September 10, 2021
(Interscope/Polydor/MCA Nashville)The bliss of Musgraves’ Grammy-winning Golden Hour sours on this follow-up, with a breakup narrative that is a little too tidy
Kacey Musgraves: Star-Crossed review – a tragedy of wifely strife
Everything about the run-up to Star-Crossed, Kacey Musgraves’ fifth album, suggested high drama. She graced glossy magazine covers before she had released any music, promising an album conceptualised around Greek tragedy, after a revelation that arrived while she listened to Bach. There is also an accompanying film starring Eugene Levy and Princess Nokia. This level of pop infrastructure makes partial sense. Musgraves won the Grammy for album of the year with her last record, 2018’s Golden Hour, which refracted tender country songwriting through wide-eyed psychedelia and prompted speculation about her pop-star potential. But all this pageantry feels inversely proportional to the bruised peach of an album that Musgraves cradles here.
On Golden Hour, Musgraves basked in newlywed life with fellow country musician Ruston Kelly; three years later, they’re divorced. As a songwriter, the 33-year-old small-town Texan made her name by challenging traditional southern mores about fallen Women, using her sly wit to defend burnouts, queer kids and refuseniks. There was a sense of victory to it, especially when she also transcended the small-minded country mainstream that shunned her and became a proper star. Star-Crossed reckons again with idealism – the perfect spouse, the loved-up selfie – but this time Musgraves claims little vindication at defying those roles; more a sense of disappointment at not being able to live up to them, despite how they diminished her natural confidence, followed by one of relief at being free to dream bigger again.
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