Two very big things happened last week in the world of Kacey Musgraves.
First, she was announced as a guest judge on next season’s Ru Paul’s Drag Race (All Stars, no less).
Later that same week, she was then awarded album of the year at the American Country Music Awards for Golden Hour.
I guess you could say Kacey’s week was equal parts yee-haw and yassssss-kweeeen, werrrrk.
Those two things may seem of different levels of significance. They are, if viewed in isolation. Together, they tell a different story.
That a country artist has earned enough LGBT-icon points to feature on Drag Race and still be awarded the highest annual honour from the traditionally-ultra-conservative world of country music is a pretty big deal.
That she won it with an album of acoustic-psychedelic-disco-country is also noteworthy and pretty much an indication of how undeniable her talent and appeal is.
Born in Texas and raised on Nashville, Kacey Musgraves is doing things her own way. Not just breaking down genre stereotypes but also writing, singing and doing what means something to her. Sure, this includes the occasional reference to drugs and (gasp) gay people. While this is probably less than your average pop singer, it’s definitely more than what’s generally been a comfortable and acceptable amount by country music’s standards.
Kacey Musgraves is a country artist at heart who doesn’t conform to the norm and that’s exactly what makes Golden Hour so refreshing and remarkable.
It’s so much of all that and more that it’s officially my favourite album of 2018.
To be clear, this ain’t my first musical rodeo. It’s probably not even the first country album to earn my top nod. Dixie Chicks’ Taking the Long Way almost definitely did that.
Still, Kacey and the Dixies aside, if you tallied up the genres of my various annual favorite albums (in my adult life at least), 90% of them would be hip-hop and R&B.
2017 was SZA’s CTRL.
2016 was Solange’s A Seat at the Table.
2015 was Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly.
… you get it – and go get yourself those albums if you haven’t already, too.
Like those albums, at its core Golden Hour honours the sound of its native genre while expanding it into something totally new.
The music is straight up sonic bliss. Its acoustic side creates airy space that is then filled with sounds of light psychedelic folk, with the occasional disco-pop ping lifting the mood. It’s all so gently cohesive that you barely notice how unique this mashup is. You just bathe in its golden goodness.
Then there is her way with words.
Country music is known for its literality (an actual word, if you can believe it – use it in a sentence today, even ‘sporadically’). Metaphors are its bread and butter, where everyday ‘things’ are representative of feelings, etc. Kacey Musgraves takes it one step further.
Her wordplay – especially in the context of a Nashville lifestyle – is dynamite.
Space cowboy is turned into giving an unavailable man his space “You can have your space, cowboy/ I don’t wanna fence you in.”
Or hitting the double entendre home run on High Horse with a wink and forceful-nudge to a know-it-all-good-for-nothing-ex-lover “Darlin’ you take the high horse and I’ll take the high road/ If you’re too good for us you’ll be good ridin’ solo (or ‘so low’ … epic).”
When not punning me into awe, she’s delivering poignant truths. Lonely Weekend couldn’t be simpler but that’s its charm. Oh What a World works similar magic.
This is all never more true than on Slow Burn, the album’s opening track and probably my most played song this year.
“Born in a hurry/ Always late/ Haven’t been early since ‘88”
“Old soul, waiting my turn/ I know a few things but I still got a lot to learn”.
Seriously, in one song you learn who Kacey Musgraves is and what she’s about. It’s so freaking beautiful and cool and I feel humbled in its presence.
It might sound like this album has a lot going on. It does, but it’s such a smooth and unassuming ride that it never ever feels that way. It’s a gentle trot rather than a gallop.
‘Favourite album of the year’ title aside, I really can’t tell you just how much I love it. You’d need to watch me listen and sing along like I wrote the damn thing to see the real proof.
This week, while Golden Hour Casually was soundtracking an afternoon of work at home, it was interrupted with “I’m loving this choice of music, DM!” It was so sincere and casual (and importantly, 100% unprovoked) that I had to make sure it was serious. It was.
I felt so happy .. and not just because I had already started writing this (that too). More because i think that’s this album – and artist’s – unavoidable charisma.
Country music has a stigma and isn’t an easy one to sell to people who aren’t already bought in. Rather than flogging a dead horse, Kacey Musgraves has given it a new life as a unicorn. Complete with rainbow colours and all.
You can listen to Golden Hour here at: