Remember when Miranda Lambert released songs that were interesting, or at least coherent? Because I’m not sure I do anymore.
I’m starting to think I need to add Lambert to my list of artists who deserve a ‘what happened to them?’ deep dive, because she’s pretty much lost all of her mainstream relevance. The Weight Of These Wings garnered some critical buzz, but the singles were generally awful and didn’t make much of an impact on the airwaves, and her leadoff single for this year’s Wildcard album “It All Comes Out In The Wash” turned out to be unsurprisingly threadbare, only rising to #14 on Billboard’s airplay chart. She’s back to make a late play for 2019 relevance with her second Wildcard single “Bluebird,” but it’s no more interesting or moving than anything else she’s released in the last few years. This is an attitude song without attitude, a statement of power that lacks power, and a fairly effective drug-free substitute for Ambien.
Things go wrong right from the start, and the production is a major reason for this. The song opens with some “ooh-oohs” over a washed-out, echoey steel guitar and a limp drum set with no punch at all. Besides a low-key keyboard, some spacious electric guitars wrapped in audio effects, and a few mandolin riffs, that’s pretty much all we get, and it’s nowhere near enough to get its points across. Where once Lambert’s mixes were sharp, emphatic, and at least loud enough to make their presence known, this sound is weak and dull, and the atmosphere it creates is not anthemic and empowering, but unsettled and weirdly psychedelic, which clashes badly with the song’s subject matter. Where once Lambert’s sound practically burned with energy, this thing is annoyingly lethargic, and the only toe-tapping it induces is from listeners impatiently waiting for this thing to just be over already. Where once Lambert’s production drew in listeners and invited them to mull over the writing, this awful mix actively pushes people away, making them care less instead of more about what’s being said. Poor production has been an issue for Lambert for a while now, and she really needs to find a half-decent producer to work with if she entertains any hope of regaining mainstream relevance.
I mentioned in my “Keeper Of The Flame” review that Lambert came across as very tired, and I get that same feeling from this performance. The song feels like a decent fit for her range and flow, and there are a few flashes of her trademark feistiness, but for the most part her delivery is lifeless, and despite the writing’s insistence that there’s still some fight left in her, the aura given off by the vocals is one of defeat and resignation. As a result, Lambert, who once owned roles involving narrators fighting uphill battles against the powers that be, utterly fails to sell the story here, and not only does the not audience not find her credible, but they don’t find her even compelling enough to keep listening. It’s a surprising fall from grace for one of the genre’s formerly-premier voices, and I still think that Lambert could use a long hiatus from the industry to rediscover her passion and motivation.
Let’s not mince words here: This might be the worst-written song I’ve ever heard from Lambert. The world-weary narrator is still trying to talk a good game about rolling with the punches in a world that’s turned against them (“if the house just keeps on winning, I got a wildcard up my sleeve,” “I’m a giver, yeah, and I’m still givin’ them hell,” etc.), but these are mixed in with a bunch of random, nonsensical statements that just serve to confuse the listener (“I keep digging down for the deep”? “If I get confused and I start to lose, I rhyme a dime ’til it all makes sense”?). Even the “bluebird” hook feels weak and forced, and it takes so long to develop that by the time the punch line hits, the listener has forgotten what it means. The narrator comes across as a punch-drunk fighter, one whose heart is still in the struggle but whose head no longer has the sense to realize that the battle is already lost. Mix in some passionless vocals and off-kilter production, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
“Bluebird” is an attempt to summon the will to fight when there’s no will left in the task, and an all-around poor showing from an artist who should be better than this. The production is awkward and unable to carry the necessary load, the writing bounces between defiant declarations and complete nonsense, and Miranda Lambert sounds more burnt out than anything else. Lambert really needs to pull up stakes, get the heck away from Nashville and country music, and rest her mind and spirit for a while, because she’s not doing anyone any favors in her current state. This song barely qualifies as raging against the dying of the light (it’s more like mildly disagreeing), and it’s not something I’m interested in revisiting anytime soon.
Rating: 4/10. Nope.