star-crossed, an adjective meaning thwarted or opposed by the stars, ill-fated. The classic story of star-crossed lovers is that of Juliet and Romeo, two lovers who’re doomed from the start. “For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo.” Kacey Musgraves uses the unfortunate ‘star-crossed’ to name her new 15 track album which explores themes of love or lack thereof as she recalls the story of her divorce. In 2020, it was announced that Musgraves and her husband of three years Ruston Kelly had split, and this album is the follow up of that heartbreak.
In the case of many female artists, re-invention is the norm when it comes to song writing and artistry. Musgraves has highlighted her re-invention in this new album. Kacey is known, primarily, for her fabulous country-pop music. Whilst she hasn’t strayed away from country twang in this album, she has developed a new flavour and method when it comes to her song-making. The mesmerising stories told in the songs on the album are done so through synth and pop but also mixing in the classic Musgraves country – Kacey has created a new sound that is truly iconic.
We open with “Let me set the scene” accompanied by a beautiful harp melody, as if it were taken right out of the modern Shakespeare adaptation: Baz Lehrman’s Romeo and Juliet. The opening of the album is her version of ‘Once upon a time’ as she prepares to walk us through the star-crossed story of her marriage. Musgraves uses angelic imagery to describe the star-crossed meaning behind the album, she sings of doomed lovers who are thwarted by love. As the song builds, synth is introduced adding a futuristic feel to the album whilst also using an acoustic guitar to stick with her previous known style on the ‘Golden Hour’ album.
The second track ‘good wife’ opens with what sounds like a retro voice effect of ‘Let’s go back to the beginning’ as if it had been recorded on a cassette tape. The pleasing aesthetics on the album give it a retro feel which will be popular among many listeners as it is true that retro pieces such as point and shoot cameras as well as camcorders are making a comeback in 2021. The acoustic guitar flows through from the first song into the second track again keeping with the classic Musgraves sound. As we reach the chorus our ears are met with an almost echo voice effect which makes the song seem grander and cosmic. Kacey takes us back in time as she prays to God to help her be a good wife and to meet the expectations of her future partner.
‘Cherry blossom’ is a repetitive tune with an oriental backing which surely is deliberate as the song refers to Tokyo and, of course, cherry blossoms which are synonymous with the Japanese city. Musgraves compares a love spell of hers to that of cherry blossom, the speed at which blossoms bloom in spring and, in turn, how quickly they fall. The shortness of the song ties in with the lyrics and cleverly matches the imagery of quick-changing nature.
the fourth track ‘simple times’ is not necessarily a regretful tale, but it does highlight Musgraves wishing to go back to her life when it was easier, and she didn’t have as many worries when she was a child compared to the things she worries about now as an adult. The music video for the song depicts Musgraves and her friends trashing a wedding store in an almost revengeful rage – perhaps an ode to her marriage. simple times features a contrasting verse and chorus. The verses are slow-paced, the singer sounds detached but the chorus is upbeat and melodic. Just as a marriage has its high points and low points, so too, the song also features highs and lows.
The album, as a whole, is a fantastic way for Musgraves to express the feelings she has surrounding her marriage and divorce. It’s a beautiful note to the gradual collapse of marriage – how it doesn’t happen all at once but now there are moments in one’s marriage that slowly but surely count towards its demise.
One of the most pivotal songs on the album, ‘breadwinner’, really allows us to peek into Musgraves’s life as she shares with us her emotions through the rocky journey of her marriage. It’s true that many women are becoming more career motivated and are making great successes for themselves. One of those women being Musgraves herself. The words used in the song make us think her partner was jealous of her success but was cashing in on all the benefits that came along with it. “He wants a breadwinner/he wants your dinner/ until he ain’t hungry anymore/ He wants your shimmer/ to make him feel bigger/ until he starts feeling insecure.” We understand what she is trying to say here. It’s unfortunate that the hugely successful country singer was matched with someone who didn’t support her endeavours and instead felt threatened.
The albums slower songs such as ‘if this was a movie..’ and ‘camera roll’ are full of imagery and are incredibly relatable to listeners. It is almost guaranteed that most of those out there who have been in a relationship has gone through their old photos at some point to relive the moments of that romance. But as Kacey put it, “chronological order, is nothing but torture.’ At the beginning of the photos, we remember the good moments but the farther you get through the photos the more you remember the reason things ended.
Kacey Musgraves has shown us that the most beautiful stories can come from the ugliest origins. If you’re searching for an album to fall in love with, here’s your answer. You will be transported on a journey that will pull at your heartstrings as Musgraves navigates love and tragedy. The star-crossed album is a must-listen.
Written by Emma Barton