Lambert announced in July 2011 that her fourth studio album, Four the Record, would be released on November 1, 2011. A month later, Sony Music Nashville announced that Lambert and labelmate Josh Thompson would transfer to RCA Nashville as part of a corporate restructuring. Lambert wrote or co-wrote six of the album's tracks. Included on the album is a duet with Blake Shelton titled "Better in the Long Run.", and a cover of "Look At Miss Ohio," which was originally recorded by its writer, Gillian Welch, on her 2003 album Soul Journey.
The album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 with 133,000 copies sold in its first week, making it Lambert's highest charting album of her career. It debuted at number one on the US BillboardTop Country Albums. As of July 10, 2013, the album has sold 887,802 copies in the US.
Four the Record received general acclaim from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 83, based on 12 reviews, indicating "Universal acclaim". Furthermore, Rolling Stone ranked the album as being the 31st best in 2011 out of the 50 albums ranked.
The positive reviews came in from About.com, AllMusic, American Songwriter, The A.V. Club, The Boston Globe, Robert Christgau, Country Weekly, Entertainment Weekly, Los Angeles Times, Roughstock, Slant Magazine, Spin, Taste of Country and USA Today. Robert Silva of About.com gave the record a four out of five stars, and called "Four the Record is a polished effort from a country singer who shows she's deserving of all the honors she's gotten, and is sure to receive." AllMusic writer Stephen Thomas Erlewine, praised the bravery of album and awarded it with four-and-a-half out of five stars and wrote: "with Four the Record, she’s digging deeper than ever before and finding considerable riches." Stephen Deusner of American Songwriter rated the album a four and a half out of five stars, and noted how "Four the Record is sequenced to play up the various aspects of Lambert’s persona".The A.V. Club writer Genevieve Koski was also positive on the album, rated it as B+ and wrote:" The bevy of writers and co-writers guiding Lambert results in a ranging, not especially cohesive album that makes up for the occasional dud (the schmaltzy power ballad "Better In The Long Run," a duet with Lambert's husband Blake Shelton) with plenty of solid earworms (the catchy mid-tempo "Safe") and a couple of welcome left turns (the loping, back-porch sing-along "Easy Living")."The Boston Globe gave a positive review to the album and said: "On a rock solid and expansive set of songs, Lambert mixes backbeats, production styles, fuzzed-out vocals, slinky slide guitars, and other offbeat elements into a cohesive whole." Robert Christgau graded the album an A- effort, and wrote that "this does wind down into your basic quality country album." Ken Tucker of Country Weekly gave the album five stars out of five, which was taken from Metacritic's assigned score, and wrote: "With due respect to her previous fine efforts, Four the Record is easily Miranda's best album yet." Mikael Wood of Entertainment Weekly gave a very positive review to the album, rated it as A- and said: "Four is her most vivid effort yet, with brilliantly observed songs about lust (Fine Tune) and disappointment (Same Old You), as well as a stirring celebration of diversity (All Kinds of Kinds)." Randy Lewis of Los Angeles Times was also positive on the album and wrote: "This successor represents a further evolution of her talent as both creator and interpreter." Roughtstock's Stormy Lewis gave the album four and a half out of five stars, and called "it a fine addition to her body of work." Slant Magazine writer Jonathan Keefe gave the album three-and-half-stars out of 5 and said: "Without a thematic through line or recurring lyrical motifs or meaningful efforts at myth-building or any of the other sophisticated flourishes that have made her albums so rich, Four the Record is left as a solid collection of better-than-average songs cast in arrangements that offer a progressive take on modern country." Theon Weber of Spin magazine scored it as 7 out of 10 and commented: "The real strength here is the feline sharpness of Lambert's voice." Taste of Country's Billy Dukes rated the album a perfect five stars, and stated that "The 27-year-old now has two of the century’s top country albums." Lastly, Elysa Gardner of USA Today rated the album a three out of four stars, and touched on that "It's Lambert's ability to convey such sentiments without sentimentality that truly makes her a force to be reckoned with."
However, the album had two mixed reviews come in from The New York Times and PopMatters. One of them came from The New York Times writer Stephen Holden, who said: "Normally, she's emphatic in the right places, but this album also includes some of Ms. Lambert's least committed singing." The other one was from PopMatters' Josh Langhoff, which scored it as 6 out of 10 stars, and criticized: "This is the weakest of Lambert's four big solo records, and overall it lacks the lively charm of Hell on Heels, her excellent August album with the supergroup Pistol Annies."