Kacey Musgraves
star-crossed


3.5
great

Review

by Sowing STAFF
September 11th, 2021 | 111 replies


Release Date: 09/10/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Did we fly too high just to get burned by the sun?

Pre-release, star-crossed had me really nervous. Knowing the context (Kacey Musgraves' high-profile divorce with fellow country star Ruston Kelly) made the album's title, that split heart necklace artwork, and the fact that it would apparently be delivered in "three different acts" (accompanied by a movie, no less!) all the more difficult to bear. It all seemed to be leading up to a cliched and blush-inducing "breakup album", an overwrought bid for a magnum opus, or perhaps both at the same time. I don't tell this story very often, but when I was in high school I went through a pretty tough breakup (imagine that!), and one of my coping mechanisms was to write a series of poems that, at the time, I was convinced were incredibly dark and evocative. Reading back on it months later led to me using my parents' fireplace in July, but that sort of awkwardness is what I was mentally preparing for.

star-crossed is the opposite of all these initial suspicions, thank god: it's simple, plaintive, and highly introspective. Remarkably, it is also devoid of any anger, finger-pointing, or bitterness. Instead, it sees Musgraves grappling with an uncertain future. She questions herself a lot - sometimes feeling empowered and confident, other times depressed and afraid. It's a familiar emotional cocktail, but one that she tackles with grace and wisdom rather than surface level acknowledgements of pain and frustration. Kacey is at her most impressive when she takes an autumnal reflective tone on 'cherry blossom', singing "changing colors on city streets, petals surrounding us in every shade of pink / we happened quickly, as humans do" and "no one can question the chemistry / even in nature, timing is everything." Perhaps the best part is that Musgraves seems keenly aware of gimmicky love stories, singing almost with a wink and a nod on 'if this was a movie': "if this was a movie I’d be surprised, hearing your car coming up the drive / And you'd run up the stairs, you'd hold my face, say we're being stupid / And we'd fall back into place." She not only does everything in her power to avoid such sugar-coated pitfalls, but she also places everything squarely into context. This is not Hollywood, it's her "golden hour faded black."

Musgraves' lyrical acumen and wise restraint save an otherwise unimpressive album musically. star-crossed certainly isn't without its highlights: there's the relaxed groove and engaging metaphors of 'cherry blossoms', the breezy and nostalgic 'simple times', the gossamer sheen of 'if this was a movie', the immediate radio accessibility of 'justified', and the unexpected whirlwind of flutes on 'there is a light' - but there's a much larger ratio of tracks that seem to merely exist. star-crossed doesn't possess the magical glow that Golden Hour boasted in spades (few albums do), and as much as I hate to reduce it to such simple terms, the album just isn't very memorable. The melodies don't hook you, the songwriting is fluid but lacks anything jagged to grip onto, and the whole thing sort of glides by without inspiring a reaction from the listener. The album's back half is where this is most plainly obvious, with a swath of downtempo/acoustic ballads that are unstructured and melodically subdued. They're far from poor songs (to be honest, I can't think of a truly bad Kacey Musgraves song), and they can even be nice to sink into during a moment of quiet reflection if the mood strikes exactly right, but most of the time these songs are easily skipped - which is an unfamiliar sensation on the heels of Golden Hour. 'gracias a la vida' also feels somewhat tacked-on as a closer; while it would have been nice to see Kacey incorporate Spanish influences across the record (instrumentally as well, not just lyrically), it sticks out like a sore thumb as a standalone cover.

star-crossed is an acceptable follow-up to Golden Hour, considering that album is an unattainable milestone. This record takes another step away from country and closer to pure pop, which honestly has little bearing on star-crossed because both its strengths and weaknesses are independent of the genres employed. The album is unlikely to attract new fans or dissuade current ones, although it likely won't achieve the same levels of critical acclaim as some of Kacey's previous offerings. The maturity and class displayed here is a pleasant surprise (which has nothing to do with Musgraves, and everything to do with divorce/breakup album stereotypes), and the experience is unexpectedly serene given the music's content and overarching themes, but otherwise star-crossed is merely nice: a lukewarm batch of songs eager to saturate backgrounds rather than absorb your full attention.



s
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user ratings (99)
3.2
good


Comments:Add a Comment 
Sowing
Moderator
September 11th 2021


39325 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I probably like this more than it sounds like in the review, but yeah, this is mostly just "nice" but nothing as mesmerizing, spiritual, or emotionally invested as Golden Hour - which was to be pretty much expected. The stretch from Cherry Blossoms to Justified is incredible.

Digging: S. Raekwon - Where I'm at Now

Colton
September 11th 2021


12746 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I thought you would like this more since (from what I heard) it kinda has that "cosmic dream country" thing going for it

Sowing
Moderator
September 11th 2021


39325 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The atmosphere/mood/vibe is right, but the songs just aren't very memorable. There's about 5 songs here I see myself returning to, which is respectable but not worth crowning.

parksungjoon
September 11th 2021


37877 Comments


dancing on elon musk's grave

Digging: Slint - Tweez

Ramasama
September 11th 2021


3 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Pageant Material is still my favorite. Golden Hour was pretty great. This album was overall was pretty boring.

luci
September 11th 2021


12671 Comments


Haven't heard this yet but I figured that Golden Hour would be a lightning in a bottle that she can't recapture again. Loved the Pitchfork review for this one and I rarely say that.

alamo
September 11th 2021


4296 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

good wife is a jam. hookup scene is lovely. rest of the album is nice but kinda one ear out the other

Pangea
September 11th 2021


7214 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

the stretch from Cherry Blossoms to Justified is definitely the best part of the album. Overall the album is good but a few tracks felt a little awkward on first listen and there were a few compositional choices i wasn't feeling

Digging: Tracy Chapman - Tracy Chapman

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
September 11th 2021


3449 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yeah agreed this is nice but not v special, v happy it doesn't suck tho

anyone seen the film?

Digging: A Ritual Sea - A Ritual Sea

DoofDoof
September 11th 2021


10550 Comments


sucks a bit

Ramasama
September 11th 2021


3 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Fiance and I watched the film last night before bed. Didn't really do anything for me far as a complement to the record. Sturgill's Sound and Fury film was much better in that essence.

Colton
September 12th 2021


12746 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

this has really nice production. it carries the album a bit. but Kacey has some good hooks here too

g40st
September 12th 2021


555 Comments


Doof hates it - Good sign

Colton likes it - Bad sign

Guess I'll have to find out for myself.

outliers
September 12th 2021


2861 Comments


This is mediocre based on the album art alone

g40st
September 12th 2021


555 Comments


aa is hot garbage yea

Purpose
September 12th 2021


54 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Great review by Sowing (as usual), only thing I'd add is I actually love a scattering of the final songs. breadwinner, hookup scene, and what doesn't kill me are some of my favorite Kacey songs of all time already. pos!

bigweinerdon
September 12th 2021


1728 Comments


Shit looks so half assed when the titles are all lower case

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
September 12th 2021


21722 Comments


it really is a weird, and now SO widespread in pop music (although hey: it's "my bloody valentine" on spotify too now), trend lol

MetalMarcJK
September 12th 2021


425 Comments


St Cro

Arsed

Digging: Bill Evans - Explorations

porcupinetheater
Contributing Reviewer
September 12th 2021


8655 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Well, guess they can’t all be Vulnicura



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