For most of the ‘90s and ‘00s, the majority of music critics basically ignored mainstream country music. This has been changing slowly: Rolling Stone just started Rolling Stone Country, specifically for the purposes of covering the genre; The Fader now has a sort-of-country column—and real estate prices are on the rise in Music City, a sure sign that country is becoming hip.
Miranda Lambert, who just released Platinum, her fifth album, was always an exception, one of the genre’s biggest recent stars and one of the few country singers deemed worthy of critical attention from the big rock and pop publications. Ideally, that attention means that her powerful and expansive latest offering, Platinum, will help change skeptics’ perceptions of country.
At the same time, Lambert is also aiming to change the genre's perception of her—and her peers. Platinum stands out immediately because it’s one of just a handful of female-helmed releases from Nashville this year. (It’s worth noting that there have only been a couple rap albums by ladies this year; country’s not the only genre with this sort of issue.) Last year, Kacey Musgraves, Ashley Monroe, and Brandy Clark got people outside of Nashville excited, and Monroe and Clark each co-wrote a song on Platinum. While Musgraves’s album was a hit, the charts didn’t care too much about Monroe and Clark, and country radio remains dominated by the dudes. But who can ignore Lambert? She’s a star with critical respect, a veteran with five solo releases and two Pistol Annies’ full-lengths under her belt. On top of all that, she’s one-half of country's leading couple, with her husband Blake Shelton.
Lambert uses this opportunity to make an eloquent case for women in country. The hook of Platinum’s opening track announces Lambert’s intention to step outside of the principle roles allotted to female country singers: explosive woman done wrong, heartbroken woman done wrong, or lady in love. (This restrictive idea of what roles a female singer can play is not limited to country.) “You don’t know nothin’ about girls,” Lambert declares in her first hook.