Single Review/Shameless Rant: Miranda Lambert, “The House That Built Me”

Let’s be real: to most core readers of this blog, it’s probably old news that Miranda Lambert is releasing this unusually good song to radio. And it’s probably old opinion for me to proclaim that she’s playing a more sophisticated game than just about any mainstream artist out there. You know: “she’s real, everyone else is a phony!” Is there some amount of truth in that? Sure. But you don’t need another country music Caulfield to tell you. You just have to listen to the song. The difference between this record and most of the others at radio can be felt within seconds.

So blah blah, it’s very good. Maybe great. The best on the album, which is itself quite good. She’s all that. Know what I find myself thinking? It shouldn’t be like this.

Meaning, it shouldn’t come as a pleasant shock when a major label sends out the best track on the album. Or when the track has that distinction because of its grace and intelligence, not because it happens to be more disposably catchy than the others surrounding it. We shouldn’t feel so tempted to put Miranda Lambert on a pedestal just because she’s one of the only acts who bothers (or, perhaps, gets away with) picking music with a few brain cells. We should feel better about noticing that “The House That Built Me” has a few hackneyed turns of phrase, that the second verse seems underdeveloped compared to the first.

I’d like to tell you about the beautiful craft, depth and delivery that make this single worthy of its almost-certain coronation as the best of the year. But all I can think is that that coronation shouldn’t be so almost-certain. Miranda Lambert is a great young artist; she deserves to compete with other great artists, ones who will elicit her admiration and secret envy and drive her to seek yet better songs, better ideas. It infuriates me that this single sticks out so plainly on the Billboard charts. It infuriates me that it’s such a fluke, that mediocrity is so dominant now that I have to focus all my country-music-fan energy on hoping this one really strong release will hit the Top Ten.

Because we used to have a genre full of this stuff, you guys. We used to have a bunch of of artists at once trying to find or write songs like this in between the standard fluff of the day. Hank, George, Emmylou, Dwight, Mary Chapin, whoever – even a lot of less consistent, less celebrated artists. They didn’t all sound the same, but there was a common thread: they tried to be great.

I don’t know all the political intricacies of country music’s current problem. I’m some guy on the internet blogging from an on-campus apartment. But I know that a lot of problems get fixed when individuals stop trying to please everyone and simply try to be great at what they do. Miranda Lambert has been trying to be great from Day One. And what a pleasure it is when her end result is worthy of the same grade as her effort:

Grade: A

Now, what do the rest of you have to say for yourselves?

Written by Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin

Listen: The House That Built Me



  1. shame, i feel shame……

    Good review Dan, this is a really stellar song, but it didnt really shock me, since Lambert is the kind of artist who is more “material-driven” than “gimmick-driven,” or what have you.

    Truth is, the genre took a dive when the music became more about the quantity than quality.

    However, I will say that over the past few years, we’ve had our fair share of great material.

    With “TH” (Underwood) and “I Keep On Loving You” (McEntire) being released to radio, I think we might be on the right track, or at least slowly getting there…. but then again, I heard “Undo It” is Underwood’s next release.

  2. Dan, there’s a reason I don’t listen to Country radio on a regular basis, and you just hit the nail on the head. Sadness doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

  3. …i also think it’s a grade a song but when it comes to its radio qualities, i’m not so sure that it’ll go way to the top ten. i don’t find it catchy enough.

    as for song of the year – although in a different league, easton corbin’s “a little more country than that” is going to be a tough one to beat in 2010. it’s an almost picture perfect mainstream country tune with tons of charm.

    to have three very good albums released in a row is not a small feast for even the most seasoned of artists. miranda lambert has done it already and right from the start and we are still talking of a career in its early stages. very impressive.

    when it comes to “it shouldn’t be like this…” – you’re right and wrong. it’d be terrific to have more outstanding material being released and played on the radio – then again, outstanding and great are rare qualities by definition.

  4. This is a brilliant post, Dan. Really. You manage to say a lot about the state of country music here.

    You wrote: “that I have to focus all my country-music-fan energy on hoping this one really strong release will hit the Top Ten.”

    Me too. I have actually been doing the same thing.

  5. According to Wikipedia, ML has had 11 singles and the only other one I liked before “House” was “Famous In a Small Town”. I think the “House That Built Me” is the best song of 2010 so far. Next right now might be “Highway 20 Ride”. Don’t care for the Easton Corbin song at all.

    Sometimes I wonder if a lot of the fluff dominating the country top 40 are there because they are tunes people can dance to. I can’t dance and luckily it’s never been a priority for my wife so I don’t know the answer to this. Just a thought. I don’t recall ever reading a review of a country music single in which the writer said that it was great to dance to.

  6. Nothing real insightful to add to the discussion, but this whole review (and that’s what I think it is) is spot-on, Dan. One of the best things you’ve written for the site.

  7. If you want intelligent music, Miranda Lambert isn’t the place to go. Sure, she’s more intelligent than your average “I’m a dumb ignorant country boy” song or your “I love America and God” Anthem. But that isn’t saying much. Most country music is music for morons. Miranda Lambert’s music is still backward music. I don’t think it deserves much praise for being slightly better than awful.

  8. “Chely Wrong” sure feels like a fan of other ‘stars’ that are female and ‘country’ singers. And if they aren’t I’d like to know what they consider ‘good’ music.

    As for this songs chart prospects, it has been on the charts for 6 weeks and is “already” 22 having moved up 3 notches. I think Top 10 is a ‘shoo-in.’

    I’ll join the chorus and say well done, Dan, well done.

  9. I’m with the majority here. Fabulous commentary that makes some excellent, though disheartening, points.

    This song isn’t perfect (the melody could use more spice and even her vocal is a little “dryer” than usual), but it sure is a good song that I’m glad to see doing well.

    I’m with Bob on the Corbin song though.

  10. The first thing I notice in a song is how that piece of matieral makes me feel at a given time in my life. This song did that. Maybe its because I miss my hometown (Clovis NM).I closed my eyes and saw the house I grew up in and move away from almost thirty years ago. Maybe its her amazing vocals.This voice that visits me in my sleep. I go to bed singing this song and wake up needing to hear it before I start my day, then I sing it all day long. Maybe,just maybe this song is the correct song for my emotional well being at this point in my life.She is no slouch, this young lady stands out in a crowd of strangers, remember she came in third in the country version of American Idol, Nashville Star in. Do you remember who came in second or the overall winner? Go to Youtube and pull up some of the songs she sang. She’s amazing!

  11. Great review, great song, and most important, it’s from one of the best country singers we have now, Miranda Lambert. I hope the song goes #1

  12. This and “Makin’ Plans” are in a battle for my favorite track off her Revolution album. So since Revolution was arguably my favorite album last year, it we be rather redundant to say I love this song. Oh and Dan, there’s never a bad place or time for a shameless rant.

  13. Excellent review Kevin. This song is probably one of my favorite of the year- simple, beautiful lyrics and Miranda’s emotion is heartfelt. I could see this song being a huge hit for her.

    The video is out on Itunes today, but hasn’t been released to the general public.

  14. I just dont hear it, I havent heard it in any of her songs. True she is different, but I dont think that makes her good. The songs just dont do it for me, and she is a ok singer, but nothing to write home about.

  15. K –

    Dan wrote this review, not me.

    I’d give it a good grade, though it does feel more to me like a decent album cut from the nineties than a song of the year contender. And it will certainly be a song of the year contender, because it is no longer the nineties.

  16. Oh you’re right, thanks for the correction. Great review nonetheless.

    Compared to a lot of the dreck on country radio, I think this song is excellent. If it came out ten or twenty years ago, it might be a different story.

  17. Dan..this is THE best single she has released by far!And I hate to break it to you but she like most acts has released some junk. There are actually a number of other talented country artists with just as much honesty in their art …it’s just that the labels choose the catchy crap they think will stick over any real substance most of the time. They figure the masses don’t have the attention span to hear it and unfortunately based on the track record of great songs that never made it ..they have a point…but every now and then a song like this slips in andwe areall better for it.


  18. I like this song, but it’s definitely not my favorite Lambert single and certainly not my favorite Lambert song.

  19. This is a beautiful single, but I don’t know, there’s something lacking in Miranda’s vocals for me, not just on this single. Of Miranda’s songs, More Like Her is still my #1 favorite.

  20. “More Like Her” is my favorite single of hers, closely followed by “Famous in A Small Town.” “Dry Town” is probably one of my favorite non-singles of hers.

  21. It definitely has more depth than most of the music I’ve heard from her. Although I do love her “kick butt” attitude in Kerosene etc.

  22. Heard this on WSM-AM 650 (home of The Opry and only true country station in Nashville) and really liked it. It made me think and it made me remember… kinda like Nanci Griffith’s “If These Walls Could Speak”. Not in structure or writing or whatever but just in how it pays homage to something unique to each of us… our home and personal memories.

  23. (sorry for the double-post)
    Wanted to add that over the past weeks I have been helping with flood clean-up here in Nashville. There are no words to describe seeing people’s “homes” and “stuff”, ie. material possessions and memories, piled in front of their house. Houses gutted and everything hauled to the curb so it can be taken to a dump. I suppose that’s why these “house songs” really strike me at this time.

  24. I have been ranting & raving about this song from the the beginning and I’m not even a big Miranda fan. It’s one that so many can relate to. Song of the year?…Absolutely!

  25. All you guys who are putting her down, Think before you blog, ok. She is amazing, and i don’t think any of you have a song like this? Even if she didn’t write it herself, she wanted it, thus she is smarter than your average one hit wonder nobody. <3 you Miranda!!!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.