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Miranda Lambert

Miranda Lambert

The most significant country artist to emerge in the early years of the 21st century, Miranda Lambert parlayed her early success as a reality TV contestant into an unpredictable career that simultaneously defined and defied the conventions of mainstream country in the 2000s and beyond. Whether it was rabble-rousing outlaw rockers or glammy pop in the vein of Shania Twain, Lambert didn't reject Nashville traditions so much as enliven and personalize them. All of this was evident on Kerosene, the debut she released in 2005, but it was her 2007 sequel, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and its lead single "Gunpowder & Lead" that turned her into a star. From there, the hits piled up fast and furious, as the multi-platinum albums Revolution, Four the Record, and Platinum generated such modern classics as "The House That Built Me," "Mama's Broken Heart" and "Over You." Lambert simultaneously led the trio Pistol Annies, whose 2011 debut Hell on Heels wound up pointing the way toward the rootsier, introspective music she'd cut later in the decade, including the 2016 double-LP The Weight of These Wings and The Marfa Tapes, the 2021 collaborative record with Jack Ingram and Jon Randall. She didn't abandon big, splashy mainstream country, though: her 2019 album Wildcard gave her "Bluebird," her first number one hit in eight years, and won the Best Country Album Grammy in 2021.

Raised by parents who were also professional partners in a private investigation agency (her father, Rick, was also a guitarist who taught his daughter how to play), Lambert began playing music early, entering talent competitions as a singer when she was 16. She performed well enough to be offered a demo recording contract in Nashville, but she bailed on the sessions, claiming the music was too pop. She headed back to Texas, where she learned to play guitar with the idea of writing her own songs. As she was woodshedding this skill, she continued to sing, fronting a variety of local bands around Longview, Texas, at ballrooms, dance halls, and restaurants.

Additionally, Lambert pursued opportunities as an actress, appearing in a Ruffles potato chip commercial and landing a small role in the 2001 comedy Slap Her She's French, but her main concentration was music, particularly the Texas Pride band she fronted. In 2001, she and her father self-financed an eponymous independent album that made local waves; "Texas Pride" and "Somebody Else" garnered enough local play that they appeared on Texas music charts. Things started to gel in 2002 when she gained the attention of music attorney Rod Phelps, who pulled enough strings in Nashville to persuade her to move back to the Music City. Once there, she auditioned for the fledgling television show Nashville Star, a singing competition launched by USA Networks in 2003 in the wake of the massive success of American Idol. Lambert made it to the finale but didn't win -- she was eclipsed by Buddy Jewell -- yet her success on the show piqued the interest of Epic Records, which signed her to a deal in September 2003 (her Epic contract would later transfer to Sony Nashville).

A single, "Me and Charlie Talking," appeared in 2004, with her full-length debut, Kerosene, released in the spring of 2005. Lambert wrote or co-wrote 11 of the 12 songs on the album, including the title track, which made it to 16 on Billboard's Country Singles chart on its way to eventual platinum certification. The album also reached platinum status, but her 2007 sophomore set Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is where Lambert demonstrated her commercial muscle. Debuting at number one on the Billboard Country chart and six on Billboard's Top 200, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend boasted two big hits in "Famous in a Small Town" and "Gunpowder & Lead," the latter reaching seven on the Country chart on its way to double-platinum certification; "More Like Her" was also a hit, making its way to 17.

Released in September 2009, third album Revolution was her blockbuster -- her biggest seller containing her biggest hit singles. "The House That Built Me" became her first number one single -- it would be certified platinum twice over, whereas its predecessor, "White Liar," went platinum and peaked at two -- and "Heart Like Mine" also reached the top; "Only Prettier" peaked at 12. Buttressed by this success, Lambert decided to venture into a side project called Pistol Annies with fellow singer/songwriters Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley. Their debut, Hell on Heels, appeared in August 2011 and went gold, partially on the strength of good reviews, and partially on the strength of its platinum-selling title track; the album debuted at five on Billboard's Top 200.

Arriving quickly on the heels of Hell on Heels -- less than three months later, to be precise -- came Lambert's fourth solo album, Four the Record. A hit right out of the box -- it debuted at three on the Top 200 and one on the country charts -- Four the Record contained four Top Ten country hits ("Baggage Claim," the number one "Over You," "Fastest Girl in Town," and "Mama's Broken Heart"; "All Kind of Kinds" topped out at 15) and helped cement Lambert's position as the reigning queen of country music in the 2010s. Her status was also elevated by her marriage to fellow country star Blake Shelton in 2011, the same year he landed a starring role on NBC's televised singing competition The Voice and broke into the pop mainstream via his single "Honey Bee."

Soon, Lambert and Shelton were gossip favorites, but Lambert kept working hard. She returned to acting in a guest spot on a Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode in 2012, and Pistol Annies released a second album, Annie Up, in May 2013. The album debuted at five on the Top 200 and two on the country charts but its single "Hush Hush" didn't crack the Top 40. In June 2014, Lambert delivered her fifth album, Platinum. Supported by the Top Ten singles "Automatic," the Carrie Underwood duet "Somethin' Bad," and "Little Red Wagon," Platinum was another big hit for Lambert. During the summer of 2015, she and Shelton announced they were divorcing, and she then entered the studio to record her sixth album. "Vice," the first single from these sessions, appeared in July 2016, peaking at number two on Billboard's country chart. It was a teaser from the moody double-album The Weight of These Wings, which was released in November 2016.

Pistol Annies reunited in 2018 for Interstate Gospel, their first album in five years; the record debuted at number one on Billboard's Country Albums chart. In 2019, Lambert returned to her solo career, releasing a series of bright singles prior to the November release of Wildcard. The album debuted at four on Billboard's Top 200 and wound up winning the Grammy for Best Country Album in 2021. Later in 2021, Lambert released The Marfa Tapes, a spare and rustic collaborative album with fellow songwriters Jack Ingram and Jon Randall. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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