Kacey Musgraves navigates divorce on fifth studio album ‘Star-Crossed’

When pop-country superstar Kacey Musgraves announced her fifth studio album “Star-Crossed” in August, teasers and film trailers suggested a project engulfed with high drama, revenge and anger.

Ironically, the album is nothing of the sort.

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“Star-Crossed,” released Sept. 10 by MCA Nashville and Interscope Records, was described by Musgraves as a personal journey of healing and heartache in the aftermath of her divorce from fellow country musician Ruston Kelly. She noted it serves as a “tragedy in three parts,” birthed through a life-changing experience with psychedelic mushrooms.

The fifteen-track record is coupled with an accompanying film available exclusively on Paramount+, starring A-listers such as Schitt’s Creek’s Eugene Levy, pop-rap songstress Princess Nokia and RuPaul’s Drag Race season 13 winner Symone.

“Golden Hour,” Musgraves’ previous album, shattered records and snatched four Grammy Awards in 2019, including the coveted Album of the Year. While “Golden Hour” served as a celebration of marriage, “Star-Crossed” navigates the shattering of one.

Part of what fans admire about Musgraves is her genre-bending ability to combine elements of electric guitar, disco, ballads, folk and psychedelic pop while retaining the country roots of her prior work. “Star-Crossed” takes this to the next level, adding a Latin flare into the mix on deep cuts such as “gracias a la vida.”

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The project launched with the lead single and title track “star-crossed.” A simple, dazzling intro performed over guitar strings, her award-winning voice shines as the center of focus. The track additionally serves as an intro to the subject matter of the album, detailing the tale of “two lovers ripped right at the seams.”

The second track “good wife” leaps into the mind of Musgraves, who is yearning to impress her husband. She makes a testament to the small things in a relationship as she sings about “bringing him coffee in bed and listening to his problems.”

Songs like “simple Times” and “if this was a movie” remind listeners of why Musgraves is so acclaimed; there is something about her songwriting that both pulls on your heartstrings and makes you smile.

The second single from “Star-Crossed,” “justified” denotes her frustration with mourning a marriage. Musgraves is self-aware, holding herself accountable for the downfall as well. “If I need just a little more time to deal with the fact that I should have treated you right, I’m more than just a little justified,” she croons.

Standout track “breadwinner” faintly echoes the sonics of “Golden Hour” single “High Horse,” in both the lyrics and the Dolly Parton-reminiscent country-pop beat. It is a zinger of a track, detailing the story of a man who wants to live off a female breadwinner.

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The second half of the project is filled with an array of mellow, grief-stricken songs like “camera roll” and “hookup scene” that remind us how much pain Musgraves endured during this divorce. Her country twang is as fitting as ever, coupled with the intimacy of a love letter.

The 33-year-old songwriter’s discography has always featured inspirational lyricism prominently, and thankfully this is not lost when self-power ballads “keep lookin’ up” and “there is a light” make their appearances near the end of the album. “I won’t cry when the cold wind blows, gotta let it shine ‘cause I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Whether “Star-Crossed” will amass the same cult following “Golden Hour” received is yet to be determined, one thing can be certain. Her lyrics of sharp independence will always triumph through a vicious, grievous world. That is what makes Musgraves such a treasure.

Check out “Star-Crossed” here.

Featured image “Kacey Musgraves” by rocor is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0