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Album Review: Kacey Musgraves Bares Her Soul in ‘star-crossed’

Dust off your cowboy boots everyone, Miss Kacey Musgraves is back on the scene with her new album, ‘star-crossed.’ However you might want to grab a box of tissues, too. 

‘Star-crossed’ is Musgraves’ fourth studio album, following her Grammy award winning album ‘Golden Hour,’ which took listeners through a love story as many of the songs pertained to falling in love with her former husband, fellow country musician Ruston Kelly. Musgraves and Kelly ended up announcing their divorce after 2 years of marriage in July of 2020.

Many members of Musgraves’ fanbase (including myself) wondered what was next for the singer as she received so much praise and growth from an album all about the joys of love, now transitioning into a period of heartbreak as she separates from the person that ‘Golden Hour’ was all about. “You can be the ‘Golden Hour’ girl,” says Musgraves in her Apple Music interview with Zane Lowe, “And you can have rose-colored glasses and experience this Earth-shattering love, and you can experience the antithesis of that, and that is life. And it’s real.” 

Thus, ‘star-crossed’ was born. Not only is there an album, but also a movie! Directed by Bardia Zeinali, ‘star-crossed: the film’ is a visual experience that pairs with the album. It’s almost like music videos for each song all tied together to better tell the story Musgraves is portraying, featuring appearances of different actors, musicians and influencers such as Victoria Pedretti and Eugene Levy. But for now, I’m gonna be focusing on the album and it’s highlights – so once again, get your cowboy boots and your tissues.

It makes total sense that there would be a movie paired with this film, as for the first track and the title track ‘star-crossed,’ opens with dramatic music as Musgraves softly sings, “Let me set the scene, two lovers ripped right at the seams. They woke up from the perfect dream, and then the darkness came.” This track feels like it would belong perfectly in the 1996 film adaptation of Romeo + Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. The aesthetic of this album matches that film perfectly, which is fitting, since both stories represent tragedy.

The album continues with songs that are laced with the more anxious side of marriage and falling in love, like “good wife” where Musgraves sings, “God help me be a good wife, ‘cause he needs me,” and “Help me let go of all the things that make me mad.” Then there’s “cherry blossom,” where the up-beat, pop radio sounding single turns gloomy as Musgraves sings about her significant other letting her float away like a cherry blossom at the end of Spring. 

Like a tragic love story, the songs on the album get more dismal, as this relationship spirals into darkness. In one of the album’s early-release singles ‘“justified,” Mugraves explains her justification in being upset but also missing her ex at the same time with one of her most popular lyrics on the album, “Healing doesn’t happen in a straight line.” 

Other songs like “breadwinner” and “angel” describe the struggles in Kacey’s relationship mostly pertaining to her ex, how he was at fault in many ways. But something that’s refreshing about this album is how Musgraves clearly admits her own faults, without a victim-complex. In one of my favorite songs off the album “camera roll,” Musgraves sings about the pain she feels as she scrolls through her camera roll, watching the chronological decline of her relationship. After she sings about the hurt, she says, “Anyway thanks, for all the nights and the days, and everything that you gave, I’ll never erase it.” You can watch her emotional performance on Saturday Night Live here. 

Another favorite of mine, is “hookup scene,” a song with a simple guitar-picked melody where Musgraves describes how hooking up with random people after a break-up “ain’t all that it’s made out to be.” The song feels like a confession or diary entry, but also serves a warning to those who may have had their heart broken. It’s as if she’s telling her listeners to proceed with caution after a horrible break-up, that the reckless ‘rebound’ phase isn’t as fun as it may seem. 

The album has a cinematic type closing with “gracias a la vida,” a song originally written and performed by Violeta Parra, a Chilean singer-songwriter who wrote the song before ending her own life. Musgraves felt a deep connection to the song, it’s story and it’s translated title, “Thanks to Life.” Musgraves chose to record it herself, saying, “It keeps reaching through time and living on, and I wanted to apply that sonically to the song too.” 

This album is like a tragedy in three parts. It’s got some fairly dark themes, but also some more fun and up-beat songs as well to balance things out. Sound-wise, Musgraves does lean a little closer to pop in this album, with more synthesized sounds than banjos. But her country roots are always still there, and can be heard in the luscious Southern accent behind her singing voice and the occasional Western sounding guitar. 

Did I enjoy it as much as ‘Golden Hour?’ If I’m being 100% honest (I struggle to critique Musgraves at all because I am such a fan), I don’t see myself listening to the songs off this album as much as I have the songs off of ‘Golden Hour.’ But I will say that the lyrics off of this album are some of the best lyrics she’s ever written, out of her entire discography. So many of them are simple statements, but they’re statements that dig deep and many people who have had their heart broken can relate to. 

I also have talked to multiple people who weren’t the biggest fans of Kacey’s until they listened to ‘star-crossed.’ The aesthetic and hype of this album is hard to resist. I’m very happy for Musgraves, as I feel she’s taking steps outside of her comfort zone and despite all she’s been through, still creating a career and sound that is so unique to her own. I can’t wait to continue watching her grow as an artist.

Abby is a student at the New School double majoring in Theater + Journalism & Design. Abby was born and raised in New Jersey but also has some New Orleans roots and is currently loving being a New Yorker. When she isn't writing or performing, you can catch Abby snuggling with her dogs Otis & Thibodaux, or hanging out with her friends!
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