Kacey Musgraves’ new album showcases ups, downs of divorce in limelight


Gracie Watt / Hilltop Views

Kacey Musgraves performing at Austin City Limits in 2019.

After dazzling the world with her singles “star-crossed” and “justified,” country pop star Kacey Musgraves released her fourth studio album “star-crossed on Sept. 10. This album is the second time Musgraves collaborated with producers Ian Fitchuk and Daniel Tashian, known for their work on “Golden Hour.” Fitchuk and Tashian both gained lots of recognition from the academy after the album won Album of the Year and Best Country Album at the 2019 Grammy Awards. 

One of the most ironic things about this new album is that the man who inspired most of the love songs written on “Golden Hour” also inspired the heartbreak seen on “star-crossed.” The album depicts a divorce Musgraves endured with her ex-husband — songwriter Ruston Kelly — and the rollercoaster of emotions attached to it. 

As someone who has never lived through the contexts of a marriage and divorce, it was hard for me to find any relation to the themes throughout the songs. On the other hand, I can’t pass up the beauty of Musgraves’ story-telling in her lyrics and music. 

The album opens with the title track and proceeds to take the listener through an entire journey of loss, longing, self-reflection and acceptance. As the tracks progress, there’s an obvious shift in emotion. Feelings of being missed, betrayal and helplessness grow into feelings of rejuvenation, power and contentment. 

By track 12, which is more than halfway through the album, Musgraves begins to reflect on the divorce and ways it potentially influenced her for the best. The titles of the track alone showcase growth: “keep lookin’ up,” “what doesn’t kill me” and “there is a light.” There is, of course, the closing track, “gracias a la vida,” which translates to “thanks to life” and was written by Violeta Parra and originally covered by Mercedes Sosa

As for critical reception, the album received a 78 out of 100 on the well-known Metacritic scale, and the Rolling Stone gave it 3.5/5 stars. If I had to give it my own personal rating out of 10, I would probably land somewhere between six and seven. I’ve been a massive fan of Musgraves since I was a little girl, and have definitely heard better from her. I’m not saying “star-crossed” is anything but good because I really do think the album contains so much award-winning content. The album is just another stepping stone in her career and shows a growth within new genres and production techniques. 

Musgraves’ ability to experiment with different producers and styles in songwriting is what will continue to make her relevant in the music industry. I admire the way she showed the most vulnerable side ever to her listeners. When an artist is able to take their personal life, incorporate it into a work of art and place it into the hands of consumers with blind faith, you know they are determined to stick around for as long as possible. I look forward to seeing Musgraves grow from here.