Album Review – Kacey Musgraves – “Star-Crossed”
When Kacey Musgraves spoke to Zane Lowe of Apple Music 1 about Star-Crossed and she said, “There are certain aspects of this record that sound a little bit more country, I guess than ‘Golden Hour’,” and also told Crack Magazine it had “more of a foot in country,” that was all the validation we needed that Star-Crossed wouldn’t be country at all. No, it’s not just due to her previous album Golden Hour barely qualifying as country either. It’s because her quotes were the exact type of pathology that precedes an artist dropping an album that’s exclusively pop.
What we weren’t really prepared for was how Star-Crossed just wouldn’t be that good no matter how you categorize it. And this is a development that doesn’t just have ramifications that will adversely affect the career of Kacey Musgraves specifically. It will affect country music, since once again this is one of the genre’s most important, creative, and commercially viable women moving on, and leaving a void that will be difficult to impossible to fill.
Star-Crossed comes from the aftermath of Kacey’s marriage to fellow performer and songwriter Ruston Kelly. Said to be fashioned to unfold similar to a Greek tragedy in three acts, the album is tragic for sure, but strains to convey any entertainment value or valuable insight from its efforts. Antiseptic feeling and devoid of soul due to the lack of human touch on the instrumentation, and surprisingly lacking any of the creative spark or boundary-pushing were accustomed to from Musgraves, it’s not “bad” as much as it just “is”—not really stirring any emotions, aside from maybe that “dead inside” feeling you experience at the expiration of a relationship.
Star-Crossed was produced by Ian Fitchuk and Daniel Tashian just like Kacey’s last album Golden Hour, but the approach was fundamentally different in that they didn’t start with a band standing in front of mics in a studio, but the duo sitting with Musgraves in front of a laptop and a MIDI controller, work shopping synth and beat ideas out on a screen to Kacey’s lyric sheets. Star-Crossed really feels like a failure of process. It’s not just a pop record. It’s a synthy electronic beat record throughout, devoid of really any organic interfacing aside from small bursts, and even a strong theme of divorce can’t resuscitate the cold, sterile feeling of many of these songs.
Granted, Musgraves does do a good job diagramming the disillusionment of a relationship, including how women often find inferiority in themselves for faults that ultimately lie with their mates, asking “How can I be a better woman, or wife?” when the real problem is they married a black hole who isn’t prepared emotionally for coupling. That said, nobody could be surprised this would be the outcome of a relationship with Ruston Kelley after listen to his music. It is so steeped in the dark and disturbed, it’s like the Faces of Death of Americana.
But instead of commiserating with Kacey Musgraves through her music in a way that makes you either reminisce on a failed relationship or perhaps helps you through a current one by communicating that you’re not alone—shepherding you through the healing process—Star-Crossed is just too literal, too specific, too detailed to have it morph to fit your world. Instead of helping you through the bad times, it just sort of reminds you of them in a way that’s a drag, while the dour approach of the music aids and abets this downer mood.
Any time you bring up a record like this with an artist that is exiting country music, you invariably get the “Oh, you just don’t like it because it’s not country.” But that’s not really what’s being expressed here. Yes, it’s a shame Kacey Musgrves can no longer be counted as a country artist, but irrespective of genre, Star-Crossed is just too dry, and strangely unimaginative to resonate regardless of genre, and you’re seeing this reflected in other reviews and public discussion.
For example, with Golden Hour, the amount of frothing, hyperventilating applause for the effort was outright ludicrous, with numerous outlets literally declaring the record the best of the entire calendar year in March, much of it driven by voices outside of country music who love to celebrate Musgraves as someone helping to subvert what they consider a conservative enclave in popular culture. Conversely, Star-Crossed is receiving something you almost never see in popular music—mixed to even negative reviews, at least outside the US where critics are actually allowed to speak the truth.
The Guardian says, “The bliss of Musgraves’ Grammy-winning ‘Golden Hour’ sours on this follow-up, with a breakup narrative that is a little too tidy.” The Independent says the album, “doesn’t show singer at her sharpest.” Even Rolling Stone despite being complimentary, also called it “mildly disappointing,” which probably puts it best. But most tellingly, you aren’t seeing the flowery think pieces expressing how Kacey Musgraves is saving the entire world with Star-Crossed, they’re just doing what they can to say nice things about an artist they like through clenched teeth.
It’s also not like there aren’t some decent offerings in the 15 tracks. The early singe “Justified” is a fine selection for pop and AAA radio. “There Is A Light” moves a little bit with some inspired flute playing, finally giving this otherwise muted album some vitality at the 15th track position. And not intended as a backhanded compliment, but there’s little that’s truly “bad” on this record when considered it as pop. It’s just not expressive enough to stand out, or hold your attention.
Even when you have a cool moment like the final track “Gracias a la Vida,” Fitchuk and Tashian just can’t help but screw with the vocal signal at the end, making the track descend into a mess, bleeding the soul out of the performance, one set of 1’s and 0’s at a time. Making this album their little sonic experiment by running Musgraves through Autotune filters isn’t “disrupting genre norms in country.” It’s just making this record sound like everything else out there in popular music.
And ultimately, what the release of Star-Crossed means is that once again a woman in country music that has amassed major award show hardware and media attention (aside from radio) is now moving on with the genre having nothing to show for the investment. Yes, country music has a serious concern with supporting and developing female talent. But retention is perhaps the biggest worry, while being more the fault of the artist than the genre.
There have been seven total CMA wins—including New Artist of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Female Vocalist of the Year—and 21 total CMA nominations of Kacey Musgraves over her country career, not to mention four ACM’s and 16 nominations there, and six Grammy Award wins. That is a lot of hardware for an artist that just released a pop record, and may never release a country one again.
Similar to Taylor Swift, as soon as Kacey reached a certain level of achievement, she moved on, and country music has nothing to show for it, aside for the guarantee of more think pieces wondering where all the women in country are. You can’t say Kacey was chased away, irrespective of radio, which she never really tried to court in recent years. 46 nominations and 17 wins over an eight-year span is an incredible commitment from country music.
Golden Hour won the super-fecta of awards—CMA, ACM, and Grammy for Best Album, and the Grammy for all-genre Album of the Year. At the time, it was the strong songs on the album such as “Rainbow” and “Butterflies” that hid an otherwise mild production effort by Ian Fitchuk and Daniel Tashian. Receiving such high praise for the last installment, there was no need to question their approach. There was validation to double down on it, and that is what has resulted in a letdown from Star-Crossed.
And now we must consider Kacey Musgraves a pop artist. And with the performance on Star-Crossed, Kacey Musgraves very well might find herself as a small fish in a very big sea. Some country purists will applaud this development of Musgraves moving on, and profess Kacey was never country. But whether it was the songwriting of her breakout single “Merry Go ‘Round,” or the kitsch of her first couple of records that made country music cool to many, Kacey Musgraves was a critically important artist. But country or not, there’s just not much critically important to Star-Crossed.
September 13, 2021 @ 8:38 am
Been a Kacey Musgraves fan and defender in the past.
This album is hollow, soulless garbage.
September 13, 2021 @ 9:31 am
This is a cotton candy album; there’s nothing there and it ain’t good.
September 13, 2021 @ 12:00 pm
Gee. I guess I like trash because I’ve listened to the album numerous times now and I really like it. I enjoy the sound. I enjoy the songs. And I love all of her albums… and a broad range of music in general. Sure, I’m not sure how to categorize it, but I don’t like my music put into boxes. I’ve listened to plenty of unbearable albums, and this doesn’t qualify as that at all in my opinion. If you wanted something exactly like she’s always made, then I guess I see why you’re disappointed. I, however, tend to celebrate growth and exploration in the artists I enjoy. Especially when it sounds good.
September 13, 2021 @ 1:48 pm
I celebrate growth and exploration of artists as well, Amanda. And I still root for Kacey to put out quality material, whatever genre it may be, because of her talents as a musician and songwriter.
This doesn’t feel like it checks any of those boxes to me. Glad you enjoy it, though.
September 13, 2021 @ 5:26 pm
“As with the breakfast she’s just finished – which involved a very specific kind of rosemary sourdough, an equally specific kind of slow-cultured, grass-fed butter “from this place in Atlanta” and a “pretty fucked-up” Japanese machine that steams bread”
September 13, 2021 @ 7:13 pm
“i also have diamond encrusted faucet handles installed on the sink, that sits next to my “bomb ass” solid gold shitter, and a bidet that sprays evian water on my nether regions after i am done blowin smoke “
September 15, 2021 @ 9:36 pm
its obviously a breakup album so its going to be a downer
October 11, 2021 @ 8:37 pm
This is sooo bad. Her voice sound s bad because the songs are bad. Survey says…… don’t buy.
September 13, 2021 @ 8:39 am
You’re right. First Taylor, now Kacey. Oh well.
Country Charley Crockett's Butter
September 13, 2021 @ 1:43 pm
Hopefully Maren Morris next?
September 13, 2021 @ 3:43 pm
Kelsea Ballerini is definitely next to “officially” go pop. I just wish these artists had gone the pop route in the first place. I can understand artist’s uniqueness or growing, exploring and expanding their sound. But, it’s so disingenuous to drop country for pop the way they’re doing it.
September 13, 2021 @ 5:51 pm
They would have if they could have…the pop world didn’t want them until they started streaming millions…
September 13, 2021 @ 8:52 am
I was hoping you would review this, Trigger, because I knew you would be able to put into words what I couldn’t – and you did that for sure!
If I listen to it as just another pop record, it’s OK. But I can’t get over the bitter disappointment of losing a good country artist to this. I love the lyricism on Star-Crossed…but the production is TERRIBLE. It is sooo overly produced and doesn’t do any favors for her raw vocals. It sanitizes them.
Obviously as a huge fan, I want her to do well so she can keep making music…but I also hope this one flops so that maybe her next album will be a complete reversal.
February 14, 2022 @ 9:51 pm
The relative commercial failure and poor reviews of reputation got Taylor swift pointed back in the right direction. And thankfully the backlash over the Chris Gaines album ensured that the movie never got made
September 13, 2021 @ 8:52 am
This album is just boring. I wanted to skip every song. Nothing stood out as “horrible” it just drug so badly. If I’m thinking to myself “is this song over yet?” 45 seconds into every song, that’s very disappointing. I love Musgraves, her first 3 albums are some of my favorites ever, but I can’t defend this. If you’re going to go pop at least be exciting and sonically interesting. Every song sounds like she’s signing one note the whole time. There’s no vast differences between the songs, they are all so similar and again, boring.
This makes me sad.
September 13, 2021 @ 8:54 am
She always seemed like she was just passing through Country. Even when she was writing decent songs. Glad to see her go. More room for more talented women like Miranda Lambert, Lee Anne Womack, Brandy Clark, and Elizabeth Cook to name but a few,
September 13, 2021 @ 8:57 am
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
September 13, 2021 @ 1:28 pm
Ironically, I just finished reading that last night.
Sir Adam the Great
September 13, 2021 @ 1:34 pm
We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.
September 13, 2021 @ 2:54 pm
All those country music moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain
September 13, 2021 @ 8:58 am
This review is the kind of garbage a, you know, “person like you” would say. It’s not made for you. This boundry expanding, all identity supporting album SLAYS you haters (even if I have not listened to it yet – which I will cuz I gotta support my QWEEEEN).
September 13, 2021 @ 9:43 am
This reply is the type of garbage I knew I’d see. Go enjoy the FGL fan page.
Bill from WI
September 13, 2021 @ 10:16 am
Or was Jake using sarcasm? 🤔
September 13, 2021 @ 11:14 am
He almost had me for a moment lol
September 13, 2021 @ 10:15 am
Stans are scary…
Country Charley Crockett's Butter
September 13, 2021 @ 1:47 pm
The Queen is dead
September 13, 2021 @ 4:36 pm
Anyone not picking up the sarcasm is at the very least a casual fan of this site
September 13, 2021 @ 9:05 am
I listened to it on a 2 hour drive in the mountains knowing full well it was a pop record. Man was I bored. It all sounded the same, the lyrics didn’t say much and the worst part was the complete lack of energy that pop music usually has.
September 13, 2021 @ 9:12 am
I wanted to like this so bad. Pageant Material was, is, and will always be one of my favorite albums of all time, and I enjoyed Golden Hour and Same Trailer as well. But this was just so boring. I mean, the only song that I truly enjoyed was “hookup scene”. The rest…well, nothing was “Fancy Like” horrendous, but damn, was it ever bland and flavorless.
September 13, 2021 @ 9:23 am
I can’t describe how disappointed I am. No matter how you categorize it this album is crap.
September 13, 2021 @ 9:30 am
I love Ruston Kelly’s stuff – surprised it was never covered here. I actually found him via Wheeler Walker Jr. when he released “Dying Star” – so in a round about way, I found him from here.
September 13, 2021 @ 12:41 pm
Big fan of Ruston’s work too. Both Shape and Destroy and Dying Star were great albums, but I think he leans heavier pop/mall punk than country, and it gets him left in the void from an audience perspective.
It’s a shame though because his albums are definitely better than the one covered here.
September 17, 2021 @ 1:25 pm
Mockingbird might be one of my favorite songs ever
September 13, 2021 @ 9:34 am
So Kacey has moved into pop…big deal. With the last record, we knew this was going to be her path. If that sound isn’t your thing, why bother at all?
Opens the door for more deserving country artists to move into her spot.
The new Summer Dean album is country 100% through and through. Summer definitely fills that void. Better too.
September 13, 2021 @ 2:37 pm
playing the hell out of the Summer dean’s record!
September 13, 2021 @ 9:34 am
As a fan of sad, heartbreak, tear-in-your-beer songs, I was hoping for a knock-out record from the recently divorced artist. Unfortunately, it fell flat as printer paper.
September 13, 2021 @ 9:37 am
That song suffocated itself and anyone else listening too long to it. It shows a singer totally detached from the reality of who they are. We’ve been seeing this a lot in country music lately where country is just a detachable fuel cylinder used to propel these folks onto somewhere else. The problem is that often times they end up crashing down without ever entering the atmosphere.
September 13, 2021 @ 9:39 am
I thought heartbreak/divorce would bring greatness. I was wrong. #starcrossed
September 13, 2021 @ 9:43 am
Maybe her Kardashian friends can find her a new husband.
Hang with trash …
September 13, 2021 @ 9:55 am
I honestly don’t even know if it is a pop album. Each song is so slow, lo-fi and boring I don’t know how to categorize it. To be fair, I am judging the “music” not the lyrics. But, I can’t see myself doing a deep on those either. I liked her first two records and saw her in concert back in that era and she was fine. She started losing me on Golden Hour and now she is completely off the radar.
Secret TS fan
September 13, 2021 @ 10:06 am
I’m gonna go ahead and say that Taylor Swift is much better suited to play the music she plays now, rather than the “country” that she faked an accent to while singing prior to the transition to pop music goddess. I have no problem with her new music. Kacey just isn’t on the same path as TS.
September 13, 2021 @ 10:36 am
This is not exactly like the Taylor Swift situation. Taylor Swift was always pop, and decided to end the ruse and outright declare it, and I’ve always had a large level of respect for her for doing that, and being honest with herself and the public. I don’t think Kacey Musgraves is a pop star. You go back and see her when she was young, she was writing and recording little country songs, getting her picture taken next to horses with a cowboy hat on. I think at some point she got re-educated into believing all of that was wrong, and an illusion. But you can’t escape who you are. Kacey is not a pop star. She proves that with this album. She’s out of her element, and her producers should have recognized that, and put a halt to it as opposed to encouraging it.
September 13, 2021 @ 12:42 pm
“I think at some point she got re-educated into believing all of that was wrong, and an illusion.”
Spot on. She’s part of the “woke” crowd, running with the Kardashians, dressing up like a Barbie doll at the Met Gala. I really get the impression that she has bought into the view that country music is just a bastion of backwards thinking white people.
September 13, 2021 @ 1:51 pm
I need to go find it again, but I listened to some podcast a number of years ago where this guy was interviewed, I think he was Kacey’s A&R guy at the time, or some role like that. Involved with developing her career anyway. He said something to the effect of “Kacey imagined herself having an Alison Krauss career. I showed her she can be a Katy Perry”, and being real proud of that. Ever since I’ve wondered if she’s been led down this path that isn’t really her.
No way to know of course. It just seems like she’s getting further and further from the relatable storytelling and witty writing that she’s so damn good at.
September 14, 2021 @ 1:58 pm
As bad as this album is, I hope it’s her own doing, and not something she felt she had to do for a label or producer.
October 25, 2021 @ 9:44 am
September 13, 2021 @ 10:19 am
The “emo white teen girl/twentysomething” trend is hot right now in pop music. Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo, Tate McCrae etc. They’re starting to become a dime a dozen. Sad to see Kacey become one of the dozen.
September 13, 2021 @ 11:16 am
Chris, you are spot on. Call it the Billie Eilish effect. Pop stars copy each other like parrots. I disdain Pop music. But morbid curiosity made me give Eilish a cursory listen, just to try and understand what teens are into. I found zero redeeming value in it. Mindless, souless crap made on a laptop. Could not hear any talent at all. This Kacey album appears to be an attempt to ape that sound. Putting it into perspective, part of the Billie Eilish schtick is shes a kid, singing these weirdo little emo tween resonating anthems. Kacey Musgraves is a grown woman with a different audience. Why on earth do you wanna copy that drivel? I think we all know the answer. Of course, im one of those Trig mentioned, that never felt she was country to begin with. And whats with the lip injections in the photo? Hideous.
September 13, 2021 @ 10:51 pm
The only one who does that genre well is Phoebe Bridgers. She’s killing it in the songwriting department IMHO.
September 13, 2021 @ 10:20 am
Kacy was great and now she isn’t, which I believe sums up my position.
It’s over to the teenage mutant ninja pop tots to appreciate this latest offering and of course the ‘radical’ music journos that think she’s still a country artist
September 14, 2021 @ 12:25 am
“wanna see my smilin face
On the cover of the Rollin’ stone”
September 13, 2021 @ 10:45 am
I wonder if Kacey will make a Taylor-like move and release an all-acoustic, no Auto-Anything version of these same songs. I think it’s 50-50 that album is already on deck and will release when the tour starts.
September 13, 2021 @ 10:53 am
Part of me was hoping you wouldn’t review this. Knowing her songwriting skill, this album is abysmal. Having heard this album in full and only part of Carly Pearce, I think it’s safe to assume Carly will have the better album of the 2 ladies. Let’s see if the media acknowledges that.
September 13, 2021 @ 1:05 pm
I am so psyched for the new Carly Pearce album. Dear Miss Loretta, Next Girl, Liability, and Messy are fantastic, and 29 stands as my song of the year thus far, and I don’t see anything beating it for my song of the year. 29 resonated with me beyond a shadow of a doubt because I went through something very similar at 22. I highly believe Carly will definitely have the superior album for sure.
September 13, 2021 @ 10:57 am
‘…nobody could be surprised this would be the outcome of a relationship with Ruston Kelley after listen to his music…’
am I an asshole if i laughed at this? that said, Dying Star has been one of my favorite albums since it came out.. havent really gotten into his new one yet.
I liked Kacey’s first couple of albums quite a bit and was pretty excited when i heard this album was about her divorce (i know, i know: asshole)… thats a shame.
September 13, 2021 @ 10:58 am
No disrespect, but I honestly don’t understand why this album was even reviewed here. It should be completely ignored by any legitimate country music outlet. And to say that Musgraves is “one of the genre’s most important, creative, and commercially viable women” seems pretty ludicrous after her last two albums.
September 13, 2021 @ 11:07 am
Correction: My reading comprehension is poor at best regarding the genre comment, but I still don’t understand wasting bandwidth on reviewing the album. She’s not country anymore and she’s not a viable pop star. She’s going to have a hard time moving forward.
September 13, 2021 @ 1:05 pm
It was reviewed because she is/was a country singer/songwriter. If her next album is more like this, I could see your point about it not being reviewed here, but THIS is the point of disembarkation.
September 13, 2021 @ 12:50 pm
1) As I explained in the 1st paragraph, Kacey Musgraves was quoted twice in the press saying this album was more country than her last one. Though I took this as a red herring, the fact that she said the album would be more country, and that she won the CMA, ACM, and Grammy Album of the Year the last time she released a record, I felt obligated to at least listen, and do so with an open mind and heart. At that point, the bandwidth had already been committed.
2) This album not being country holds some very big implications for country music itself. It means an artist that has been considered at the very top of female performers is no longer part of the genre. Since country music is constantly being hounded for not being representative enough of women, I felt it was important to point out one of the reasons why this is. I agree that country music does need to do more to support women within the genre. But when country does support women like they did with Musgraves by giving her tons of press and awards, only to have her turn around and release a purely pop record, it puts country music in a bad position. This was important to point out.
September 13, 2021 @ 12:57 pm
All fair points.
September 13, 2021 @ 11:22 am
never cared enough about her to hate her. liked a few songs well enough, but she was always just a “meh” artist for me. At the same time, I knew there was something about her that seemed phony. almost like a novelty. Like a drag queen that really passes for a woman until she takes her wig off. I’m afraid this was the real Kasey under all of those silly cowgirl costumes and songs about pulling her trailer around.
September 13, 2021 @ 11:23 am
Why do you hate America?
September 13, 2021 @ 11:27 am
I had my expectations tempered to begin with – as much as I’d loved her past albums, her saying in interviews this would be a concept album of sorts chronicling a failing relationship, I felt it might fail like many poorly done concept albums do, with thin songs slapped together to further the narrative. But even in those cases, you usually get one or two really strong songs to help move it along but every track on here is just meh. My wife and I were spinning it last night for the first time and it’s fine for background music, but it can’t really stand on it’s own.
Country Charley Crockett's Butter
September 13, 2021 @ 11:32 am
I bet it will win Country Album of the Year
September 13, 2021 @ 11:59 am
LSD makes SOME people more creative… but not you Kacey.
September 13, 2021 @ 3:27 pm
Using drugs to market your music is so late 90’s. I question that move by Kacey just as much as this album.
September 13, 2021 @ 11:59 am
And the Country Music HOF recently gave her a huge display which really surprised me. I didn’t know who she was and figured she was really important. Guess I was wrong.
Too bad it took space from other worthy Country Music artists.
September 13, 2021 @ 12:08 pm
I saw Kacey Musgraves with 1,000 other people on her Pageant Material tour. It was an amazing show, and before she played Merry Go Round she got really emotional with the crowd about how radio won’t play her music. People could debate why Pageant Material failed on radio for days and weeks. Was it the singles? Did radio hate her stand on social issues. Whatever it was, she sang and wrote country music, but country radio didn’t have any interest in pushing her music. Notice, I didn’t say playing her music. I said pushing. If I take a 30 minute car ride on any day at any time of day, I will hear FGL if I’m listening to country music, FGL played my town two years ago and sold 8k tickets. Kacey just sold the arena out. Don’t tell me that people didn’t want to hear her music.
What’s interesting is I’m not sure Kacey is a good pop writer. I think she’s a country writer at heart and most of the themes on this album would fit better with a country producer and a Nashville studio. I know it’s unlikely, but I would love this album to get a remix with a country producer. Go back to Luke Laird and give him a chance with this material.
I’m still a Kacey fan. Everyone is entitled to a bad album. All of the greats have them on their resume. My concern is that if Kacey tries to remain in the pop genre she will eventually fail because she’s a country singer at heart – much like when Lee Ann Womack tried 20 years ago. Maybe she will follow Lee Ann’s path and put this album behind her and go back to country and release and album like Womack’s comeback “There’s More Where That Came From”
Pop music is all about making the most of a night and finding perfect love. That might be newlywed Kacey and she might have struck lightning in a bottle. But at her core, Kacey is still the country singer-songwriter.
September 15, 2021 @ 6:13 am
I agree 100% with what you wrote.
The Ghost Of OlaR...
September 13, 2021 @ 12:11 pm
What an annoying voice she has on every track…
Country music will survive with or without you…i’m not so sure about your career…but don’t let the door hit you on your way out Kacey.
September 13, 2021 @ 12:34 pm
This album will have no impact on the country genre, simply becasue it isn’t country. I view it as a pure pop release that is divorced from hte country genre. I cannot say how this album is through the lens of pop, simply becasue I won’t be listening to make an opinion. If the sample track above is represetative, it would appear that this isn’t even a good pop record. But to each his/her own.
September 13, 2021 @ 12:38 pm
I enjoyed her first 2 big label albums. I thought Golden Hour was an unworthy winner of many awards. It had a couple of good songs and was an ok pop album but for me a downward move for her. This is further downwards. A bit samey. Rather insipid and bland. Disappointing.
September 13, 2021 @ 12:51 pm
When the title track itself is basically over before it starts, it is a bad sign. This album sounds like a product of her transcendental phase she rattled on about to Rolling Stone earlier in the year (https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/kacey-musgraves-new-album-grammy-psychedelics-1125201/). When artists go full sail into “concept albums” based on their recent life experiences, the songs are usually too specific to the artist’s situation for the general listening audience to connect to them (there’s a reason Tammy Wynette’s “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” is still remembered, referenced, and played to this day while this whole album will be forgotten). If there is one silver lining for Kacey, though, it is that the title track does have a bit of a modern Broadway feel to it, and if she feels compelled to more story-driven writing in the future, she may could find some unexpected success on the Broadway scene.
September 13, 2021 @ 1:23 pm
“Same Trailer” was a breath of fresh air when it came out. “Pageant Material” was almost as good. But with all the accolades that “Golden Hour” got, I thought I was missing something — I thought it wasn’t nearly as good as the first two. I went into this one prepared to be disappointed and it met my expectations — everything (including all the song titles having all lower case letters) just seemed wrong. Yeah, the writing is pretty decent. But country? No. (BTW, Apple Music is listing this as a country album; Dori Freeman’s new album is under the “singer/songwriter” genre). Can I find a bright spot on this album? Well, the disco beat in one song near the end brought back some memories from college….
Country Charley Crockett's Butter
September 13, 2021 @ 1:42 pm
No sympathy for her. Just because radio didn’t play her, didn’t mean she had to abandon the genre.
There’s so many indies and traditionalists that put their whole heart into country music, with little to no return at country radio.
Good riddance, Miss Musgraves.
September 13, 2021 @ 1:55 pm
For anyone interested, there’s a good interview, regardless of your opinion of her in general or the new album specifically, in The Guardian.
“‘I knew I was pushing buttons’: Kacey Musgraves on divorce, mushrooms and taking on the good ol’ boys’ club | Kacey Musgraves | The Guardian” https://www.theguardian.com/music/2021/sep/11/kacey-musgraves-nashville-country-music-interview-divorce-mushrooms
September 13, 2021 @ 3:03 pm
Yass! Pushing buttons, taking on the man, and like, tripping out man. The brave originality I I didn’t know I needed….in 2021. I’m sure the movie will be just as edgy and subversive as the music video. I’m here for it.
September 13, 2021 @ 3:10 pm
Regardless of your Musgraves opinion, it’s a quality interview. I enjoy well done interviews, regardless of my feelings on the interviewee. It the interviewer that makes an interview worth reading or listening to. Thank you for your reply. I thought someone might enjoy reading it.
September 13, 2021 @ 2:06 pm
Unpopular take… This album really isn’t bad.
Is it country? No.
Is it yet another artist doing their version of a Lana Del Ray album? Yes.
Once you move past those issues, you’re left with a slightly above average pop album.
There’s nothing earth shattering here, sonically or stylistically. But I don’t think it’s a 3.5, and I don’t think it’s “soulless” by any means. It’s a nostalgic memoir that’s easy on the ears, and probably best enjoyed with 20mg of THC edibles – because that’s probably how it was composed.
I give her props on the attempt, but I think her biggest problem is that the material is going to make for a boring live show.
Nonetheless, I do think this album is better than some that have been well received here.
September 13, 2021 @ 3:36 pm
Riddy Arman’s album tho??? Country as country can get.
September 13, 2021 @ 4:23 pm
The worst thing is Kacey is not sincere about the pain of her breakup. In a YouTube interview from years ago, she admitted that she stayed in a previous relationship just so she could squeeze a few more song ideas out of it before she left. And the lyric in an earlier song, something like “maybe I love you, maybe I’m just having fun” gives us the same insight. Honestly, I think the marriage was for the same reason. She admits that songwriting is her main purpose in life, certainly more than any single person could mean. Please understand that I was a Big Kacey fan, and saw her last tour in six cities! Each album before this one was brilliant in its own way. But I never really trusted her as a person. Star-Crossed is weak for the reasons you smartly explain, plus, for me, it represents a culmination of emotional inauthenticity. I certainly won’t be seeing any of the shows on the new tour.
September 13, 2021 @ 4:36 pm
She didn’t have any “stank” to put on this album, so it’s like mac and cheese with no salt and pepper.
Rush B. Ded
September 13, 2021 @ 5:08 pm
Trigger has zero credibility. A failed journalist (no one would hire him) who embraces a misogynist/homophobic/racist worldview as a way of catering to the like-minded yahoos who are his main audience. In his world, if a record isn’t backward-thinking then it ain’t country. Believe me when I say the artist community gets a hearty chuckle over his little bedroom blog.
September 13, 2021 @ 5:23 pm
Just as we all get a hearty chuckle over your fake dumbass fronting.
September 13, 2021 @ 5:28 pm
Thinking back on all the artists I’ve seen reference this site, or even comment on it….they must have been breaking rank with the spokesperson of the artist community here.
September 13, 2021 @ 5:29 pm
You’re putting a lot of time & emotion into someone who has “zero credibility.”
On this site, most of us do our own thinking.
Tell us, are you getting paid to be a stan?
That the “artist” community follows this site is a compliment to it.
September 13, 2021 @ 6:00 pm
Jason Isbell is that you!!
September 14, 2021 @ 8:57 pm
Marissa or Lorie more like it
October 25, 2021 @ 6:01 am
So much bigotry in that short post. You are the most glaring bigot on this site.
September 13, 2021 @ 5:20 pm
change a few words in the lyrics and it could be the opening song for a James Bond movie……eh?
September 13, 2021 @ 7:20 pm
Better than a Klonopin to sleep.
September 13, 2021 @ 7:28 pm
Well at least we do not have to worry about that happening to Dolly and Loretta. I wish if they go that route, they do a pop album. And then a country album.
September 13, 2021 @ 7:29 pm
It’s her art. Music is art. Hard to criticize that.
Yes, it’s different
Do I love this one? No.
But it’s her art. No matter what I will applaud her effort
North Woods Country
September 14, 2021 @ 11:34 am
That’s a pretty low bar to set.
Wilson Pick It
September 13, 2021 @ 9:36 pm
I liked Golden Hour, but I’m definitely on team thumbs down 👎 for this one.
The hipsters over at Pitchfork are at least pretending to like it, though, if anyone wants to read a positive review. I’m often at odds with their reviews, not sure why I even read it anymore but I do sometimes.
September 13, 2021 @ 9:59 pm
i was all over golden hour from the get-go …as I’ve been with KM’s other records .
what i’ve listened to from star-crossed just seems a natural progression from golden hour sonically BUT with far weaker material to work with ….and too many tracks . i don’t think golden hour was her finest hour lyrically but this one my be her worst hour in that respect and certainly has a sameness to it ” musically” from top to bottom .
her teenage girl fans and their moms are going to LOVE it .
September 14, 2021 @ 12:54 am
This album and ashley monroes last pop album are 2 of the years biggest anti climax music releases for me.
September 14, 2021 @ 1:42 pm
at least ash is gonna redeem herself with an annies album this fall.
September 14, 2021 @ 5:16 am
I wasn’t going to read this article because I’ve never had any interest in Musgraves’ career, but I saw your article bring shared and discussed on Easy Ed’s page. Great work!
September 14, 2021 @ 7:07 am
I used to be a KM fan but she lost me with Golden Hour. Seeing this review it seems I’ll never be going back.. Pageant Material and Trailer Park still in my rotation though.
September 14, 2021 @ 8:00 am
She’s trying to be just as boring and derivative as Lana Del Rey. But people think she is a genius so I’m sure they’ll do the same for Kacey. Think I’ll listen through Pageant Material again to wash the taste out.
September 14, 2021 @ 3:12 pm
Honestly, it’s hard to believe that this is the same person who released Pageant Material, arguably the most country album put out by the mainstream in 2015. Excellent songwriting and production all the way around. Same Trailer was good, Pageant Material was a masterpiece, Golden Hour was okay, but Star-Crossed…is an utter disappointment.
September 14, 2021 @ 8:23 am
I just want to know who gave her the facial on the album cover?
Rose of Nowhere
September 18, 2021 @ 9:38 am
Wow, very original!! A pervy comment about the album art! Saving country music, over here!
North Woods Country
September 14, 2021 @ 10:57 am
I’m honestly hesitant to listen to this record. Not because it’s a pop album, but because it’s a divorce album. Is there self-awareness displayed in the songs on this record? Not because I believe either Musgraces or Kelly was right or wrong, but because that’s the only fruitful way forward. Our modern culture is prone to finger pointing before personal growth. It’s probably not fair to cast Kacey (or Kelly if he releases a similar record) under that umbrella, but I’m just flat out going to give some real thought as to whether or not I want to listen to this album. If there’s a large amount of finger-pointing, I’ll pass. Anybody willing to enlighten me a bit?
September 14, 2021 @ 12:09 pm
September 14, 2021 @ 1:34 pm
I’m going to respect this is a country music website. Also totally get the thing with some artists going pop. That being said I think Trigger described exactly why this album is so great! Tragedy, devoid of soul, lack of human touch, just is. Perhaps I can relate too much as I’m going through a divorce but damn if this didn’t help hurt and heal me. Those descriptions are the art here, how a divorce feels. Trigger’s paragraph below so I’m not paraphrasing him too much 😉
“Star-Crossed comes from the aftermath of Kacey’s marriage to fellow performer and songwriter Ruston Kelly. Said to be fashioned to unfold similar to a Greek tragedy in three acts, the album is tragic for sure, but strains to convey any entertainment value or valuable insight from its efforts. Antiseptic feeling and devoid of soul due to the lack of human touch on the instrumentation, and surprisingly lacking any of the creative spark or boundary-pushing were accustomed to from Musgraves, it’s not “bad” as much as it just “is”—not really stirring any emotions, aside from maybe that “dead inside” feeling you experience at the expiration of a relationship”.
September 14, 2021 @ 2:09 pm
She really dooded the juanita
September 16, 2021 @ 8:14 am
I love this comment!
September 15, 2021 @ 5:44 am
I feel like I can’t judge this album, as I haven’t listened to it enough, but it isn’t grabbing me like Golden Hour did.
That said there are a couple songs that did stand out upon first listen: “Camera Roll” and “Keep Lookin’ Up”.
September 15, 2021 @ 6:23 am
“Yes, country music has a serious concern with supporting and developing female talent. But retention is perhaps the biggest worry, while being more the fault of the artist than the genre.”
The quote above is so cringe. As if the problem is they arent picking subservient enough artists who, given enough awards, will be happy to hang around to be the “tomatoes in the salad” after 8 years! The genre is a mess. Why do some great country artists have to survive in spite of radio? Many are, but why should they have to? Why are many amazing artists, “country” by any stretch, boxed into americana?
No problem with the album review after all its one guys opinion and you know, elbows, a-holes and opinions.
September 15, 2021 @ 4:10 pm
I totally love Kacey Musgraves, but so far I like this but am not blown away like I was with Golden Hour.
It’s the kind of chill moody thing you want to be listening to when sitting in your backyard at night. Like Ella Mai, H.E.R., Ariana Grande’s Sweetener album, etc.
It might grow on me, idk.
September 15, 2021 @ 4:44 pm
I remember way back in the late 80’s & 90’s when there were some Country Music artists that radio wouldn’t play. Lyle Lovett & kd Lang. These two went on and released great albums and won a sh*t ton of Grammy awards for Best Country. They pretty much was forced to go Pop. Listening to them now, they are Old Country😂. I guess she had to branch out and do what she had to do. Try a different genre. Hell Kacey was on the M-TV awards the other night. Kudos for the art of her music. I won’t be buying it. Maybe in 30 years when I am looking for Old Country.
September 16, 2021 @ 12:05 pm
That song pretty much sucks.
September 16, 2021 @ 12:10 pm
The music video for her latest song tells you all you need to know.
She was never that great to begin with. She made an entire career based off one edgy line in a boring song and the media ran with it.
Let’s face it. She never loved country music or its character. Like so many small town mavericks, she thought country/small towns were too restricting because they dared to have standards for behavior. Go have fun in the urban genres where chasing evaporation is the goal.
September 16, 2021 @ 4:48 pm
Speaking of female country artists going pop…
Don’t care about Kasey. Her cool girl wink wink I’m better than them schtick wore on me pretty quick.
But Ashley Monroe, to me the greatest singer songwriter in country since Dolly, gender be damned, to not acknowledge her medical problems is really screwed up if you ask me, and compelled me to comment for the first time after years of daily page views.
I don’t want to seem judgey, because that’s not my intention at all. And it’s not my intention to point out that guys like Sturgill get a pass for the same thing.
My point is that Ashley is like a rose.
September 18, 2021 @ 8:48 am
I love Kacey. Have enjoyed every single one of her albums that she has put out.
Yes, this is not “Golden Hour”. But it’s not supposed to be.
I appreciate an artist who wants to experiment, and not be put in a box like all of the other country artists (and she’s not even country) out there now on boring iHeart and Froggy stations.
This album requires multiple listens. She is an artist, not a machine.
Screw all of you who think otherwise. You must be Trumpers.
September 20, 2021 @ 1:28 pm
It was Kacey Musgraves that brought me back to country music (I was tiring of US country radio – I’m from the UK). Really enjoyed all her music up to now but, sadly, this feels like a contractual obligation album. There are a few moments of interest – but mostly it’s curiously empty stuff – with much over production. Kacey has turned out quality songs with remarkably consistency – she must realise this is weak (?).
To be fair this is the lockdown / divorce album – so the headache after the Golden Hour party, perhaps. It’s uninspired, directionless and a bit of a mess, but maybe that’s the place she was in when she made it? I hope that’s all this is. I will never give up on her, and hope for better new material in the future. Still love her voice. This one isn’t for me though.
September 20, 2021 @ 1:46 pm
Weak electronic beats, synth washes, stoned out female vocals … this is the kind of sub-Dido dross everyone who had to sit through late 90s romantic drama trailers hoped they would never have to hear again. And I say that as a fan!
September 22, 2021 @ 9:47 am
She wants to be Dolly Parton in the worst way…and the good news for her is that this definitely is Dolly Parton in the worst way.
October 2, 2021 @ 1:39 am
I’ve read varying reviews on this album, and I have varying opinions myself. But this article has so much bias and underhand shade in it that I cannot take it seriously at all. It’s blatantly clear the author has never liked Musgraves. The passive aggressiveness here is just appalling journalism.
October 2, 2021 @ 7:13 am
Never liked Musgraves? I gave her debut single a perfect score.
October 2, 2021 @ 7:33 am
It’s just not your usually high standard of reviewing in my opinion, sorry I didn’t want to offend and I was a bit stern there. I just felt a really bitter undertone to it somehow. I’m as sad as anyone else she didn’t go a bit more traditional Country on this record, it’s still more country than people like Marren Morris, who still seems to scoop every female country award going and resembles absolutely nothing like country at all, and even pushing being called pop. I’d definitely say Kacey was still country at heart, she’s young and experimental with the genre. File it under Alternate or progressive country I suppose. My tone was particularly harsh there, I apologise. From one writer and creator to another, I hope I didn’t offend.
October 2, 2021 @ 8:13 am
I’ve always advocated for Kacey Musagraves as a bright spot in the mainstream, and often to the ire of traditionalists. Her songs are a bit smarter, and her sound a bit more country. But she got away from what makes her so important in the country mainstream on this album, and maybe I am a little jilted. But I felt like I did my best to convey my honest opinions here, and to be fair. Still though, it’s my opinion, and I respect everyone else’s.
November 6, 2021 @ 11:26 pm
Kacey may have been pressured to monetize her brief marriage and subsequent divorce before people lost what little interest they had. This may have resulted in a quickie cash in album that kacey was not ready to make. Maybe she really needed to lay low and heal. This may have pushed her into an area her art was too limited to express. It smacks of hubris to assume that people were all that invested in kaceys personal life to start with. Rosanne cash she isn’t I’m pulling for kacey. This album will soon be forgotten and kacey will rebound but there’s something to be said for doing what you do and doing it well. This reminds me of Taylor swift and the ill considered reputation album. She felt the need to monetize every petty grevience will ill fitting trendy production, assumed people cared, and wound up with a mess. Thankfully she took a step back and rebounded. Kacey can too
October 3, 2022 @ 10:40 am
Shame rosanne didn’t get married and divorced more often. She sure gave us good music
February 3, 2023 @ 10:38 am
Rodney Crowell also rushed out a break up album back in the day that he admits was a mixed bag. That ended his string of number #1’s
November 7, 2021 @ 9:12 am
She admits in her lyrics that she and Ruston were uncomfortable with her level of success compared to his. She may have devalued herself in order to come down to his level At least she realized early on that this wasn’t working. At least they didn’t go full on Whitney and Bobby
November 25, 2021 @ 9:18 pm
This reminds me of the time Bruce Springsteen assumed we all cared about his brief marriage with not one but two albums. He needed time to get his head together too. Divorce isn’t something we do every day so he felt compelled to monetize it as soon as possible. They were quickly forgotten too
October 11, 2022 @ 4:53 pm
Kaceys monetizing her brief marriage has now lasted longer than the marriage itself. She is starting to remind me of my husband who spent more time saving up for a broken television than he did watching it