Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Single Review: Dead Flowers

Sometimes a great song does not make a great single, as evidenced by Miranda Lambert’s newest release, Dead Flowers. For the purpose of this blog, I will try to limit my observations to a song’s quality and not let its radio accessibility interfere with my judgment. However, I do have to point out that despite this track’s greatness, I doubt it will have a great deal of Top 40 success. That strikes me as sad, because Miranda Lambert is one of the most vibrant and interesting country artists in the business today. If this song is any indication, she’s forsaken commercial viability for artistic integrity and if a lead single is designed to generate enthusiasm for an upcoming album, Lambert has definitely done her part with Dead Flowers.

Now, let me try to back up my sweeping generalizations with some examples from the song. Lambert is one of the most gifted songwriters in the industry right now. On Dead Flowers, she has taken the concept of a dying relationship and tied it into some of the most vivid imagery I’ve heard on a song this year. “I feel like the flowers in this vase/He just brought ‘em home one day, ain’t they beautiful he said/They’ve been here in the kitchen and the water’s turning gray/They’re sitting in the vase, but now they’re dead/Dead flowers.” As the song continues, Lambert throws in more examples: Worn out tires, Christmas lights in January, and the recurring theme of dead flowers. Although they might not be what one would think of to analogize a failed love, Lambert’s deceptively simple use of language makes the connection.

Aside from her lyrics, Lambert’s singing is extraordinary. She doesn’t have the most polished voice. She can’t belt like Carrie Underwood. She doesn’t have the range of Martina McBride. What she does have, however, is the uncanny ability to infuse all of her vocal performances with an honesty and emotion appropriate for her material. On Dead Flowers, she almost deadpans a good deal of the song, to highligh how resigned she is to her relationship’s deterioration. The only sort of emotion erupts at the end, when she cries, “I’m living in a hurricane/All he can say is man, ain’t it such a nice day.” Now, I have to comment on why this song will not be a success on pop radio. Although it crescendos, it never reaches the emotional release that one would expect. It’s as if the track leaves you hanging at the end, without a clear sense of resolution. This might frustrate country radio, where most songs tell succinct stories, but given the song’s subject matter it’s a perfect musical representation of a relationship that is dying but will not end. As much as I want Lambert to charge into the spotlight, I’d rather have her artistic integrity intact. Mission accomplished.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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