Kacey Musgraves is in the studio working on a new album to be released later this year.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, she revealed she’s working on a project that encapsulates the last year of her life in two specific words: “tragedy” and “star-crossed.” Between the coronavirus pandemic and her divorce from fellow country singer Ruston Kelly, she’s been through a lot.
She says she was inspired because she:
“Started looking into why portraying a tragedy is actually therapeutic and why it is a form of art that has lasted for centuries.”
Unfortunately, I don’t think this will be her The Weight of These Wings sad country divorce album moment, though, because she also said:
“We’ve got that synth stuff that we always loved. And we’ve got some Eagles or America territory. There’s a little bit of a dance vibe.”
It’s been nearly three years since she released her last album, the Grammy-award winning and critically acclaimed aforementioned Golden Hour.
Before Golden Hour became the massive international success that it is, it’s easy to forget the Texas native burst on the scene with two other incredible studio albums, Same Trailer Different Park in 2013 and my favorite, Pageant Material, in 2015.
While much of the world had high praise for Golden Hour and it’s laid-back, pop-inclined, psychedelic sound, it’s just scratching the surface of all the good music Kacey’s made.
Same Trailer Different Park and Pageant Material are works of art in their own right, and while there are pop-y moments on both, they’re essentially country; especially in terms of their songwriting and storytelling.
Her first album did eventually get certified platinum in 2018 and was acknowledged with two Grammys, but Pageant Material never got the credit it deserved. Personally, I think it’s her best work to date.
It’s a traditional country music album in every sense, notably using the pedal steel and acoustic guitar throughout. It includes extraordinary songs like the hometown girl anthem “Dime Store Cowgirl,” the title track “Pageant Material,” and “Good Ol Boys Club,” a harsh letter aimed at the Nashville establishment.
She’s become a sort of liaison between pop culture and country music beyond stereotypes and memes, often seen hanging with mega celebrities like Gigi Hadid and earning new fans who’ve never listened to country before.
And, while it’s great to see so many people introduced to the genre with Kacey as an ambassador, it would surely be a loss to the country music world if she ever did decide to part ways and fully plunge into the pop scene. Not that I would blame her though, it’s not like she’s ever been treated fairly by country radio.
Of course, the same could be said for countless other artists we all know and love, but Kacey is different because she’s gaining traction outside of country music. If she ever made the switch, I’d be willing to bet she’d be hugely successful, like Taylor Swift level success. She’s already shown flashes of it, landing herself a spot opening for superstar Harry Styles on his international tour a few years ago.
Which leads me to my point: we need another country album from Kacey Musgraves. This is my plea for it. It seems as though this next album could be one more step away from the genre. I’m begging her to come back to her roots, to country music, and make another album like the first two.
Make no mistake, I loved Golden Hour as much as everyone else, and I’m sure this next album will be quality, but there’s something about the way Kacey resonates with country music. Her unique perspective, willingness to step (and live) outside of the box, and unsurpassed talent makes her an inarguable gift to everyone who loves real country.
She’s different, no doubt. She doesn’t sing about “traditional” things, but rather tends to mock them in a decidedly poignant way which I find quite refreshing. She’s figured out how to make her point, whatever it is, with wit and humor.
She’s never been one to hold back, either, often inserting and presenting her opinions both politically and otherwise straightforwardly in her lyrics. Though I may not always agree with everything she says, I admire her willingness to share who she really is in her music, no holds barred.
And make no mistake, she’s fully aware of the barriers she faces in terms of radio play, assuring The Washington Post:
“I don’t want to be begging. I don’t want to be at the mercy of country radio with it. It’s going to have its own life regardless, so I don’t really want to ask their permission.”
Often, whether a producer “likes” you or not has a lot to do with whether you’ll actually get your songs some air time. That shouldn’t have to be taken into account. If the music’s good, play it. Ah, if only it were that simple this issue would’ve been solved a long time ago. Unfortunately, it’s all become part of the format.
Whether you love her or hate her is not the point nor the question. We need her in the country space because she makes damn good music. We need her because she pushes boundaries unapologetically, unlike many of her mainstream counterparts, and is scrutinized ruthlessly for it yet continues to do so.
Maybe she just needs a reminder of what she said herself:
“A lot of times in this genre, people are so focused on being ‘cool’ rather than country. To me, the coolest thing in country music is country.”
She’s always done it her way and you have to admire that…