Song Review – Kacey Musgraves “Merry Go Round”

October 9, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  24 Comments

Well now. It looks like we have a little girl from Texas looking to shake up country radio with her slanted views. Let’s say we pop the hood and see what all the fuss is about.

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Kacey Musgraves officially comes to us from the reality show world, which may file her under “Flat Chest” in Eric Church’s little black book. But screw him, we’ll judge the music on its own merit. And besides, if Kacey came into country from reality TV land, it was through the back door, placing 7th on the show Nashville Star buried on the USA Network. It wasn’t her success that shoved her into the spotlight, it was her failure that forced a re-evaluation of her music identity and purpose, and resulted in this dower and droll look into the American dream.

Possibly the most remarkable thing about this song is where it’s coming from. In the independent/Americana world, “Merry Go Round” would still be good, but its content and approach would be nothing out of the ordinary. But this song isn’t being spun on NPR, it’s being released directly to country radio by Kacey’s major label Mercury Records, who singed her just this year. At this point “Merry Go Round” doesn’t even have an album to call home, but it’s been sitting in the low 30’s on the country charts, threatening to take its subversive message mainstream.

As progressive as the song’s approach seems both lyrically and sonically, the theme of “Merry Go Round” is nothing new. Navigate to YouTube and punch up The Monkees “Pleasant Valley Sunday” for example. Were so used to unimaginative drivel oozing out from Music Row’s orifices that “Merry Go Round” feels like it comes from a very deep, poetic, and original place. And to the modern, mainstream perspective that Kacey is both a product of and a character in, it is.

It’s endearing how some of the lyrics don’t rhyme, and how the ending lyric takes a song that is seething with quiet anger and innuendo, and then unleashes that anger with little governor. Kacey’s vocal cadence evokes memories of Miranda Lambert, another Texas product with sweet lace for tone that contrasts with biting language and themes to enhancing the listening experience. Kacey’s voice is what gives this song mainstream accessibility. The music works just about perfect to create the sedated feel of complacency gripping America’s homogenous corporate culture.

The most powerful gift of music might not be its ability to console you in pain, but to pierce your reality bubble and let the wisdom of enhanced perspective guide you to your true self. As immature and judgmental as “Merry Go Round” might seem in places, this altruistic aim is its objective, and its outcome. Even the debate this song can fuel about the beauty of simplicity vs. the importance of self discovery and the broadening of perspective is a healthy result.

I like it.

Two guns up.

“Nothing suffocates you more than the passing of everyday human events.” – Marilyn Manson

24 Comments to “Song Review – Kacey Musgraves “Merry Go Round””

  • Reminiscent of some Allison Krauss I have heard. It exudes a whole lot more soul than most Nashville offerings I have heard in the last 25 years


  • I heard this song for the first time last week and I was blown away by it. Like you said, it would be nothing out of the ordinary for independent country/Americana, but the fact that I can turn on the radio and hear this is a very pleasant surprise. I’ve never heard such cynicism about small town life on the country radio. The production is a little slick for my tastes but not enough to turn me away.


    • The production is just slick enough to make it radio friendly, without being a bad fit for the theme of the song.


      • I agree. The sound was a little off-putting at first after listening to J.B. Beverly, but I warmed up to it pretty quick.


  • What is interesting is the video stats on youtube. The top 2 demographics are female 13-17 and female 18-24. If you flip over to some other americana stuff, those ages go way up. Nashville is catching on. They feel the backlash, but they are looking at Mumford and Sons and realizing that americana has mainstream appeal. That’s what that cmt edge is for. I’d bet my life that it is an experiment, trying to gauge the interest. I really think we will be seeing more of this stuff on the radio.


    • Interesting.

      I do think this single is a weather balloon, either for the encroachment of Americana-style into mainstream country, or just to see if Kacey Musgraves will sell and how much mustard Mercury should put behind her.

      Just like when Music Row saw the success of Hank3 and the growing anti-Nashville sentiment they tried to re-integrate those demographics with “new Outlaws”, Mumford’s mammoth album sales, the biggest debut all year by some 250,000 albums, is probably making some wonder how they can get in on that action.

      Smaller picture though, this is Kacey’s song and her personal expression.


  • Ahhhh, the tired old lament about how the good old days were really the bad old days. The complete breakdown of society over the last 50 years always disproves this false little nugget of progressivism.


    • Hmm. How do you measure this “complete breakdown of society?” I’d like you to do the math for us.


  • While I agree with the sentiment of the Eric church comment at the beginning of your article, in interviews he is listing her as one of his new favorite artists, which really just gives us a reason to call him hypocritical haha.


    • Love this song too, by the way. It may be a little to shiny sounding but honestly if this is what most pop country was like it would be a lot more listenable. Who would seriously rather hear rascal flats or brantly Gilbert over this?


  • Thanks for this review! I knew you would like this song!

    I totally agree with you, by the way, on how Kacey Musgraves sounds like Miranda Lambert. When I first heard this song on the radio, I initially thought Miranda was singing it. Of course, I quickly realized that there was no way that Miranda would put out such a subversive song.

    I also find it interesting that “Nashville Star” produces a higher rate of solid artists than “American Idol”. Case in point: “Nashville Star” has given rise to Miranda Lambert, Chris Young, and now Kacey Musgraves. I suppose that Nashville Star’s focus on emotionally interpretive singing over vocal acrobatics brings out the true artists.


  • pretty decent overall sound for a song being spun on the radio but the lyrics in places were a bit predictable for me.. Good find though and thanks for the article..


  • I’ve been listening to her for awhile now (youtube,myspace,soundcloud) and she reminds me of a Taylor Swift from the wrong side of the tracks.I mean that as a compliment.

    Speaking of the head banger Miranda,she recorded one of Kacey’s songs on her last album,’Mama’s Broken Heart”.I wish she would of kept it for herself,but I also understand she needs to eat.

    My only problem with her is she’s always talking gay stuff on twitter.Nothing against gay people,but something against straight people who think they’re being cool, edgy and hip by talking more gay shit than gay people do! But eh,whatever.


    • people who are straight don’t support equality for people who are gay because it makes them “cool, edgy, and hip.” people who are straight support equality for people who are gay because it’s the right thing to do. because we have sisters, brothers, cousins, parents, friends, etc. who are gay, and they are human beings, we love them.


  • I’m not surprised at all about those being her highest demographics on Youtube because her songs are about her and the things she’s going through as a young woman, break ups, and all, but she approaches them, and topics that aren’t the norm for country music, at a different angle than Taylor and Miranda. I don’t think Kacey is trying to be edgy or hip by talking “gay stuff” on her Twitter or writing songs about the downside of small town life. She references marijuana use, she speaks out for gay rights, her songs are about being who you want to be and daring to not conform. I think if you listen to her music (reverbnation, youtube) and follow her Twitter, etc, that it’s obvious that is one hundred percent who Kacey Musgraves genuinely is. “Get a little drunk, get a little loud- Stupid me and my rebel mouth- ain’t all wrong, but I ain’t all right- don’t see the world in black and white” (“John Prine”) is a great example of that. Look at Lady Gaga, she represents the same things and she has millions of fans because people respect her and love her for being herself and because she respects other people for the same reason. I applaud Kacey for not trying to be a conservative, Christian, cookie cutter songwriter writing the same things as so many other female artists do just to play it safe and get radio play. We shouldn’t be taking the focus away from her talent, which she has loads of. She’s a breath of fresh air for mainstream country, isn’t that what we want?


  • Kacey and Miranda have known each other and collaborated on songs since they were teenagers, so their personal connection goes back to when Miranda was on the first Nashville Star and likely even prior to that. Kacey’s vocals used to be much thinner but thankfully she now seems to have a bit more oomph behind them relatively speaking. Kacey did release an indie self-tiled pure country album back in 2007 and her vocal shortcomings were everywhere in evidence but it was still an enjoyable ride. The fact people might now mistake her for Miranda can only be a good thing in today’s Top 40 AirHead Country kingdom.

    Once Kacey moved to Nashville she was exposed to a wide variety of musical styles and her perspectives were broadened considerably. She started experimenting with a bunch of different styles in her songwriting and was all over the map in the songs she posted on her MySpace page. With this single it’s nice to see she hasn’t strayed too far from her roots although a cowgirl yodel here or there would be appreciated!


  • A little too talk-singy, monotony, familiar opening banjo picky for me. Too similar to T.Swift., but if she can actually sing with a little more range and depth, I might give her another listen. They lyrics are creative.


  • blake shelton is related to the musgraves on his mothers side of the family, i think i red about it on a dedication to his brother who passed away sometime ago.


  • The utter feeling you get from this song is depression. The lyrics fit as a perfect contrast to the somewhat bright music. I’m sure I would disagree with Musgraves on 9 out of 10 issues, but there are a lot of good points here. I do think it labels country towns as a whole as like this horrible town in the song (which is really unfair), but in the context of the character in the song it works. The only complaint I have is, instead of slamming judgemental IFBCs, it slams church attendance as a whole by labeling church as a social activity all must attend. For better or worse, most people that are in a church want to be there (aside from minors of course). But overall this song is fantastic.


  • Her songs are never going to please everyone, and it is nice to see she isn’t trying to. People shouldn’t take her lyrics so specifically. She is general about her references to things such as southern towns because she is talking about barriers in her life and putting them in a physical form that others can relate with their own problems. I like that she caused a little controversy, the mark of a true artist. Music is not supposed to be completely unpredictable, that is the whole point of a chorus. And she and Taylor Swift only share a genre, loosely, her music comes from a far deeper place and I can not wait to see what she gives us next.


  • I liked this song the first few dozen times. But Shooter FM in Waco plays it 4-5 times a day, and my boss has Shooter on 5-6 days a week (depending on if it’s my week to work Saturday or not), so after five weeks of working there, I’ve heard this song over 100 times already, and I can’t take it anymore.

    Kind of like “If You’re Gone” by Matchbox 20. I loved it until I heard it twice a night, every night, from the “Muzak” system at a job I ran the graveyard shift at.


  • I like this song. The only thing I don’t like about it is how it portrays going to church. I really wish they would play it more often because I listen to the radio a LOT and I’ve only heard it three times on the radio.


  • I like the song in some ways. However,I know this perspective so well that I’d love to hear a line in the song that points to some hope and possiblilty of resilience and growing up.Sorry, I know that wasn’t what people want to hear. Too much victim mentality keeps you down.


  • A Marilyn Manson quote? Is Trigg secretly a hard rocker as well as a country boy?


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