Blonde on Blonde: How Miranda Lambert Laid Taylor, Carrie & Faith to Waste

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In most Presidential elections, a key measure of success when deciding among candidates is to determine which one you'd rather have a beer with. When

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Blonde on Blonde: How Miranda Lambert Laid Taylor, Carrie & Faith to Waste

  • Blonde on Blonde: How Miranda Lambert Laid Taylor, Carrie & Faith to Waste

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    mirandica.jpg
    In most Presidential elections, a key measure of success when deciding among candidates is to determine which one you'd rather have a beer with. When George W. Bush defeated (well, kind of) Al Gore, the choice couldn't have been clearer: Anyone who'd ever drank a beer before would much rather have Bush at a neighboring barstool. And Bush didn't even drink.

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    When it comes to blonde women who've achieved breakout success in 21st Century Nashville, it's a crowded, dynamic primary, with Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Natalie Maines, Jennifer Nettles, Faith Hill, and Miranda Lambert leading a talented field. But among them (and if you want to throw in fellow blonde Toby Keith, who seems to only sing of beer these days, go right ahead), there's only one you'd really want to drink with, and that's Lambert, who's worked painstakingly to brandish an illegally blonde image at a time when her peers have either gone pop or on hiatus. In so doing, she's set herself up to rule Nashville's towhead set--if not the whole dang town--for as long as she pleases, as she's the only one with the musical chops and cultural mores to do Dolly justice.

    Whereas Swift's from Pennsylvania and Underwood's from American Idol, Lambert is a true small-town Texan, a legitimate hick. Far from a pejorative, the trailer-livin', pistol-brandishin', Camaro-racin', whiskey-swillin' image is one Lambert embraces--perhaps too aggressively. Titling an album Crazy Ex-Girlfriend isn't the subtlest of ploys, and "Fastest Girl in Town," her new single with a video featuring Danica Patrick, is perhaps the worst song of her career, an overheated play to out-redneck Gretchen Wilson. But when Lambert slows things down, as on the stunning "More Like Her," it's evident that, of her fair-haired rivals, Hill is about the only one who can stay in the ring with Lambert vocally.

    Unfortunately for Hill, she decided at the peak of her popularity to veer toward goopy Celine Dion balladry, a maneuver that alienated much of her base and didn't win many long-term converts either. As for Swift, she's a genre unto herself now, and can no longer really be considered a Nashville artist. Meanwhile, Underwood, while vocally gifted, can't help but give the impression that she's a country-pop robot who, with "Blown Away," seems intent on infiltrating nightclubs. What's more, neither Nettles nor Maines have established themselves as formidable solo artists, and Maines--creatively dormant of late--will have to wait a generation before her anti-Bush quip abroad fails to resonate with red-state fans.

    Not that Lambert's one to cede ground: She's formed her own all-female trio, The Pistol Annies, and has let it be known that it's not merely a side project. (The Annies owe a serious debt to Tres Chicas, by the way). Lambert is also married to the star crooner Blake Shelton, surpassing Hill and Tim McGraw as Nashville's first couple of the moment (the Sheltons would be wise to steer clear of the cheesy fireside duets that punctured the McGraws' prairie cred). Hence, blonde ambition, in the person of Lambert, has sprung up tall down south, and she's clearly got the competition outflanked.

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