Kacey Musgraves has a new album coming out on June 23rd called Pageant Material, and with all the critical praise lumped on her premier major label effort Same Trailer, Different Park, the new record is fair to call one of the most highly-anticipated of the year, at least amongst country music critics and taste makers who are craving to see an artist like Musgraves make a deep mark for women, songwriters, and music of substance in the mainstream.
Already some plaudits are rolling in for Pageant Material, despite the release being a month away. HITS Daily Double obtained an early copy, and calls it an “album for the ages” while conveying how the subject material of smoking pot, and giving small pokes to conservative values and rural customs (while at the same time cherishing them in her own nostalgic and campy way) is what listeners can expect. Similarly to Same Trailer, Different Park, Musgraves’ Pageant Material was mostly written by Musgraves with Shane McAnally, Luke Laird, Josh Osborne, and Brandy Clark.
Folks hoping for a sea change either sonically or in the subject material should probably not hold their breath. And why not come to the new album with a similar approach to the previous one when it awarded Musgraves two Grammy Awards, as well as Song of the Year and Album of the Year praises? Pageant Material was done in Nashville’s historic Studio ‘A’, and was recorded mostly live. But the same challenges that were presented for Musgraves and Same Trailer, Different Park are already creeping up in the new effort.
Despite your desire to see Musgraves become that artist that can deliver a more traditional sound and intelligent scope to country, desire doesn’t always match execution. Criticism for Musgraves as a “boring” live performer is pretty common. And similar to Same Trailer, Different Park, the roll out of the new album so far has been less than smooth. You start to wonder if Mercury Nashville can figure out what to do with her. Though Pageant Material wasn’t officially announced until May 12th, the info about the release had slowly leaked out of weeks prior, sort of ruining the surprise.
Then there was the release of the first single “Biscuits,” which was pretty underwhelming both critically and commercially. Sent to radio on March 16th, the song stalled outside of the Top 25 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, and couldn’t even crack the Top 40 in radio, despite a sizable push from the label. From an artist with such critical acclaim and award hardware, Musgraves still has yet to have a hit aside from “Merry ‘Go Round,” which couldn’t even crack the Top 10 itself.
The other criticism of “Biscuits” was that it sounded too similar to other Musgraves songs, specifically “Follow Your Arrow.” In a new behind-the-scenes video just released (see below), we not only hear that “Biscuits” was inspired during the “Follow Your Arrow” writing session, we actually see video of the moment. No wonder so many people said they “heard it before” when “Biscuits” was released, and it subsequently didn’t resonate beyond Musgraves’ fan base. And why are we seeing a promotional video for “Biscuits” now after it has already stalled?
Unmistakably, Kacey Musgraves could offer a lot of great hope in country music from the female perspective. But the continued missteps, miscalculations, struggling singles, and general lack of commercial acceptance could continue to limit of impact of what many hope to be one of the country saviors of the current era.