Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow, but Kacey Musgraves Finds Peace on 'star-crossed'
Published Sep 09, 2021Kacey Musgraves officially ushers in sad girl fall with the release of star-crossed, her highly anticipated follow-up to the critical success of 2018's Golden Hour. Since receiving the Album of the Year at the Grammys, Musgraves has balanced her burgeoning celebrity with the personal pains of going through a divorce. The result is star-crossed, billed as a "modern tragedy" in three parts, which sees Musgraves explore the many emotions of the past few years while charting her path to healing.
The album opens with an ethereal interlude that sets the scene of two lovers "ripped right at the seams"⏤ and it doesn't take long to realize that this is going to be a very different kind of Kacey Musgraves album; this is a metamorphoses, an ascension, a dawning of a new day. The innocence of Same Trailer Different Park seems like a long forgotten era, as Musgraves leans more into the genre-bending aesthetics that propelled her to new heights in 2018. Inspired by everything from Sade to the Eagles, Musgraves drifts further from her country roots to the pop side of the moon. However the transition is seamless, given Musgraves' commitment to her vision and authenticity.
The ballad-heavy album was whittled down from dozens of songs to the final 15 following a guided mushroom trip in Nashville, TN. The trip helped Musgraves to envision how to transform her trauma, and the concept for star-crossed revealed itself shortly thereafter. Much like a Shakespearian tragedy, the album is divided into sections that detail the exposition, climax, downfall and resolution of Musgraves' love story.
Among the most salient messages is a line sung on "justified," as she croons that "healing doesn't happen in a straight line." The catchy breakup song reaffirms the narrator's mixed emotions and reclaims her agency following the breakdown of a relationship. Across the album, Musgraves is able to capture the non-linear journey of love's many expectations and realities ("good wife," "breadwinner," "if this was a movie...") as she tries to make sense of her past.
While Musgraves' songwriting often walks a fine line between insightful epitaphs and trite cliches ("There is a light inside of me," she sings), she more often than not succeeds in finding a way to convey her truth with laser-like clarity. "camera roll" offers up one of the more moving accounts of torturously revisiting old photos, in much the same way that "hookup scene" captures the stark loneliness of new beginnings. Though these moments of intense sadness permeate the majority of the album, the final few songs do point to brighter horizons ("keep looking up," "what doesn't kill me," "there is a light"). Hope and healing find a way.
The subdued star-crossed is unlikely to garner the same commercial success as Golden Hour. It isn't carried by standout singles or big beats, but the album isn't seeking that kind of external validation. It stands alone in its vulnerability. At its core, the album reaffirms the simple truth, for better or worse, that "it ain't easy to love someone." Musgraves has never been afraid to take risks, explore new sounds and continue to evolve as an artist. Her latest release isn't a cry for attention, but a call-in to sit with her grief ⏤ our collective grief ⏤ and mourn the loss of something real. (UMG Nashville/Interscope)