MARY LAMBERT - SECRETS
My love, she keeps me lukewarm…
Katherine St Asaph: I’m rooting for Mary Lambert because I resent the way certain cognoscenti rushed to condemn Macklemore’s hijacking gay rights on “Same Love” simply because they absorbed that was the done thing, while ignoring the actual lesbian who wrote the hook. I also resent how the music press just wrote off the time they routinely (if sneeringly) covered the sort of music Lambert makes. “Secrets” is something like her third single since; did you even know? The glitched beats, strings and very legit high C are a bridge-long trip to a music world that never was, and Lambert’s wry spoken affect is a little Cathy Davey, a little Maria Mena, but mostly “Secrets” strikes me as something Nellie McKay would release today, when she’d have to compete with Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson and give her sound polish and crowd chants. I don’t just mean “Secrets” is the ol’ cheery music/pointed lyrics trick, I mean that in a world that conspires to pry every secret out of every woman by force, Big Data or coercion, “I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are” is subversive and horrifyingly resigned where “I Wanna Get Married" just wouldn’t cut it as satire anymore. Part of me applauds Lambert’s blunt real talk after hearing so much platitude-pop; part of me just wants to give Lambert a Dear Sugar intervention and say oh sweetpea, you don’t have to write that on XOJane.
Anthony Easton: Do you know how sometimes you see one of those social justice slam poets on Tumblr, and you feel profoundly moved until you realize the form is tired, and the content oversimplifies complicated politics for (literally) performative points? Lambert is kind of like that, but her voice is much sweeter.
Brad Shoup: If Taylor Swift’s horns set you on edge, I can only imagine how these claw-game trumpets will sound to you. Lambert’s secrets — big and small — don’t seem so bad, which says more about the kinds of things I read and hear than anything else, probably. Still, I’m glad she’s making a pop move away from the White Shadow. From the look of it, she’s having fun: leaving in studio chatter and laughter, shoving the word “what” into my face, setting those plastic horns against a faded operatic vocal.
Alfred Soto: Talk-singing allows all kinds of indulgences, places emphasis on lyrics. The ones in “Secrets” are arch and flat. It’s possible that a melody would have mitigated, strengthened, or nullified their effects; in their current form they must be endured. And once again, here’s an example of how not to use horns.
Maxwell Cavaseno: Where is the border of affirmation and enabling? Must it always resemble a Dresden Dolls song with the histrionic elements sandblasted out? Am I supposed to feel good that there’s a clammy hand patting me on the back telling me everything’s OK with me? Do I want the sonic equivalent of a nursery blanket chasing after me? Is this really going to resonate with people? Why would anyone worry about being a real or fake anything? How did I have a friend who named her son after the last name of a Full Metal Alchemist character? Who does these things? Who makes this song? For whom? Why?
Iain Mew: The brassy affirmation of the chorus is rote enough that it could easily drag down the song, but Mary Lambert adds enough depth elsewhere that it works out fine. Her humour treads the line between funny and realistically embarrassing very well, and the fragility of the music does a lot of work in making clear how hard-won the self-acceptance is. The highlight is the swelling pre-chorus, which sounds like Regina Spektor at her most affecting.
Thomas Inskeep: In one single, “Secrets” manages to encompass everything I hate(d) about the Lilith Fair era of music: from its self-aware “clever” lyrics to its sub-Sara Bareillies strum-pop. Additionally, the “secrets” detailed herein are about as “secret” as “rain on your wedding day” is “ironic.” Plan accordingly.
Scott Mildenhall: A song that would be very “Apple product ad” were it not for the unfortunately, unintentionally legitimate gawkiness that moves it over into Microsoft territory. If anything it’s really quite sad. “She Keeps Me Warm“‘s transfer to “Same Love” posited the possibility of changing something innocuous without prompt; this lays so many more of Lambert’s cards on the table in an act of supposed self-assurance when no one even said they were playing poker. Self-deprecation and ownership of perceived vulnerabilities are vital, but at some point they lose the desired effect.
Luisa Lopez: Because most songs move at a kind of river pace, their words swimming around each other and together, moments that are direct jump out and strike with a different punch. “Secrets” is an entire moment like this, unfurled along a country road. Saved from being cutesy with lines like My family is dysfunctional / But we have a good time killing each other, it becomes a tap dance on a well-walked theme that sounds like it could save you from a high school hallway. I want every evening I live to close with the sound of a voice sliding from glissando into laughter.