Like Parton, Lambert has an uncanny knack for combining commercial and critical appeal. “Platinum” is Lambert’s fifth straight No. 1 country album, and she’s the only artist to finish first or second four times in the Nashville Scene’s Country Music Critics’ Poll.
Both Lambert and Parton connect with the broad country audience by exploiting the most familiar formulas, and both please critics by giving those blueprints an unexpected twist of poignancy or self-deprecating humor.
The new album’s title track, for example, offers the well-worn trope of a young woman’s struggle for success, but Lambert deflates the usual pompousness with the punch line “What doesn’t kill you only makes you blonder.” On “Smokin’ and Drinkin’, “ by contrast, she takes the Nashville formula of the field-party song and upends the celebration of beers and buds into a ballad of tremendous regret over “the one that got away.”
Onstage, like Parton, Lambert uses her high-wattage smile, state-of-the-art country-pop sound and down-home “ah, shucks” persona to make you think she’s not as smart as she actually is. But as soon as the audience lets down its defenses, she hits her listeners with an unexpected left hook, such as a dip into 1930s Texas swing or a stinging critique of modern consumerism.
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