Miranda Lambert has a tough act to follow: herself.
When the country superstar’s last album, 2011’s Four the Record, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart, she became the first country artist in the chart’s 47-year history to have each of her first four albums make its premiere in the chart’s penthouse. On top of that, three of those four were named Album of the Year at the annual Academy of Country Music Awards, and three of the four have reached platinum sales status.
Obviously, Lambert – the reigning ACM Female Vocalist of the Year— has unlocked the secret to country success. She shows musical growth with each new album through both her savvy songwriting and progressive vocal abilities, but all have somewhat of a formula of marrying her feisty personality with her softer side. Lambert herself is known for being a rebellious straight-shooter, as reflected in defiant songs like “Gunpowder and Lead” and “Mama’s Broken Heart.” But the most awarded songs of her career are two weepers, “The House That Built Me” (a GRAMMY and ACM award winner) and “Over You” (this year’s ACM Song of the Year).
The 29-year-old superstar is currently hard at work on her fifth studio album, and she’s been somewhat tight-lipped over details. One thing Lambert will reveal is that she’s continuing to take risks. She admits that with each record, she gets extremely nervous that her red-hot success streak will end. But she’s fairly certain of her strategy to avoid such a buzzkill. “Playing it safe is when it will end,” she told azcentral.com. “I have never played it safe. I don’t go into the studio going, ‘I’m gonna be different’ or ‘I’m gonna do something crazy.’ I just do what I like. And if it’s not safe, well, that has to be what it is … If I write a song I love, I cut it. It is just that simple.”
It’s safe to predict the new Miranda Lambert album will be anythingbut simple. Here are five directions we think it could go….
1) The “Sasha Fierce” Route
Lambert is one of Beyoncé’s biggest fans, often citing the pop/R&B icon as one of her musical heroes. Though their styles are quite different, they share as much of an affinity for female empowerment songs as they do tearjerkers. Lambert could follow in her fellow Texas native’s footsteps by creating a dual disc project separating her two musical personas, in the fashion of Beyoncé’s I Am … Sasha Fierce. Just like the I Am side of the album, the country star could craft a track list of poignant ballads about love and loss. The side reminiscent of Sasha Fierce would be where she comes out guns blazing, unleashing her sassy side.
2) Recruiting Friends in High Places
Lambert is one of the most sought-after duet partners in the business, but she’s never had a collaboration with another artist released as a radio single. This could very well change soon, as she lends her voice to standout tracks on both Justin Moore’s and Keith Urban’s latest albums. “I just love Miranda’s voice. I love her artistry,” Urban told Radio.com. She’s also recorded duets with hubby Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean, David Nail, Dierks Bentley and Jamey Johnson – all album cuts that never made it to radio, yet all hailed by critics and fans alike. If Lambert decided to make an entire album of duets, she would certainly have no trouble asking any of those guys to return the favor … and maybe throw in a girl power anthem with Beyoncé, too!
3) Back to Texas
She may live in Oklahoma now, but Lambert is still loud and proud when it comes to her Lone Star State roots. She could make a Texas-sized statement by making an album solely of songs in the Red Dirtrealm, which wouldn’t be too much of a stretch. She already shares the sub-genre’s notoriety of expressing attitude through song, not to mention marrying a little rock ‘n roll with a classic country sound. Plus, her longtime producer, Frank Liddell, is also a native Texan, so they’d both be making their families proud.
4) In Tribute …
Lambert’s live shows often include a cover song or two, so why not make an entire album of her favorite tunes by fellow artists? This may be a stretch, as Lambert prides herself as being a songwriter first and foremost. But she also has a tremendous reverence for the trailblazing tunesmiths who came before her, namely Loretta Lynn,Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and Steve Earle. While each cover would be Lambert-countrified, they wouldn’t have to be all country songs. She also does a mean rendition of Lady Gaga’s “You and I” and Aretha Franklin’s “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” in her concerts.
5) “Fastest Girl in Town” Gets Even Faster
Including ballads might constitute “playing it safe,” which we know Lambert abhors. So maybe with this next album, the country spitfire isn’t trying to write the next “Over You,” and is instead creating a track list of entirely uptempo tunes. Despite the many awards for her ballads, her notoriety has always been for rocking just as hard as any male country singer. And there’s one guy, in particular, who is motivating her to give this next project more of an energy boost than ever before. “I really love Blake’s new record,” she said of her husband’s Based on a True Story album. “He’s such a fun guy. It’s like he’s constantly waiting, on edge, to laugh at every turn. And that’s how his record is. So I’m inspired by that.”
– Beville Dunkerley, Radio.com