It’s time to ratchet up the rhetoric on this Kacey Musgraves girl. Yet again.
Earlier this week she caused quite a buzz (no pun intended) when she played a song called “Follow Your Arrow” at the Ryman Auditorium as part of the week-long Country Radio Seminar in Nashville. The song builds from the subversive, somewhat racy talk (at least for mainstream country) of Kacey’s big hit “Merry Go ‘Round.” The subject matter of “Follow Your Arrow” touches on smoking joints and girls kissing girls, and stimulated a discussion about what would happen if it was released to country radio.
That discussion seems a little presumptive since “Follow Your Arrow” has not been offered as a new single from her upcoming album yet, nor has it been rumored to be. Instead the song has been released for pre-sale ahead of her March 19th album release, meaning her label may be hoping it takes on its own life. But one of the reasons “Follow Your Arrow” is so intriguing to people beyond the song’s content is because it’s just so good.
My main issue is with the song is not the content. It’s that in many ways it’s a very close cousin to “Merry Go ‘Round.” It works very similar. It relies somewhat on the same shock value, and it has some of the same elements of judgmentalism and immaturity. But overall, “Follow Your Arrow” might even be better than “Merry Go ‘Round”–better written, and even more sonically appealing. My second issue would be if it is appropriate for country radio. I’m no prude, I regularly push music with adult content, but not necessarily for the public airwaves. For all of country radio’s awful trappings, at least it offers an alternative to the filth that predominates Top 40 and hip-hop stations, specifically the use of sexually-charged language and pot references as nearly a requirement for airplay on those formats.
One side note about “Follow Your Arrow” is that if Kacey Musgraves gets known as a pot smoking artist, her commercial value could skyrocket. Nothing is better for marketing music than marijuana. Bored, pot smoking suburban boys (the old PS2 pot head demographic) are definitely one of the reasons behind the big commercial success of Eric Church, bolstered by his pot hit “Smoke A Little Smoke.” Pot is also a big player behind the continued cultural relevance of Willie Nelson. If Kacey Musgraves finds herself in this same niche, she could inflict serious commercial damage on American consumers.
But aside from if “Follow Your Arrow” should become a radio single or if we’ll see Kacey Musgraves pot merch at her upcoming concerts, the impact a springboarding of Kacey’s career could have in regards to the opening up of new content, themes, styles, and influences in mainstream country could be down right revolutionary. We tend to want to draw comparisons to country music’s past in moments like this and maybe that’s a little too romantic of a notion, but you can’t help but to build comparisons to Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and Bobby Bare/Tompall Glaser’s “Streets of Baltimore” and how they opened up a completely new direction for country and helped usher in country’s Outlaw era.
Yes, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. And to tell you the truth, I’m just as intrigued by many of the more subtle singer/songwriter offerings from Kacey’s upcoming album as I am “Follow Your Arrow.” But I’d be lying if I said I’m not becoming very engrossed in the idea of Kacey Musgraves getting big, and very big, and doing it with fresh, new, exciting, substantive material that could shake up the current stagnant climate of country radio and the mainstream in general.
All the dominoes seem to be aligned for Kacey: an already-proven hit single, an upcoming album with lots of buzz, a big tour on the way with Kenny Chesney. And what’s even more interesting is that Kacey is doing all of this while circumventing the rookie league of the independent country world, or the minor leagues of Americana, with content that’s really traditionally suited better for those avenues. She has an ACM nomination for Female Vocalist of the Year, and she’s on the fast track to becoming a big country music franchise.
Kacey Musgraves could very well revolutionize country music.