Photo: Adrienne Raquel
Kacey Musgraves' Road To 'Star-Crossed': How The Breakup Album Fits Right Into Her Glowing Catalog
After catapulting to crossover success with 2018's enchanting 'Golden Hour,' Kacey Musgraves aims to have the same impact with her first full breakup album, 'star-crossed'
Three years ago, Kacey Musgraves released Golden Hour, a glittering display of her buttery vocals through what she calls "cosmic country." The whimsical production was a musical representation of the fairytale love she found with fellow country singer Ruston Kelly.
Three years later, Musgraves' script has completely flipped. She and Kelly divorced in September 2020, giving the Texas-born star a new form of inspiration, and one she least expected. The result is star-crossed, a 15-song diary of Musgraves' marriage that she and Kelly said "simply just didn't work." Rightfully so, it's the singer's first full-fledged breakup album. But despite its lovelorn backstory, star-crossed is, at its core, another level of the resilience Musgraves has shown from the start.
Musgraves' 2013 debut set, Same Trailer Different Park, dissected the suffocating mindset of small-town life—a bold move for the native of Golden, Texas, a town of 200 people—in tracks like her breakout single "Merry Go 'Round" while also rejecting societal norms on the cheeky "Follow Your Arrow." Ironically, the impudent songs marked Musgraves' biggest commercial hits to date, landing at No. 10 on Billboard's Country Airplay and Hot Country Songs charts, respectively.
The struggle for commercial success has always been part of Musgraves' narrative, largely in part due to her unabashed honesty. With references to kissing girls and rolling a joint in "Follow Your Arrow," Musgraves immediately declared that she didn't care if she polarized country traditionalists and radio programmers.
But her boundary-pushing approach was clearly resonating with just about everyone else: Same Trailer Different Parkwon Musgraves her first two GRAMMYs and Country Music Awards (as well as her first Academy of Country Music Award), and the album debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart. (What's more, Miranda Lambert's fiery hit "Mama's Broken Heart"—co-written by Musgraves—received GRAMMY, CMA and ACM nominations, and reached No. 2 on both Country Airplay and Hot Country Songs that same year.)
As her star quickly rose, Musgraves' pop sensibilities also gained notice. Not only did her debut set land at No. 2 on the all-genre Billboard 200, but the singer's unique stylings caught the attention of pop superstars Katy Perry and Kelly Clarkson. Perry recruited Musgraves to open the Midwest and Canadian portions of her blockbuster 2014 Prismatic Tour; Clarkson invited Musgraves to perform at a holiday benefit concert she hosted in Nashville later that year.
"She has such an innocent voice, while her lyrics are so clever and smart," Clarkson said of Musgraves in a 2015 SPIN feature. "Her music gives me room to breathe in this rapid-paced world of political nonsense."
Musgraves' doughty commentary continued on her sophomore effort, 2015's Pageant Material, though this time it was aimed at her critics instead of her narrow-minded upbringing: "Good Ol' Boys Club'' was a direct reference to the country radio folks who refused to give her a shot.
She used her trademark turn of phrase to countrify the idiom "Mind your own business" with the twangy single "Biscuits" ("Mind your own biscuits/ And life will be gravy," she quips on the hook), and the playful "Cup of Tea" sees Musgraves acknowledging that her music isn't going to please everyone ("Nobody's everybody's favorite, so you might as well just make it how you please/ 'Cause you can't be everybody's cup of tea").
Naysayers aside, Musgraves' wordplay won the hearts of many in the first few years of her career. But as she began crafting her third record, the singer recognized that she needed a change. "Before, my songwriting hinged more on turning phrases," Musgraves explained to Marie Claire in 2019. "I like that style, but I wasn't using all the colors in the box. This time, I wanted to speak from the heart. It was time to shift gears and feel things and let people in a little bit more. I'm a perfectionist. I had to let go."
She had also let go of any inhibitions she had about love, resulting in a whirlwind romance with Kelly that began in 2016. Three weeks after meeting the crooner, Musgraved wrote the appropriately fluttering "Butterflies," which proclaimed in the pre-chorus, "Out of the blue/ I fell for you." The Golden Hour single teased what was to come with Musgraves' next project, which ushered in a starry-eyed perspective and introduced dreamy production and Auto-Tune into her sonic universe.
While it was evident there was something in the air while Musgraves created Golden Hour, she likely never could've anticipated the kind of impact it had. The album made the trailblazing country starlet a household name, winning the Album of the Year honors at the CMAs, ACMs, and the GRAMMYs. (Musgraves won all four GRAMMYs for which she was nominated for in 2019, including Best Country Album, Best Country Song for "Space Cowboy," and Best Country Solo Performance for "Butterflies.") The set's pop-leaning dynamics also earned her an invite to open for Harry Styleson his highly anticipated 2018 North American arena tour.
Once Golden Hour was declared the GRAMMY Album of the Year—over the likes of Cardi B, Post Malone, Drake, mind you—it felt as though Musgraves had become bigger than a crossover success. She was more like a pop culture phenom, sending social media into a frenzy with her impeccable Moschino Barbie look at the 2019 Met Gala, guest judging on RuPaul's Drag Race, and hosting a star-studded Christmas special that featured Schitt's Creek star Dan Levy, Lana Del Rey, and Camila Cabello, among others. Though a major bar had been set for a Golden Hour follow-up, Musgraves carved a solid path that kept expectations and hopes equally high.
But as she pointed out in one of Golden Hour's only breakup tales, "Space Cowboy," "sunsets fade, and love does too." Before she knew it, Musgraves' life-changing romance was coming to an end, and as she declares in her star-crossed track "What Doesn't Kill Me," "the golden hour faded black." Following a guided psilocybin trip in Nashville at the beginning of 2021, Musgraves explained to Crack magazine that she had a revelation about her situation: "I've been through a f*ing tragedy!"
That sparked the idea of presenting her post-divorce album like a three-part Greek tragedy. The 15-track star-crossedunfolds her relationship's demise, establishes where it went wrong, and looks ahead to new beginnings. Before landing on the tragedy theme, Musgraves admitted she wasn't quite sure she wanted to divulge the issues that ultimately crumbled the magical world she had created with Golden Hour. But once she really thought about it, she knew there was no other way.
"People know me to be a songwriter that writes about what I'm going through, and I think it would've been extremely awkward if I just acted like this chapter didn't happen for me," Musgraves told Apple Music's Zane Lowe. "You saw my highlight reel with Golden Hour, and this is the other side of that. There are beautiful sides of that too.
"I want the chance to transform my trauma into something else, and I want to give myself that opportunity even if it's painful," she added. "It was completely life-changing in so many ways."
It was seemingly creatively stimulating as well. Star-crossed takes the ethereal production of Golden Hour to new heights, experimenting with just how cosmic Musgraves can sound on swirling tracks like "Good Wife" and "If This Was a Movie." Perhaps the latter ignited another lightbulb moment for Musgraves, because star-crossed is, indeed, a movie. A 50-minute film of the same name played for one night only in 25 theaters around the U.S. on Sept. 8, and arrived to Paramount+ as the album hit streaming platforms at midnight on Sept. 10.
Star-crossed: the film is a reminder that Musgraves is an artistic mastermind. It also reassures fans that her playfulness hasn't completely disappeared. Complex manifestations of the tracks are sprinkled with Easter eggs and entertaining performances from the cast, including comedian Megan Stalter and Latin singer-songwriter San Cha. It's a fitting parallel to the balance of the album, which is lyrically dense while sonically mesmerizing.
For example, the title track is soundtracked by flittering Latin-inspired guitar and thumping production as Musgraves starts off the album in poetic form: "Let me set the scene/ Two lovers ripped right at the seams/ They woke up from the perfect dream/ And then the darkness came/ I signed the papers yesterday/ You came and took your things away/ And moved out of the home we made/ And gave you back your name."
While it's obvious why Musgraves delved into heartbreak on star-crossed, a full project of breakup songs shouldn't come as a complete shock to longtime listeners anyway.
No matter how impudent Musgraves has been in her music and in the public eye, her sensitive side hasn't been lost in her audacity. Each of her albums has had its tender moments, like Same Trailer Different Park single "Keep It To Yourself" and Pageant Material closer "Fine." Yes, even the rose-colored Golden Hour featured some melancholy, with the lamenting ballad "Space Cowboy" and the nerve-wracked "Happy & Sad."
Funnily enough, for a woman who has no problem telling anyone off, Musgraves doesn't have any truly scathing breakup tunes in her catalog. The edginess comes in the form of creative phrasing and lighthearted jabs, like Golden Hour's disco-tinged single "High Horse" or Pageant Material's falsetto-laced track "Miserable." "Breadwinner" and "Justified" are about as caustic as Musgraves gets on star-crossed, which is overall more of a diary than a revenge party.
"I'm not a ruthless person," Musgraves told ELLE earlier this year. "I care about other people's feelings," she added, asserting that releasing such a detailed account of her divorce was "kind of scary."
At the same time, the writing process was a "therapeutic outlet" for the singer-songwriter. "I can't help but to write about what I'm going through," she said in her February cover story for Rolling Stone. "I want to honor the huge range of emotion that I've felt over this past year, past six months. I also want to honor the relationship [Ruston and I] had and the love we have for each other. Because it's very real."
One thing that didn't scare Musgraves was the elevated production that Ian Fitchuk and Daniel Tashian (the dream team behind Golden Hour) brought to star-crossed. Combining Musgraves' country-leaning wordcraft and velvety voice with synths and vocoders clearly worked on her previous album, which she told Crack allowed her to accomplish "everything I could have ever dreamed of." With that, "I felt like I didn't really have anything to prove," she said, "and I don't make albums for accolades anyway."
Even if this isn't musically her most country work, Musgraves would argue she's more aligned with the genre than ever. She joked to The New York Times (in classic Kacey fashion), "I wasn't going to be a real country artist without at least one divorce under my belt."
Kacey die-hards will be pleased to know she's feeling butterflies once again, as her new beau, writer Cole Schafer, made things Instagram official with a sweet dedication to Musgraves on her Aug. 21 birthday. "Here's to you making it through thirty-two and here's to you making history in thirty-three," he wrote in the caption of a black-and-white photo montage. He left his star-crossed review in the comments: "that s fs."
Whether or not Schafer is the muse for her next work, Musgraves has hinted that she's at peace with the heartache that resulted in star-crossed—even if it wasn't what she'd envisioned for this next chapter. "I'm in a night period," she contended to Rolling Stone. "But what's great about that is that next is another light period. It will come again."
Photo: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images
Rosalía Announces First Solo North American Tour
El Mal Querer Tour, named after the Spanish pop star's latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances
Rosalía is set to perform at some of the most popular music festivals around the globe, including Primavera Sound in Spain, Lollapalooza (Argentina and Chile) and Coachella, but the Spanish pop star isn't stopping there when she gets to the States. Now, she has announced her first solo North American Tour with a string of dates that will bring her to select cities in the U.S. and Canada.
El Mal Querer Tour, named after her latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances. Then she'll play San Francisco on April 22, New York on April 30 and close out in Toronto on May 2.
"I’m so happy to announce my first solo North American tour dates," the singer tweeted.
Rosalía won Best Alternative Song and Best Fusion/ Urban Interpretation at the 19th Latin GRAMMY Awards in November and has been praised for bringing flamenco to the limelight with her hip-hop and pop beats. During her acceptance speech she gave a special shout-out to female artists who came before her, including Lauryn Hill and Bjork.
Rosalía has been getting some love herself lately, most notably from Alicia Keys, who gave the Spanish star a shout-out during an acceptance speech, and Madonna, who featured her on her Spotify International Women's Day Playlist.
Tickets for the tour go on sale March 22. For more tour dates, visit Rosalía's website.
Walk, Don't Run: 60 Years Of The Ventures Exhibit Will Showcase The Surf-Rock Icons' Impact On Pop Culture
The exhibit, opening Dec. 7, will feature late band member Mel Taylor's Gretsch snare drum, a 1965 Ventures model Mosrite electric guitar, the original 45 rpm of "Walk Don't Run" and more
Influential instrumental rock band The Ventures are getting their own exhibit at the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles that will showcase the band's impact on pop culture since the release of their massive hit "Walk, Don't Run" 60 years ago.
The Rock Hall of Fame inductees and Billboard chart-toppers have become especially iconic in the surf-rock world, known for its reverb-loaded guitar sound, for songs like "Wipeout," "Hawaii Five-O" and "Walk, Don't Run." The Walk, Don't Run: 60 Years Of The Ventures exhibit opening Dec. 7 will feature late band member Mel Taylor's Gretsch snare drum, a 1965 Ventures model Mosrite electric guitar, the original 45 rpm of "Walk Don't Run," a Fender Limited Edition Ventures Signature guitars, rare photos and other items from their career spanning six decades and 250 albums.
“It’s such an honor to have an exhibit dedicated to The Ventures at the GRAMMY Museum and be recognized for our impact on music history,” said Don Wilson, a founding member of the band, in a statement. "I like to think that, because we ‘Venturized’ the music we recorded and played, we made it instantly recognizable as being The Ventures. We continue to do that, even today."
Don Wilson, Gerry McGee, Bob Spalding, and Leon Taylor are current band members. On Jan. 9, Taylor's widow and former Fiona Taylor, Ventures associated musician Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and others will be in conversation with GRAMMY Museum Artistic Director Scott Goldman about the band's journey into becoming the most successful instrumental rock band in history at the Clive Davis Theater.
"The Ventures have inspired generations of musicians during their storied six-decade career, motivating many artists to follow in their footsteps and start their own projects," said Michael Sticka, GRAMMY Museum President. "As a music museum, we aim to shine a light on music education, and we applaud the Ventures for earning their honorary title of 'the band that launched a thousand bands.' Many thanks to the Ventures and their families for letting us feature items from this important era in music history."
The exhibit will run Dec. 7–Aug. 3, 2020 at the GRAMMY Museum.
Photo by Isabel Infantes/PA Images via Getty Images
Alicia Keys Unveils Dates For New Storytelling Series
The artist will take her upcoming 'More Myself: A Journey' biography on a four-city book tour
After performing her powerhouse piano medley at the 62nd Annual GRAMMYs, R&B superstar, GRAMMY-winning artist and former GRAMMY’s host Alicia Keys has revealed that she will set out on a four-stop book tour next month. The storytelling tour will support her forthcoming book More Myself: A Journey, which is slated for a March 31 release via Flatiron Books and is reported to feature stories and music from the book, told and performed by Alicia and her piano, according to a statement.
Part autobiography, part narrative documentary, Keys' title is dubbed in its description as an "intimate, revealing look at one artist’s journey from self-censorship to full expression." You can pre-order the title here.
The book tour will kick off with a March 31 Brooklyn stop at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. From there, Keys will visit Atlanta’s Symphony Hall on April 5 and Chicago’s Thalia Hall with Chicago Ideas the following day, April 6. The short-run will culminate on April 7 in Los Angeles at the Theatre at Ace Hotel.
Pre-sales for the tour are underway and public on-sale will begin on Friday, March 6 at 12 p.m. Eastern Time. Tickets for the intimate dates and full release dates and times are available here.
Keys won her first five career awards at the 44th Annual GRAMMYs in 2002. On the night, she received awards in the Best New Artists, Song of the Year, Best R&B Song, Best R&B Album and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance categories respectively. She has received a total of 29 nominations and 15 GRAMMYs in her career.
This year, Keys will also embark on a world tour in support of Alicia, the artist’s upcoming seventh studio album and the follow up of 2016’s Here, due out March 20 via RCA Records.
Photo: C Brandon/Redferns/Getty Images
Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz & More Join Small Business Live Benefit Livestream
Proceeds from the event will be go toward loans to small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses, via Accion Opportunity Fund
This Saturday, June 20, artists including Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz and more will come together for Small Business Live, a livestream fundraiser event for small businesses facing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Proceeds from the livestream will go to Accion Opportunity Fund to support small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses.
“Entrepreneurs of color are denied credit more often and charged higher rates for money they borrow to fund their businesses. We need to accelerate support to underserved businesses in order to reach our full potential,” Accion Opportunity Fund CEO Luz Urrutia said. “We have to decide what we want our Main Streets to look like when this is over, and we must act decisively to keep small businesses alive and ready to rebuild. This is a fun way to do something really important. Everyone’s support will make a huge difference to small business owners, their families and employees who have been devastated by this pandemic, the recession, and centuries of racism, xenophobia and oppression.”
Tune in for Small Business Live Saturday, June 20 from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. EDT on smallbiz.live. The site also provides a full schedule of programs and links to watch the livestream on all major digital platforms. To learn more about Accion Opportunity Fund, visit the organization's website.