Miranda Lambert has one of the best batting averages in country music. Outside of her illustrious solo career, she’s also one-third of firecracker country trio the Pistol Annies, who, like Lambert herself, don’t have a bad album to their name. But Lambert’s music career is, unfortunately, often overshadowed by her celebrity status. Amid a high-profile divorce from fellow country star Blake Shelton in 2015 and, a few years later, her remarriage to New York City police officer Brendan McLoughlin, Lambert frequently found herself in the tabloids (“I got a pretty good time in the checkout line / With all the free press I’ve been gettin’,” she sang on the psych-country jam “Pretty Bitchin’” from her 2019 album Wildcard). But take away all of the nasty gossip and celebrity intrigue and you’re left with a funny, clever, deeply empathetic songwriter and singer who knows her way around a country song. From her feisty, freewheelin’ days singing outlaw country and bluegrass in the early 2000s to her more recent tender offerings on divorce, heartache and new love, Miranda is a dynamic artist who’s constantly shapeshifting. In 2019, she straddled both sides of her style on the incredible Wildcard: She seeks revenge, flaunts her Southern charm, yearns to settle down and turns to tequila, all in the same album. A single from that record, the resilient “Bluebird,” recently took up residence on Billboard’s country airplay chart, landing Lambert her first number one single in eight years. In honor of that accomplishment and one of our favorite country stars, we decided to list our favorite Miranda songs. They’re listed below and are restricted to solo work only (so no Annies or other collaborations). Enjoy!
The first song on 2009’s Revolution (one of Lambert’s best statements to date), “White Liar” possesses the unmistakable bluegrass ramble that country greats like Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris utilized in the 1970s and ’80s. Lambert has never been one to spare a cheating or lying partner, and on this boisterous song she once again confronts a nasty boyfriend—but with a twist. At the end of the song, Lambert admits to some deception of her own: “Here’s a bombshell just for you / Turns out I’ve been lying too.”
Lambert’s voice slips into a classic country rock squawk on the dusty railway jingle “Locomotive,” and after hearing the fuzzy heartland musings on “Track Record,” (both from 2019’s Wildcard) I’ll be damned if Ms. Lambert hasn’t been blasting The War on Drugs for the better part of two years. It’s still exciting to hear Lambert’s voice experiment on this track. If she’s this adept at indie rock, who knows what other sounds she could successfully explore?
“Kerosene” is the title track and first song on Lambert’s 2005 major-label debut and one of the best showings of bad-assery in her catalogue. Channeling old Dixie Chicks numbers, Lambert keeps time while a harmonica screeches in the background. Few artists have shown such promise as a real outlaw country rebel on their debut album, but that’s just what Lambert did with “Kerosene.” She’s gonna tear it all down, and nothing will stand in her way. “Forget your high society, I’m soakin’ it in kerosene,” she sings. “Light ‘em up and watch them burn, teach them what they need to learn, ha!”
Miranda Lambert just has a thing for opening tracks. This heartwarming ballad (and Four The Record opener) explores the diversity of compassion or, as Lambert puts it, the different “kinds of kind.” I normally would’ve been skeptical of a feel-good number like this, but after watching Lambert perform the track during her 2019 tour (RIP, concerts), it has remained one of my favorite tunes in her discography. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with a little extra positive energy.
This one’s for every girl who ever cut her own bangs with “some rusty kitchen scissors”—impolite, imperfect women who don’t take bullshit. Lambert isn’t her poised mother’s daughter, and she’s not going to suffer heartbreak quietly. As Lambert sings, “Can’t get revenge and keep a spotless reputation / Sometimes revenge is a choice you gotta make.”
Lambert’s 2016 double album The Weight of These Wings is a monstrosity at 24-songs-long, but, luckily, most of those tracks are positively wonderful. The most heartbreaking and beautiful of all is “Tin Man,” widely speculated to be about Lambert’s messy divorce from Blake Shelton, which uses the famous Wizard of Oz character as a means to convey coldheartedness. Lambert’s own heart is shredded and served on a silver platter by the end of the song, which gives it a rather sad ending. Thankfully, we now know the end to Lambert’s love story is much happier than this song would suggest.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, Miranda Lambert has a thing for opening tracks (see above) and revenge. Here’s a great intersection of the two. Rap often carries a stereotype of glorifying or inciting violence, but have hip-hop’s critics ever heard a good ol’ fashioned country revenge song? They would be horrified. On “Gunpowder & Lead,” Lambert loads her shotgun and awaits a cheating bastard, prepared to make him pay. “His fist is big, but my gun’s bigger / He’ll find out when I pull the trigger.” I would hate to be the fool who crossed her path.
We’re used to hearing the tough-as-nails, takes-no-shit Lambert. So this raw display of true tenderness and vulnerability is a rarity within her catalogue full of shotguns, kerosene and white trash on the lawn. Shelton co-wrote the song with her, which is unfortunate in a new light (Hearing this song live was absolutely heartbreaking, and the audience was thoroughly supportive), but “Over You” remains a melancholic masterpiece. Sometimes heartbreak leaves permanent scars and doesn’t lead to greener pastures, as so many pop songs would have us believe. Sometimes it breaks you, and while Lambert’s diagnosis here is simple and maybe even crude, it’s a welcome slice of truth: “But you went away / How dare you?” she demands. “I miss you / They say I’ll be OK / But I’m not going to ever get over you.” It’s an emphatic statement of misery.
One of Lambert’s trademarks is her ability to weave nostalgia with ballsiness in her music, and she nails it again here. The devil-may-care attitude she first showed us on her spicy 2005 debut Kerosene is still in full force on Wildcard (see: “Tequila Does”). But her tender side, which she first revealed in 2009’s Revolution, peeks through on some of Wildcard’s best tracks. On the hopeful “Bluebird,” she sings, “34 was bad / So I just turn to 35.” Butterflies abound on “How Dare You Love,” and she plots her own fairytale escape à la the Dixie Chicks’ “Cowboy Take Me Away” on the lustrous “Fire Escape,” one of those rocking country romances that sounds even sweeter when you let go of all cynicism. “Bluebird” deserves its place atop the Billboard charts.
“The House That Built Me” is Miranda Lambert’s best song, but you already knew that. Yes, it’s a song about losing/finding yourself and the comforts of home, but it’s also universal because, well, everyone gets lost. Written by Nashville songwriting pair Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin, “The House That Built Me” specifically captures that terrifying late-20s kind of lost, when you thought you had it figured out but then you realize you have absolutely nothing figured out. But this song is heartbreaking and healing to both young and old, to anyone who has ever left home. It’s a lovely companion listen to The Chicks’ “Wide Open Spaces,” but I wouldn’t recommend that combination unless you’re trying to spiral into a deep depression. Full of vivid details (a small corner bedroom, a beloved pet buried in the back yard, magazine clippings) and an overwhelming sadness, “The House That Built Me” never even resolves its own question: Can home heal you? Lambert was at least going to try and find out (“I thought if I could touch this place or feel it / This brokenness inside me might start healing”).