H.O.L.Y.
    Billboard Top Country Albums – #1 – Chris Stapleton – Traveller

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  6. I love the opening of the song and the lyrics, I think the middle gets over produced a little. I also love and don’t love the message of the song. It’s basically the opposite of Different for Girls, with Miranda basically saying nope girls drink and sleep around/cheat and smoke cigarettes too. I just don’t like the idea of promoting those things (otoh I think it’s melancholy enough that it works here). Overall, it’s a really good song, although I’m not sure I want to hear it 1000 times.

    And it’s probably time to stop with the forced gossip narrative. Gwen didn’t go to CMA’s she went to an after-party, and everyone in Nashville knew that Miranda was dating Anderson by that point. Miranda’s relationship is more low-key because, in part, she’s not being hounded by paparazzi, and she’s not on TV. But recently she wore his t-shirt on stage at one of her concerts, they’ve done the adorable instagram post, requisite sing together on stage stuff etc. I’m glad they’re happy, I’m glad Blake’s happy. Don’t feel the need to categorize.

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    • But is she promoting these things like you said?

      Like I said in my review above, I didn’t interpret the lyrics as her either endorsing or condemning her actions. She’s just reporting this is what she’s going through with a tone of feverish exasperation.

      That’s what I think better songwriting does. Much like a journalist is best when one does one’s job of investigating, and then reporting, what one observed……………..but nonetheless leaving it to the viewer or reader to draw one’s own conclusions……………I think songwriters are best when there is nuance and ambiguity intact, some sort of open-endedness in interpretation. And I think that’s achieved quite well in “Vice”. Quite the opposite with “Different For Girls” which is about as subtle as a train wreck on a boat.

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      • Yeah, that’s why I said I’m not sure. I don’t know that she’s promoting it, but it also doesn’t sound interested in changing her ways or expressing remorse. But I love that it talks about women having vices (that aren’t shopping).

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  7. I really like the song and respect Miranda for simply laying it out there. Unlike some of her fans, I loved Platinum. I prefer upbeat and fun lyrics and then occasionally get in the mood for a serious tune or one that even invokes sadness like ‘Over You’. Because I know that Blake wrote this about his brother and I too lost a sister way too young, I can connect to it. But, I usually want something fun and sassy which is why I love tunes such as ‘Old Shit’, ‘Same Ole You’, and ‘Time to get a Gun’ (and I think these are remakes and not her own but love her spunk in delivering them).

    She is still my number one female country artist and Chris Stapleton is my favorite male country artist. If I had to name one favorite artist of all times, it would be, for me, Eric Clapton.

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  8. Love the lyrics and the fact that she is just telling it how it is. So much honesty. I like the production better than anything on Platinum, but I am not as sold on it as on some of her earlier stuff. The thing I am impressed with most is not the song itself but that she’s released it as a single–and not only that, but a lead single. I can’t imagine radio playing this, and I commend her for not caring. I hope radio surprises me, and as long as we’ve been waiting for new Miranda Lambert music, plus the added fact that this is the first single after her divorce may help its chances. I look forward to the album!

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  9. Wow, life imitating art, this song hits home, lost the love of my life to the “vices” mentioned in this amazing song, due to mistrust, lack of understanding, and absolutely nothing that had to do with our futures, just the past…
    People deal with lose and pain in soo many ways, guess I shouldn’t have judged soo nastly and harshly, too late now…
    Words said, doors closed.
    Life lessons…😑

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  10. I love the new song ,, i live everything about it start to finish ,,i dont know why country music wouldn’t support this ,,, what all the good lil ladies of country music gotta stick to singing about standing by your man ,or crying in your pillow over him being gone ,, thats bull crap ,, this is a girls song about the vices she turned to to get past some bad times ,,, i just love everything about the song ,, i don’t listen to country radio anymore anyways it’s mostly bubble gum crap anyways ,, don’t take much thought to write and sing chew tabacco, chew tabbaco ,, spit ,,, now does it ,,, but this song vice has heart and soul pouring out of it ,,, love,love,love,it ,, can’t wait for the album ,, just hearing some of the covers she’s been doing on the road ,, like , willing ,, and learned alot ,, i knew she’d come out with something great

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  11. I love the song… and I love Miranda. I wouldn’t have expected anything less from her. She’s always been honest. This truly is What the TRUTH FEELS LIKE!!! Because she feels it!!! Lives It and isn’t making excuses for it!!! This is HONEST!!!

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