Country signer Miranda Lambert just released the video for her latest hit, “Vice.” The song, which has been playing on loop in my head for the past few weeks, is beautiful and haunting, detailing the life of a woman dogged by more than a few bad habits: drinking binges, blackouts, one-night stands, and a never-ending drifter’s lifestyle. Everything inevitably falls apart.
The video opens with Lambert climbing out of a steaming wreck of a flipped car on a lonely country road. She wanders into a small Texas town, downs a few shots with a hot bartender, sports some spectacular boots, stands at a literal crossroads, and then departs in the backseat of an unmanned black Cadillac. At the end, the lyrics express a knowing regret:
Standing at the sink not looking at the mirror
Don’t know where I am or how I got here
Well the only thing that I know how to find
Is another vice
Lambert has summed up the song, which was written during her divorce from fellow country star Blake Shelton—at the very time, she notes, when everything “hit the fan”—in fairly straightforward terms. In writing “Vice,” as she recently told The Tennessean, she was simply “being honest” and “owning her sh*t.”
Refreshing, isn’t it? In the age of modern feminism, after all, it’s very much in vogue not to own any of your you-know-what, no matter how dysfunctional you may be. Everything is always someone else’s fault. Drinking too much? It’s the patriarchy. Underperform at a presidential forum? Matt Lauer clearly sabotaged you. And so on, and so forth, forever and ever, amen. It’s exhausting.
“Everybody has a vice of some sort,” Lambert told the paper. “Sometimes when you’re going through something in your life, you may run to some things you shouldn’t and run from some things you shouldn’t.” While the song isn’t straight autobiography, she adds, “There’s no mystery here. I run to things for comfort just like everybody else.”
She’s right. Every human being in history has experienced this, at least on some level, whether she’ll admit it or not: the unending quest for solace in flawed fixes that will ultimately leave you empty—and then, after the fix wears off, heading back to the same failed well, even when you clearly know better. It’s one of the greater spiritual challenges out there. It’s what makes “Vice” such a powerful song.
Reading the Song That Way Makes Me Feel Bad
But oh, my friends: You knew it couldn’t be that simple, didn’t you? “Vice,” you see, is clearly a song highlighting our egregious cultural inequities! It reveals the double bind of women who discuss sexual relations using country music, that repressive Saudi Arabia of music genres! Here’s Rolling Stone, assessing the song when it first came out in July: “When the idea of women singing about sex is so normalized in country that no one blinks an eye when Lambert describes her carnal weakness—‘another call, another bed I shouldn’t crawl out of’—it will be a sure sign of progress.”
Sigh. Have you heard “Vice”? Were you scandalized? Did you blink an eye? I sure didn’t, and I was raised in a corner of southwestern Michigan where I was told more than once that several members of Van Halen might just be the devil’s enthusiastic spandexed spawn. Meanwhile, here’s a writer at the Houston Press in early August:
Plenty of fans and critics clutched their pearls to their chests as this track was released, happy to shame her for either ruining her own marriage or sleeping around after it ended. But Lambert isn’t copping to cheating on this track; she’s simply admitting that she’s doing a whole lot of f*@&ing. She’s unapologetic that one of her ‘vices’ is the company of a good man.
More than that, she’s essentially daring you to shame her for having too many one-night-stands or drinking too much or breaking too many hearts. It’s a gutsy move, even for the most famous woman in country music. George Strait might be able to talk about being the ‘Fireman’ and ‘puttin’ out fires all over town,’ but female artists in country have long been expected to ooze sexuality while never actually addressing that they may like and have and, heaven forbid, enjoy sex outside the confines of a heterosexual marriage.
Yeah, no, I don’t think that’s the message. It’s not in the lyrics. It’s not in the video. It’s not in Lambert’s description of the song. The song itself, in fact, tacitly acknowledges that many of these “vices” might not make up the best life strategy. Oh, well! Next, let’s visit the gloriously clueless Cosmopolitan (which never disappoints) with this gloriously clueless headline: “Miranda Lambert is Gloriously Over It in Her New ‘Vice’ Video. Divorce? What Divorce?”
Wait, what? Did we watch the same video? Did we hear the same song? Did the songs have the same words? Who knows? Maybe Cosmo screened the version that came from the Upside Down, that sinister alternate universe found in the walls of Winona Ryder’s house in the Netflix series “Stranger Things.”
These examples showcase what might be the saddest thing about knee-jerk leftist feminism: It quietly robs people of their humanity. I know that sounds dramatic and over-the-top, but it’s true. Lambert is a talented artist who wrote a fantastic song. She wrote it as a human being, in order to relate to other human beings. She’s said so several times, and in doing so, she’s placing herself on equal ground with men. Subtle as that may be, it’s a quietly empowering act, unlike our culture’s various frantic attempts to reduce everything that women do to tired gender politics.
Lambert is known for steering clear of politics, with the exception of an occasional defense of gun rights. “I just hope that [‘Vice’] is something that makes people feel, because that’s the most important thing,” she told Billboard in August. “It’s a country lyric and that’s why we love country music. That’s what Hank Williams did: He said honestly what his thoughts were right then and said it in a simple way. That’s what we all should strive to do. It’s going to be a struggle forever because we’ll never be as good as Hank Williams — nobody will.”
I’ll end this by noting that Hank Williams, whom Lambert named as a role model, was not a woman. The horror! How can it be? Here’s the good news: He was a human being. And, odds are, he’d probably really like Lambert’s new song.