Kacey Musgraves’ “star-crossed” Finds Light in Darkness
Typically, I would instantaneously proclaim my dislike of country music — for Kacey Musgraves I’ll say “haw” whenever she says “yee.” Yee-Haw!
Kacey Musgraves released her newest visual album entitled, star-crossed, last month. However, the Recording Academy has absurdly dubbed the fresh and pop influenced style of country in star-crossed as not being “country enough” to be nominated in the genres categories. If country music sounded like Kacey Musgraves, more people would be listening.
Musgraves takes inspiration for star-crossed from her divorce with fellow singer, Ruston Kelly. The same man who inspired her previous album Golden Hour — which won Album of the Year at the 2019 GRAMMYs. In a healthy juxtaposition, Golden Hour discusses finding the happiness within everything, falling head-over-heels in love with Kelly, and living in the light of life itself. And star-crossed offers the story of the tragic demise of the relationship that seemed to be nothing but picture perfect.
The most robust feature of star-crossed is that it explores all aspects of the healing process: hurt, regret, blame, longing, redemption. Not to mention all the other emotions our inner demons create when having to deal with the loss of someone we’ve loved. Even though divorce is a disastrous and traumatic experience, she takes it pridefully and shows off resilience within the darkness of it all.
The title track of the album is the beginning of this tale of healing. She begins with singing over simple guitar: “let me set the scene…”
Going on to describe what happened between the former couple, “What have we done? / Did we fly too high just to get burned by the sun?” alluding to the myth of Icarus. In the second song “good wife” Musgraves touches on the discussion of the pressures from societies expectations on being a perfect wife. She begs to be able to play the role perfectly, “God, help me be a good wife / ‘Cause he needs me!”
“justified,” the lead single from star-crossed, combines classic country twang with the influence of modern pop breakup anthems that anyone can enjoy. It discusses the battle of emotions that occur when you have to move on from somebody. She sings, “Moving backwards, hurt comes after / Healing doesn’t happen in a straight line.” Her clever, noteworthy songwriting is showcased in the chorus: “If I need just a little more time to deal with the fact / That you shoulda treated me right / Then I’m more than just a little justified.”
The most straightforward song on the album “simple times” is a more generic, radio-friendly pop attempt that doesn’t really have any abstract metaphors or complex lyrical content within. Musgraves simply states cut-and-dry, “Being grown up kinda sucks sometimes / And I’m really just missing the simple times.”
I found myself a little bored by the expected and simple production that was offered in the stripped-down track “camera roll.” However, she shockingly turns this simplicity into the standout and genre-bending “there is a light.” This is a flashy anthem featuring bongos, synths, vocoder effects, as well as an unexpected and energetic flute solo that takes the odd song to new heights. Here, she is almost at the end of her tragic marriage and realizing that “there is a light at the end of the tunnel” and better tomorrows after all the hardship she endured. She’s found the desire inside her to continue moving on.
One of the other highlights of the album is the now TikTok viral “breadwinner.” This track is a playful, plucky message to men who take advantage of successful women until it starts going against the standards of toxic masculinity. Specifically, Musgraves is directly addressing her ex-husband, Ruston Kelly, who allegedly grew jealous of her massive success and acclaim from Golden Hour. “He wants your shimmer / To make him feel bigger / Until he starts feeling insecure.”
Once again with this album, Kacey causes controversial waves within the generic country genre she is boxed into; however, less emotional and intriguing than its beloved predecessor Golden Hour. star-crossed isn’t solely pop, isn’t solely country, isn’t solely alternative, and isn’t solely disco-inspired. It’s what she has been trailblazing since the beginning of her career — it’s solely Kacey Musgraves.
Rating: 7.5/10 ★
Going through unbearable and agonizing heartbreak? Give star-crossed a listen below!