Miranda Lambert has won a record-setting six straight CMA Female Vocalist of the Year awards. But there may not be a seventh.
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Miranda Lambert is set up to have one hell of a new year. She has the super-rare event of a double record release for The Weight of These Wings coming on November 18th, which already has many salivating from the list of songwriting contributors and song selections announced, and a strong-performing debut single in “Vice” that has started the record off on the right foot. Her Highway Vagabond tour set to commence in January is already garnering buzz, and looks to re-position her in the live space after having to cut short her last tour due to health issues.
Then announced on Monday (10-31), Miranda Lambert has re-signed with long-time label partner RCA/Sony Nashville who she’s been with since 2004, but this time with Miranda owning her own imprint called Vanner Records. In a move that resembles the deal once signed between RCA and Waylon Jennings, Miranda’s own label will give her more autonomy and control, as well as more of an ownership stake in her music moving forward. And she won’t have to wait until her next record to reap these benefits. The Weight of These Wings will be Vanner Records’ first official release, and likely is the reason she was allowed to work with such a diverse crop of songwriters, and release a double record.
And all this comes after a 12-year run that has put Miranda Lambert at the very top of the mainstream country industry, and made her the undisputed heavyweight champion of the female class for the last half dozen years. Starting in 2010, Miranda Lambert has won every single Female Vocalist of the Year award handed out by both the CMA’s and ACM’s over that period. Two of her albums—2009’s Revolution and 2014’s Platinum—won the CMA for Album of the Year. When it comes to awards and recognition, nobody has been as heavily decorated as Miranda Lambert in recent memory, male or female.
But it has been time for a breather, and Miranda Lambert’s last year has been a pretty quiet one, at least from a musical standpoint. Blame a leadership change at RCA/Sony. Blame some poor performing singles on the back end of Platinum (that could be partly to do with the leadership change at Sony). Blame her divorce from Blake Shelton, or just some needed time off. At the 2016 ACM Awards, Miranda didn’t even perform one of her own songs, instead electing to do a cover of ZZ Top’s “Tush” because new music wasn’t ready to present.
Late 2015, and early 2016 has been a reset period for Miranda Lambert, and that’s completely understandable. And nothing looks more promising than her ability to kick asses and melt faces when the new record, and the new tour commences for the songstress, putting her in contention for top awards once again.
But even Miranda Lambert fans shouldn’t expect, or maybe even want her to win the 2016 CMA for Female Vocalist of the Year. Why? Because what has been the knock on the CMA’s, the ACM’s during this incredible 6-year run where she’s won virtually every award she’s eligible for? It’s that the game is rigged in Miranda’s favor, and her streak has been the result of backroom block voting and horse trading. How much of this criticism is valid, and how much of this criticism is jealous back biting that seems to be especially heated when it comes to the competition between females artists? That is in the eye of the beholder. But if Miranda Lambert wins this year, there will be more evidence than ever that the fix is in.
Don’t mistake this as a commentary that Miranda Lambert doesn’t deserve all the hardware she’s amassed so far. Without question, she is not only one of the most successful female artists in country music in the last 10 years, but in country music history. But there are some other incredible female artist, both nominated and not nominated for the CMA’s Female Vocalist, that deserve a crack at winning the distinction more this year than Miranda Lambert, and would benefit more from the distinction.
Miranda is smart. She knew she needed to take a breather, and more importantly, it appears she knows what direction country music is headed, and wants to be a part of that movement. The Weight of These Wings and the songwriters she’s included shows that she’s patently self-aware of the effect Chris Stapleton’s influence is having on country. Miranda might be the first mainstream star to bake this influence right into her music. The release of a double record sparks memories of the mainstream’s last double effort—Jamey Johnson’s The Guitar Song.
Maybe Miranda Lambert wins Female Vocalist of the Year at the 50th Annual CMA Awards for a record setting 7th time (the previous record was Vince Gill’s 5-time Male Vocalist run). And maybe she doesn’t. But to Miranda Lambert fans, it shouldn’t matter. Because Miranda Lambert is poised to have a 2017 that could cement her legacy in country music, and maybe, one that will also win her a new crop of independent and returning traditionalist fans by showcasing important songs and writers that for too long have been ignored by the mainstream’s top artists.