Archives: Miranda Lambert ‘Little Red Wagon’ – Single Review
This article was first published on January 13th, 2015 on forthecountryrecord.com.
The first time I listened to ‘Platinum’, I was cautious, and a little worried. ‘Four The Record’ had been something of a let-down after the brilliance of ‘Revolution’, so as Miranda’s star rose even higher into the stratosphere and her husband’s music continued to lessen in critical value, my ears were pricked. Would this be a disaster? Or would she surprise us all? It turned out to be the latter leading to the record topping a ton of year-end lists, but for me it was that first listen to ‘Little Red Wagon’ that caught my attention immediately, and made me realize Miranda was still musically on the ball.
Co-written by indie songstress Audra Mae and Joe Ginsberg, the track was originally recorded by Audra for her 2012 album ‘Audra Mae and The Almighty Sound’ (listen to her version here), and was characterized by her smoky vocals and Americana, folk rock sound. Her delivery comes across as something of a theatric performance, vaudeville or cabaret, slightly jazzy in its make-up but altogether sassy, sexually dominant, and a whole lot of fun. This kind of edgy, empowering lyric is perfect for an artist like Miranda who built her career on the idea of shooting ex-boyfriends and setting their houses on fire. While this song doesn’t wish harm on the individual it’s aimed at, it does climb up on its throne and laugh at the folks below with a “bitch, I’m fabulous” attitude. Still, more infectious than obnoxious, which of course can be a fine line.
So when Miranda fell in love with the song and came to record it for ‘Platinum’, of course there was some pressure to set herself apart from Audra Mae’s version, which a select group of fans were already familiar with (and which thousands of fans would become familiar with after they learned of the original version). The main difference is that Miranda’s is smoother, more polished; for those familiar with Audra’s rendition first, it might be a hard pill to swallow. Yet, for all its comparative refinery, it’s still feisty, edgy, gritty, an explosion in your ears, a boot stomp accompanied by confident laughter. Miranda’s cover is more geared for the mainstream audience but that doesn’t mean it’s not driven by the power that made it, and full of the fiery spirit that she launched her career with back when she released ‘Kerosene’.
Because, to all intents and purposes, it’s the duet with Carrie Underwood that she should have done. ‘Somethin’ Bad’ fell flat because it was too over the top and didn’t really say a lot despite wanting to push attitude. ‘Little Red Wagon’, however, manages to convey that attitude without going “metal”, even if there isn’t really much of a story. The lyrics are simple and half the time don’t make sense because they lack context, but at least they set more of a scene and a mantra than ‘Somethin’ Bad’; a piece of the puzzle rather than a glance at a mist-covered summary.
Perhaps I’m just biased. ‘Little Red Wagon’ has never ceased to make me dance or sing along, the most brilliant shot of nonsensical girl power with a middle finger up on one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other. It’s not structured like your standard pop or country song, and simply seems to be a vocalization of the concept of letting loose, saying “fuck it” and being ridiculous because you can. So many women have tried to make the female equivalent of bro-country or living-it-up party songs, but Miranda re-writes the rules. This is not a bro-country song. It is a badass cow-bitch song, and that’s more than good enough for me.