Equal Parts Bukowski, Emmylou, and Cheerful Defiance: The Meaning Behind “Bluebird” by Miranda Lambert

Miranda Lambert may hold a wild card, but her heart lives in open spaces. She followed a public divorce from country star Blake Shelton with a No. 1 double album, The Weight of These Wings. Instead of turning her breakup album into a spiraling rage, Lambert focused on moving on, a theme she continues with the pitch-perfect “Bluebird.” 

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She sounds relaxed on her seventh album, Wildcard, a future-focused album burning her chaotic past like rocket fuel. Lambert and her co-writers use wit to play with country tropes, and they all sound like they’re having a bitchin’ ol’ time headed for the reservoir and looking for drinks. The “White Trash” singer is finally on the up and up, and she rides highest when her cheeky observations twist and turn like a hell-raising tornado. 

Turn the Page

Lambert co-wrote “Bluebird” with Natalie Hemby and Luke Dick, and it became Wildcard’s second single and eventually a Grammy nominee. Things look good in Lambert’s world as she analogizes aging with turning the page; regardless of the setbacks, she’s moving on. 

Yeah, I’m a turner
I turn pages all the time
Don’t like where I’m at, 34 was bad
So I just turn to 35

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Perseverance is a common theme on Wildcard, and it’s a welcome message with the pandemic only a few months from the album’s release. Life can sometimes feel like a card game, and Lambert plucked the album’s title from “Bluebird”’s chorus, where she waits to play her hand just when she’s being counted out. 

And if the house just keeps on winning
I got a wildcard up my sleeve
And if love keeps giving me lemons,
I’ll just mix ’em in my drink
And if the whole wide world stops singing
And all the stars go dark
I’ll keep a light on in my soul
Keep a bluebird in my heart

Well-worn metaphors live atop the toolbox in modern pop country, but Lambert plays with equal parts reverence and irreverence. Working with mega-producer Jay Joyce’s easy groove, it’s obvious Lambert’s getting the most from a well-earned glamorous life. 

[RELATED: 3 Miranda Lambert Lyrics That Feel Like a Gut Punch]

The song title arrived via a Charles Bukowski confessional poem about hidden vulnerability, where the hard-living author pours whiskey on the sweet bluebird he keeps away from public view. In secrecy, he sometimes lets the bird out at night, a secret pact making him weep, though he’ll never admit to the shame of crying. 

Musically, the song stays hopeful as Lambert acknowledges life’s difficulties. Like Bukowski, Lambert puts on a brave face, determined to keep moving on. But just as the poet’s endless nights at the bar can only keep the pain away for so long, Lambert’s don’t-look-back-in-anger attitude is only a reprieve from life’s madness. 

Dick had already written the opening lines before Lambert and Hemby arrived at his studio to finish the song. In an interview with Billboard, he said he was going for a statement song. “There’s these characteristics of yourself, and then how you deal with adversity, but in an impressionistic way instead of in a literal way.” 

While Dick channeled Bukowski’s dirty realism, Lambert contributed a lighter space, finding inspiration in Emmylou Harris’ song “Easy from Now On.” Harris, too, sings about a wild card up her sleeve, and then sings, It’s gonna be easy to fill the heart of a thirsty woman / Harder to kill the ghost of a no-good man / And I’ll be riding high in a fandangled sky.

Blue Is the Saddest of All Colors

There’s misery in blue, diverging from beautiful hues like water or the sky. Some dream of a white Christmas, while Elvis Presley lamented his “Blue Christmas” in solitude. And if you’ve ever driven around staring at Christmas lights, the onset of slow depression kicks in when a house draped in sad, blue lights comes into view.   

And that’s what is hiding behind Lambert’s hopeful song, the never-ending stream of broken relationships, heartache, and all the other necessary ingredients for making a country song—or a blues song, for that matter. Familiar metaphors are easy connections, but the real meat is in life’s melee few people can avoid. 

Despite All My Rage

In 2021, Wildcard won a Grammy for Best Country Album, while “Bluebird” was nominated for Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance. In the video for the song, Lambert dresses as a bluebird in a cage while singing to an indifferent audience. It’s hard not to see a soft statement aimed at the state of modern country music. Female country artists are making dynamic and clear-eyed records, but the radio stations remain stubbornly dominated by men. 

Artists like Miranda Lambert and Maren Morris are real-life bluebirds, putting forth beautiful noise into a world overrun with old-fashioned chauvinism. But Lambert’s music is aging better than that of the men pretending to be cowboys.  

Photo by Catherine Powell/FilmMagic

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