Song Review: Miranda Lambert, “It All Comes Out In The Wash”

(Editor’s Note: My brother forgot to bring his 3DS on vacation, so there’s no Nuzlocke episode this week. Enjoy this review instead!)

The alternate title for this one: “Don’t Worry, Be Messy.”

After her high-profile marriage to and divorce from Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert got lost in the wilderness for a few years, releasing only a single double album The Weight Of These Wings filled with tracks that ranged from “meh” (“Tin Man”) to “yuck” (“We Should Be Friends”). While there were also a few group projects tossed in during that time (a decent feature on Jason Aldean’s “Drowns The Whiskey,” a mediocre lead role on The Pistol Annies’s “Got My Name Changed Back”), it had been a while since Lambert to put together another solo project for mass consumption. The wait is over now, however, as she has officially turned the page on The Weight Of These Wings and released “It All Comes Out In The Wash” as the presumed lead single for her next album. After a few listens, it’s clear that the weight of her wings aren’t as heavy anymore, and she’s finally ready to return to the mainstream spotlight with that old familiar energy and attitude. However, there are also some dark corners here that make me hesitant to give it a hearty recommendation.

The production here is a sizeable upgrade from everything The Weight Of These Wings had to offer. I never thought I’s be happy to hear such a conventional guitar-and-drum mix as this one is, but at least it sounds professionally recorded and assembled as opposed to the poorly-arranged live-sounding sound we got from Lambert’s last album. There’s more to this mix, however, then just sound copy-pasted instruments (for one, an acoustic guitar get some screen time and an organ does a nice job creating a suitable background atmosphere). The regular-yet-rare minor chords and the bright-yet-slimy (and nearly squealing) tone of the electric guitars give the listener a taste of the messiness discussed in the lyrics, the tempo is fast enough to keep the song moving, and there’s more of a groove here than I’ve heard from Lambert’s work in several years. There’s nothing terribly exciting or groundbreaking here, but it’s the first mix from a Miranda Lambert song that I’ve actually enjoyed listening to since I started the blog several years ago.

During the The Weight Of These Wings era, I called Lambert out for pretty much every sin a vocalist can make: her voice we weak, her tone sounded terrible, her tone was tired rather than inspired, her flow was choppy instead of smooth, etc. This time, however, Lambert seems to have found her “A” game, because this is the best she’s sounded in a long time. Her range is decent (if not tested much), her flow and her wit are sharp, and her delivery features all the sass, spunk, and confidence that we’ve come to expect from her. While some of the lyrics are so over-the-top that they’re impossible to sell (getting “knocked up in a truck” is not really something you can laugh off), Lambert’s contagious optimism and effervescent attitude rub off on the audience, and they all avoid thinking too deeply about the topics and end up sharing in her “que sera, sera” point of view. This is the Lambert I’ve been waiting for since probably “Only Prettier,” and while I wouldn’t say I’m blown away by her performance, it’s nice to have the old Miranda back for a change.

The lyrics are basically the narrator saying “hey, bad things are going to happen in love and in life, but you’ll be okay in the long run,” using a laundry metaphor to its full effect to make the point. I’ve got mixed feelings about the overall writing: One one hand, I’ve busted both Kenny Chesney and Cody Johnson for overly-limiting hooks, and this one isn’t really any better, but what differentiates this song is by taking both interpretations (stains and messy relationships) and cleverly iterating through the many situations where they might apply, including when they might apply simultaneously! On the other hand, however, while I appreciate the narrator’s attempt to say that everything will work out eventually, some of the scenes presented here are a bit too serious to treat so lightly. I’ve already mentioned the “knocked up” line, but getting “frisky with your boss at the copy machine” and the implied power dynamic in that scenario isn’t something to laugh about either. Spilling A1 sauce on your mother-in-law’s table is one thing, but trivializing what could easily be sexual assault makes me more than a little uneasy. (It’s a good thing Lambert brings her charisma to bear, because this could have gone way off the rails without a likeable narrator.) Overall, I like the execution, but not so much the subject matter the writers tried to tackle.

As good as some of the components of “It All Comes Out In The Wash” are, I’m afraid the Carlton Anderson rule comes into play: If the writing starts making the listener uncomfortable, that’s going to outweigh excellence elsewhere. Sure, Miranda Lambert and her producer deserve props for improving on past performances, and Lambert almost makes you overlook some of the lyrical awkwardness with her vocals, but I can’t ignore what’s lurking behind the curtain here. Much like Chris Janson’s most-popular work, this is a song that encourages a carefree approach to life that just isn’t warranted.

Rating: 5/10. This one’s pretty much a wash.