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December 06th, 2021

kacey musgraves star crossed spotlight pageELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

Earlier this week, I was about to start putting together some work together for the paper here, but before I could do that, I needed some tunes to set the mood. Like I usually do, I went on YouTube to look for something to listen to, and one of the suggestions was Kacey Musgraves’ new album “star-crossed.” 

I’d heard some of her songs on the radio before and liked them, so I went ahead and clicked to listen. The album was inspired by Musgraves' personal journey following her divorce from fellow singer-songwriter Ruston Kelly earlier this year, and definitely takes listeners along on the journey. 

Something I noticed quite quickly with the album is each song does a good job at telling a definite story and portrays each step of the grieving process after a breakup, ranging from a couple days afterward to a little while later when the healing starts more in earnest. One of the songs on the album that does this especially well is “good wife,” which is basically a woman’s prayer to be strong and do whatever she can in her relationship to make her partner happy. In a weird way, though, this song also kind of irritated me because it somewhat reinforces the expectation that the wife in a marriage has to be the one to salvage everything and be perfect and turn the other cheek all the time, whereas that expectation hasn’t really applied to husbands very much throughout history. That sentiment is also expressed with “angel,” which is about a wife saying how if only she’d been perfect and just put up with everything, her marriage would have made it. In my opinion, since it’s 2021, that attitude needs to change about the onus being on women to maintain whatever relationship they’re involved in. 

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Another song in particular that does a good job of showing part of the relationship-grieving process is “camera roll,” during which Musgraves sings about how certain memories hurt, but she can’t quite yet bring herself to delete those particular photos from her phone’s camera roll. This also applies to friendships that have ended because even though you might not be friends with someone anymore, you still shared some good times, and THAT’S what you want to remember. The hesitation expressed in the song to delete the photos is also a pretty realistic sentiment because maybe the breakup is still fresh and you’re not quite sure how to process everything yet. Overall, it’s another good storyteller song. 

One song that really stuck out to me on the album was “simple times” and talks about a wish to return to the good times in the past. The lyrics really stuck out to me on this one because there are definitely times when I wish I could go back in time for even just a couple days to when I was in, say, high school, when I didn’t have as many responsibilities to worry about compared to now. Everyone has those times when they wish they could go back to a time when things were simpler for them, and I thought “simple times” expressed that sentiment really well. 

While “star-crossed” was ultimately a rather pleasant listening experience for me, something that bugged me throughout the album was how there wasn’t very much difference sonically between the songs. Most of the songs have a rather sweetly melancholic vibe to them, and while Musgraves has lovely vocals and the minimalist instrumentation work for most of them, I definitely would have liked to hear some more variety throughout the album. I also feel like the lyrics to some of the songs could have used a bit of a punch-up, because there are some songs on the album that are somewhat lyrically simple and almost border on being cliché. Musgraves does her best songwriting when she’s not buying into the breakup clichés, with “breadwinner” and “justified” being the best examples of that.

One song on the album that did confuse me, however, was Musgraves’ cover of Violeta Parra’s famous hit “Gracias A La Vida.” I remember hearing the song in my Spanish classes in high school, and I know what the song is saying, but I’m a little confused about why Musgraves felt the need to cover it. It’s not a bad cover, and the production on it is good, but to me, it seemed somewhat out of place. 

Overall, I enjoyed listening to Kacey Musgraves’ new album “star-crossed,” and I would give it a B-minus grade. Musgraves has lovely vocals on each song, and the songs are great at telling a story, with a few in particular that stuck out to me. With that in mind, however, there were a few aspects of the lyrics and instrumentation I feel should have been punched up a little bit in order to make the album truly awesome. If you’re a fan of Musgraves or need a good breakup album to listen to at the moment, Kacey Musgraves’ new album “star-crossed” is a good one to cue up. 

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