You’ve heard her voice on the radio for several months now singing the hook of a hit that’s been making a lot of waves because of its strong lyrical content. However, you may not know a lot about the singer herself. She’s 24-year-old Mary Lambert, based out of Seattle, Washington. She’s a spoken word poet, a gay rights activist and now, an unexpected top 40 artist. Lambert is featured on the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis anthem, “Same Love”, with the duo also being from the same region. Now, she’s trying to make it on her own with a song that builds off of that pivotal part of the song. In fact, it reminds me a lot of a similar scenario that happened over a decade ago that also involved a hard-hitting rap single and a more calming followup. Can Lambert go solo nationally now that she’s been exposed to a much wider audience? I think it’s possible, but first, let’s get to know Mrs. Lambert a little more.
Lambert lived a hard life as a child, subjected to abuse and depression. Between moving towns and religious experiences, it was a lot for such a young person. She seemed to find her way in her teens, graduating with a B.A. in Music and Composition in 2011, as well as finding a partner in her girlfriend Rachel. Through that time, she entered in a number of spoken word competitions, gaining acclaim through stops at the Brave New Voices International Poetry Competition in 2008 and Seattle’s Grand Slam Poetry Competition in 2011, which she won. It led her to create a book of poetry. Yet, music was her true calling, and it was about to come back to her in a big way.
Last year, Lambert channeled her energy into releasing an independent EP called Letters Don’t Talk in August. Though it gained some praise, it went largely under the radar beyond the local Seattle scene. None of the songs managed high chart peaks, nor did the EP. However, it was around the same time that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis approached her to be on “Same”, which at the time was only going to be issued on vinyl in the local area in response to a ballot question on same-sex marriage in Washington state. After a national appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and an approval of the matter, the duo were thrust into the pop world, and now the lovely Lambert can join them as well.
Issued last week, “She Keeps Me Warm” was self-released by Lambert, a more stripped-down and full version of her part on the rap single which continues to dominate. She seems to strike all the right chords, merging a tender vocal with a dramatic but also understated arrangement. It’s halfway between a pop song and a more folksy tune, similar to other singer-songwriters like Grace Potter or Missy Higgins. The song gives an even more special meaning to the words she contributed to “Same”, a personal journey about she and her girlfriend and the way they connected together. She sings, “She says I smell like safety and home/I named both of her eyes ‘forever’ and ‘please don’t go’ … this could be good.” There’s a sweet giggle to her voice and a great big smile across her face as she recounts the memories of how they came to be. It’s pretty magical and very inspiring to those who are taking on a similar relationship or feel limited by what marriage is dictated as in their region. There’s a promise and a hope that one day there will be a nationwide resolution to the issue. Until then, the good fight goes on.
The timing of the new single takes me back to 2000, when Eminem released the angry single “Stan”, which sampled “Thank You” by Dido in its chorus. It essentially gave an unknown a shot and propelled the British singer up to the top of the charts with a song that was already out on its own for almost two years at that point. “Thank” even managed to out-peak “Stan” on most of the pop surveys. While this current situation between Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Mary Lambert isn’t exactly the same, with Lambert’s song coming afterwards, you get the gist of what I’m talking about. If “Same Love” can win over both radio and retail (and maybe even the GRAMMY Awards), perhaps Lambert will find herself signed to a major label in the hopes of spreading her sound around the world. It’s only fitting.
With a hook and a jab, “She Keeps Me Warm” delivers on that pop punch, and won’t leave Mary Lambert out in the cold this time around.