Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a bit crazy on Miranda Lambert. I’m a huge fan and so I was very excited to hear which song from ‘Four The Record’ Miranda would choose as her fourth single. When I heard that it was to be ‘Mama’s Broken Heart’ I’ll be honest in saying I was a little disappointed seeing as it’s not my favorite song on the album. Having said that, a single has to be commercial, and being frank, there aren’t a lot of outright commercial songs on there. ‘Safe’ and ‘Better In The Long Run’ are the most commercial, but they don’t stand out enough to be a big hit, how I see it anyway. The only one I would have chosen for this fourth spot is ‘Nobody’s Fool’, I think it’s a fantastic song for country radio, but that may still be the fifth single.
Either way, I’m not saying ‘Mama’s Broken Heart’ is a bad song, in any way. It’s feisty, and full of lyrics that I can certainly relate to. It’s cheeky and doesn’t take itself too seriously. The song is built around percussive sounds beating out an infectious rhythm and a bassline syncopating it, which makes for quite a different feel, particularly on the verses, than we’re maybe used to from a lot of stuff on country radio right now. It also adds another song vibe to Miranda’s vastly expanding musical repertoire, showing she’s not afraid to experiment and do something she thinks sounds good, not just what is popular in Nashville at the time, which I think some artists tend to fall into. However, this low key, foreboding, minor feel to the song explodes on the chorus with full-pelt distorted guitars, that really fill out the mix and make this country rock more than anything else. She also has a knack for using some really cool effects, for example, the very tone-y, treble-y inhuman guitar sound that jumps in occasionally on the verses, and more often than not has a delay on it. The resulting mood is sinister, kicking you in the face everytime it appears, and that’s what this song is, it’s designed to punch you and kick you and wake you up, and it’s very effective in doing so.
In structure it’s very simple, break down for the verses, go crazy on the choruses, fill the song with strange, distorted and straining guitar noises, that are very rarely heard in country music, far less mainstream country music. Miranda’s vocals are great as always, full of attitude and telling the story clearly yet filling the character’s boots, AND putting together a technically great performance, which includes totally rocking out on the chorus. I think maybe there was scope for putting more interesting sounds and elements in the chorus instead of having it just as noise, particularly as this is not something country radio is used to (usually they have singles picked out before they release the album, so they probably would have thought about it being on the radio when putting the song together).
Lyrically it is a narrative masterpiece, about a girl who is victim to a break-up and goes crazy trying to get revenge and dealing with the emotions of the break-up. It makes for a tongue-in-cheek, amusing story, with lyrics such as ‘word got around to the barflies and the Baptists, my mama’s phone started ringing off the hook’, and ‘leave it to me to be holding the matches, when the fire trucks show up and there’s nobody else to blame’. It perfectly depicts a rebellious teenager in a real small town (and is co-written by Kacey Musgraves I might add, showing her strengths again in this kind of lyric), and is really sharp. The song is brought together by the mother shouting at her daughter in the chorus, ‘go and fix your make-up girl, it’s just a break-up, run and hide your crazy and start acting like a lady’, and the daughter responding, as if to her diary, ‘but this ain’t my mama’s broken heart’, as if to say ‘she doesn’t know how I feel, she can’t tell me what to do’, which is so perfectly teenage and real.
I am aware I have just endlessly praised this song and not explained why I was a bit disappointed that this is the single. Firstly, I don’t think country radio will get it. It feels a little too heavy on the rock side for mainstream to accept it, however I hope to be proved wrong. In addition, her previous single was ‘Fastest Girl In Town’, an equally rocky and feisty song, and it gets to me when country artists release the same type of songs back to back. It just feels like we need a change, a switch-up, to keep casual fans and radio listeners who are indifferent to her interested. To remind them that it’s a new single, and not the one they’ve heard before, because for a casual listener sometimes things all roll into one. I also feel like Miranda, while doing the feisty thing so, so well, she needs to show her musical versatility a little more. She showed it on ‘Over You’, granted, but there are plenty of sensitive moments on the album, and it would be nice to share more of that with the world.
However, it’s a brilliant song that takes a different standpoint to a normal break-up song, it’s sharp, clever, real and witty with a rockin’ chorus. And really, what more do you need from a Miranda Lambert song?
You can buy the song on iTunes from January 14th.
CMTT Music Contributor
For my blog that examines issues in country music and responds to the latest news with my opinion, go to forthecountryrecord.tumblr.com. For ranting, funny retweets and all round silliness, follow me on Twitter @planmymistake