We’re expecting our check from Gavin McInnes any day now…
Megan Harrington: Miranda Lambert made a name for herself as something of a gun with no safety. She wanted openly, she took what she wanted, and she left the rest behind. Whether rowdy (“Mama’s Broken Heart”) or reflective (“The House That Built Me”) she rejected manners and tradition. She was spunky. But spunky is a word that connotes a certain youth and Lambert is, divorced and north of 30, decidedly adult. So what becomes of that head full of steam? “Vice.” Her once appealing recklessness is now a flaw. Her flirtatiousness is desperate. She can’t stay put in one place. This a bracing piece of self-reflection that acknowledges the whispered criticisms without apology, without change. She won’t be locked in a drawer or displayed on a shelf; they may be vices but she owns them.
Alfred Soto: With that title I expected more gunpowder and lead and broken hearts. Although “Vice” begins with the sound of a needle falling on vinyl, this is no longing for a superannuated tranquility in the Old Things. Instead, Lambert and her co-writers use “Guilty in Here” as template but slow it down, allowing her increasingly masterful voice to fill in the nuances that make rue the most compelling of country subjects. “I’ll be where my reputation don’t precede me,” she sings in a tone devoid of bravado.
Will Adams: What fascinates me most about “Vice” is that it sounds at once put-together and self-assured, but also on the verge of caving in on itself. After a maybe-unnecessary a cappella intro, Lambert lays herself over the languid, smeared arrangement. It’s a compelling reflection of the lyrics, which find her turning to self-destructive behavior knowing full well that it won’t be the answer, but also knowing it provides comfort for now.
Crystal Leww: Miranda Lambert of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend sounded like the kind of insane early-20s bitch that threw out her boyfriend’s stuff onto the lawn, poured gasoline onto it and lit it on fire. After that breakup, she put on a tight dress, got drunk for a month, and hooked up with a different dude every weekend with barely a frown on her face. Miranda Lambert of “Vice” sounds like the same woman, but at 30-something years old, she’s lost one of the great loves of her life. She acts out in similar ways — there’s still the dresses, the whiskey, and the sex — but she know that she’s sad and that this is sad: “where the numb meets the lonely.” Lambert’s still got a way with imagery; that chorus in particular is so vivid with its mess of blond hair, the stumbling around trying to find her left heel, the smell of ashed out cigarettes, and a deep sense of self-loathing. Blake Shelton may have the buzz from the tabloids, but who wouldn’t prefer this side of the breakup?
Lauren Gilbert: Miranda Lambert has officially Won The Divorce — she easily could have returned to her tried-and-true formula of snarl and spitting fire (“Kerosene”, “Mama’s Broken Heart”, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”), but this is both more mature and more convincing. Lambert’s voice is smoky and seductive, even as she recites record lengths like another woman’s measurements. I’m docking a point for the “aww yeahs” that go on a little too long, because few things are improved by crooning “aww yeah” repeatedly, but this is a near-perfect post-breakup song.
Thomas Inskeep: What makes this song so great is how unsure Lambert sounds: she sounds weak, not strong. She sounds broken. She sounds fragile. Money line: “I’ll be where my reputation don’t precede me.”
Katie Gill: The minimalist arrangement of this song is superb: percussion practically drowning out those 1980s guitars and keys, letting Lambert’s voice be the star. The whole arrangement is languid yet powerful, as Lambert’s voice effortlessly slinks over those notes. Starting off the song a cappella? A work of fricken genius. I also take a perverse pleasure in the fact that this is Miranda’s first song post Miranda/Blake (Blaranda?) split while Blake’s been putting out dreck like “Go Ahead And Break My Heart.” She was always the power of that power couple.
Katherine St Asaph: Miranda Lambert distances herself from the tabloid cheating tawdriness surrounding her divorce from a sapient beer gut the implicit way, with a conspicuously sedate song; and though it frustrates me that the audience and the narrative demands that the woman of “Hell on Heels” and “Fastest Girl in Town” now be given such self-loathing desperation porn, the song’s still damn good. Lambert’s vocal is just restrained enough, if maybe a tad forcedly conversational; shame about the obligatory guitar solo, because the panoramic synth and gentle guitar flickers in the arrangement are plenty wistful. It astounds me how vast the gulf of quality is between Josh Osborne and Shane McAnally’s work for the market and the likes of this (the “wear a town like a leather jacket” stanza is masterful), so I guess I’ve been owned by the suggestion that vinyl authenticity fetishism is a sin.
Brad Shoup: “Record Year” was a cozy whitewash of a breakup song; “Vice” nods at the music but treats it like just another troubling symptom. Lambert oozes all over her drummer’s hesitant stepping: in and out of beds and sinks and entire towns. The synths ooze too. The guitar solo gets caught in their dilation.
Iain Mew: It’s the unflinching precision that makes me gulp. She doesn’t dwell on any of her actions but cuts a line through every one of them, the feeling behind “when it hurts this good you’ve got to play it twice” played out across it all. The arrangement keeps a matching level of distance, clean but with washes of noise and guitar solo cracking like the ice that doesn’t have a chance to melt.
Cassy Gress: The hard edge in the word “vice”, combined with that flanging crash of cymbals and guitars that first crops up the first time she says it and repeats throughout the song, makes me think of nothing less than Miranda putting her foot down. “Shelfani be damned,” she says. “I’m still here, stubbornly orbiting out in space.” There’s a bitter sorrow sewn into this, an acceptance of a demoralized future.