Review: Kacey Musgraves captures aftermath of divorce, hope for the future in fourth studio album

Kacey Musgraves’ fourth studio album paints a journey of marriage, divorce and how to handle the aftermath of both. Through all the difficulties, the sky may have finally opened, and a rainbow is hanging over her head.

Musgraves described star-crossed, her newest effort, as a modern-day Greek tragedy after her recent divorce in 2020. She worked with producers Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk, who were also behind the success of Musgraves’ Golden Hour in 2018, a four-time Grammy-winning project including Album of the Year.

While the latter does not surpass the former in terms of quality, not many people can come close to such a magnum opus, and Musgraves’ newest effort is almost just as brilliant.

If one comes in with the expectations of hearing dark, sad takes on the aftermath of divorce, they will leave disappointed. Musgraves said writing the album was a therapeutic process, so it comes as no surprise that all the songs have a vibrant, melancholy sound despite all the oh-so-cheesy Musgraves’ signature lyrics that cannot mask the pain she experienced.

In Golden Hour, Musgraves was a happy-go-lucky girl who felt deeply in love, singing “Now, you’re lifting me up ‘stead of holding me down / Stealing my heart ‘stead of stealing my crown” and “I was hiding in doubt ‘til you brought me out of my chrysalis / And I came out new all because of you.”

That love no longer exists in Musgraves’ life. She sounds angry in “justified” then carries hints of grief in “good wife,” in which she asks a higher power to give her the ability to be a good partner, even if the feelings are not reciprocated.

Musgraves then questions all the things she could have done if she was an angel in her song “angel,” and as she takes the beautiful yet tragic journey down memory lane in “camera roll,” the love still haunts her even when she admits her relationship is over.

Just like most good divorce albums, Musgraves does not only reflect on the past; she’s found her future. In “what doesn’t kill me,” she puts an end to her journey — singing “I've been to hell and back / Golden hour faded black” — and chooses to run away from the dark in the end.

All the momentum builds up to one of her most daring tracks and one of the many highlights of the album alongside “cherry blossom,” “simple times” and “breadwinner,” “there is a light” is a groovy, bubbly track that climaxes with an explosive, jazzy flute solo.

It’s a moment of brightness, and in spite of everything that has happened to her in the past few years, she has everything to look forward to.

star-crossed is Musgraves’ least country album sonically. She has mastered the crossover to modern, dreamy pop production with disco influences. Musgraves took her listeners on a trip of sadness, anger, grief, doubt, regret but ultimately joy.

When the album ends at the 47-minute mark, she fully convinces her listeners that there’s always hope for what’s to come, something only few talented, mastermind artists can do.

@DangHLe

features-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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