“Little Red Wagon”
Written by Audra Mae and Joe Ginsburg
The bizarre handling of the singles from Miranda Lambert’s Platinum continues unabated with the arrival of “Little Red Wagon.” After leading off with far-and-away the two worst tracks on the album—the aesthetically and politically regressive “Automatic” and the empty bombast of “Somethin’ Bad”—then tagging “Smokin’ and Drinkin’,” an understated collaboration with Little Big Town, as the set’s next single before abruptly pulling the plug without explanation, Lambert’s team have declared “Little Red Wagon” as Lambert’s official third single. It’s been a long, strange ride thus far— one that smacks of the kind of nonsense typically reserved for veteran artists signed to Curb Records or to Sara Evans, rather than to an artist who is actively being pushed as one of the format’s superstars.
As an album track, “Little Red Wagon” serves Lambert and Platinum well. It establishes some of the album’s key thematic throughlines with its wiseass point-of-view and unapologetic take on a woman’s sexual agency, and it displays the feistiness and sass that have become two of Lambert’s trademarks. The production, with the gradually building cacophony of its verses giving way to the explosive guitars and thundering percussion in the campground-taunt chorus, is perhaps the most progressive among the album’s many rock-oriented tracks. Lambert has always boasted a broad definition of how country music can sound, and “Little Red Wagon” finds her and producer Frank Liddell pushing hard against the genre’s boundaries.
While those elements are all fairly routine for Lambert at this point in her career, they also make “Little Red Wagon” a gutsy choice for a single.
The way she exaggerates her affect to deliver some of songwriter Audra Mae’s most barbed lines works in context for the song and make for a committed performance, but something so intensely character-driven is bound to be polarizing. The song’s aggressive third-wave feminism and its “backyard swagger” are, again, logical thematic progressions for Lambert and fit within the overall artistic visions for both Platinum and Lambert’s career as a whole, but they’re clearly at-odds with the systematic sexism and overt misogyny that have dominated country radio for the past several years. Like much of contemporary country, the production draws heavily from rock music, but the song’s unconventional structure and shifts in dynamics couldn’t be farther removed from the bland AOR stylings of, say, Justin Moore or Parmalee.
With “Little Red Wagon,” Lambert is essentially giving notice to most everyone else in current rotation that, artistically, she doesn’t have room for them. Whether or not that wins her many new fans or makes her any friends at radio remains to be seen, but Lambert is at her best when she refuses to play by Nashville’s established rules, and her “Little Red Wagon” careens wildly down its own path.