What goes up must come down. The most beautiful and idyllic love stories often come to a flawed, painful end.
This is the story behind “star-crossed,” the fifth and latest studio album from country-turned-pop artist Kacey Musgraves, released on Sept. 10. The album follows her Grammy-winning album, “Golden Hour,” released in 2018, which tells the joyful story of a happy and flourishing relationship. “star-crossed” shows what happens after the breakup, or in Musgraves case, the divorce.
The title, “star-crossed,” alludes to the album’s loose, Shakespearean inspiration from “Romeo and Juliet.” This inspiration allows Musgraves to tell a complete story. The album is not a compilation of random breakup songs, but rather a story unfolding as “a tragedy in three acts,” according to Apple Music. The audience witnesses Musgraves journey from being a hopeful new wife in “good wife” through the end of her marriage and eventually moving on, finding herself as a newly single woman in “hookup scene.”
The album opens with “star-crossed,” opening the storybook for the rest of the album. “Let me set the scene,” Musgraves sings. “Two lovers ripped right at the seams.” It’s an ideal opener for the type of album she has released, letting you know at the start that this isn’t just a collection of music — it is a story.
This is what Musgraves excels at in this album, the storytelling, proving herself once again as a powerful and imaginative lyricist. As a listener, you understand and get a peek into her life and what she felt and experienced as she went through her divorce with fellow country star Ruston Kelly in 2020.
This is best exemplified in my personal favorite and definite tearjerker on the album, “camera roll.” It depicts the oh-so-relatable, no-good camera roll scroll that many succumb to post-breakup. The ballad is like a 4 a.m. trip down memory lane that just makes you want to wallow in your sorrows. You feel her pain as she looks at the memories of the good times, forcing her to forget about the bad times that happened simultaneously.
This is not a country album like the ones she’s previously released. It’s best described as folksy pop. Her small-town country influences shine through on tracks like “angel,” “hookup scene” and “keep lookin’ up.” In typical Musgraves fashion, all of the songs in the album follow one similar tone. There’s no significant upbeat or slow sound; they all sound relatively the same.
However, Musgraves does some experimenting on this album, pulling in some Spanish influences in “star-crossed” and “good wife” and Japanese themes in “cherry blossom.” She writes the lyrics “Tokyo wasn’t built in a day,” as opposed to the common saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” The song aims to put the listener in Japan.
Musgraves really throws listeners for a loop, however, with the last song on the album, “gracias a la vida.” A whole song in Spanish on a country album? Yes, a whole song in Spanish on a country album. The track is a cover of a Chilean folk song written by Violeta Parra as her last release before committing suicide, Musgraves said in the interview with Apple Music.
The song, which translates to “thank you life,” is a hauntingly beautiful track to end the album. Not only does it tie up the “Romeo and Juliet” inspiration of the album through the history of the song, but it also gives Musgraves the opportunity to show her progress at the end of her divorce.
The album as a whole is a powerful story that draws you in from beginning to end. Musgraves flaunts her storytelling abilities in this release and pulls your heartstrings over and over. The only thing missing is a strong and powerful “I don’t need no man” pop anthem at the end, but then again, that’s not really her style.
As what appears to be her initial departure from the country genre, it will be interesting to see how Musgraves continues to emulate her country roots in her newfound pop style. But for now, I’ll get pulled along in the story of “star-crossed”, from love to loss to finding yourself again.