“Star-crossed” fails to meet expectations

Kacey Musgraves explores heartbreak with very little to remember afterward.

Chris Charpentier, Staff Writer

Kacey Musgraves hit her peak with 2018’s “Golden Hour.” What could have been a classic case of a country artist selling out to make pop music resulted in a joyous musical experience filled with expertly crafted songs about newfound love. Now, the divorce of her husband inspired the album “star-crossed.” Unfortunately, the new piece does not have the same quality songwriting of the last.

PROMISING BEGINNING

In the album’s title track and opener, Musgraves manages to authentically capture the tragedy of heartbreak, both on a lyrical and production front. 

The ghostly vocals singing out “let me set the scene” with plucking guitars to complement each subsequent line is a perfect way to introduce the new subject matter and sound.

The slow build-up to a grand instrumental conclusion is by far the most standout moment on the entire album. Its follow-up, “good wife,” is another track where the album’s commentary on marriage reaches a height in musicality. Musgraves performs the melodies of the chorus beautifully, as she reminisces on a point where love almost supersedes the inherent problems in the relationship.

ONE-NOTE

After an excellent first act that continues with “cherry blossom,” the album’s core problem starts to show—the monotonous production. Although Musgraves’ lyrical content features deep commentary on divorce and the emotional baggage that comes with it, the music itself never changes to fit individual tracks.

For example, “easier said” and “keep lookin’ up” discuss different topics that should elicit contrasting moods within the listener. The former is about the challenge of loving someone while the latter is about keeping your head up when life is not going well. However, the instrumentation does not reflect the material of the song. Both songs feature standard guitar progressions, a standard drum beat and a reverb effect on the entire mix, making the song sound spacey. Although the minute details of these chord progressions and drum beats are different, the effect is tedium.

The same is unfortunately true for most of the album. Some song topics stand out among the rest, like “camera roll,” with its examination of the inner turmoil that comes with looking back on the happy memories you shared in a relationship. However, when the music itself becomes less distinct throughout the tracklist, it becomes harder to find a reason to revisit the album.

FAILING EXPECTATIONS

After “Golden Hour,” fans were excited for her next release. Whether she went back to country music or went further into pop, it felt as though she could try anything. However, in “star-crossed,” Musgraves exhausts a new sound within the first few tracks and leaves the rest out to dry.

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