Love is a complicated venture to write about. But Kacey Musgraves’ fourth outing is a Shakespearean tragedy that paints the story of intimacy that seems all too real. From its doting beginning to heartbreaking conclusion, the singer from Golden, Texas leads a forthright view on marriage. As she sings, “If this was a movie, love would be enough. But it’s not a movie.” Indeed, it’s not. For an album that subtlety details a crumbling love life without Hollywood poetics, it’s shear reality.
Like most Greek tragedies, Star-Crossed is assembled in a three-act structure that follows influences from familiar epics. But rather than staying compressed to her country roots, Musgraves showcases her never-ending resolve of branching out of the box. With dreamy bedroom pop and a Spanish acoustic drive, the self-titled track sets the scene. Its brief synopsis of the album’s main story on two lovers ripped apart is harrowed by chilling narration. But its honest take on lessons learned from the experience displays an insight few artists share. The quiet but fast-paced strumming builds its intense narrative before climaxing to a short resolve. While the anticipation is familiar to Musgraves 2018 Grammy-winning Golden Hour, this opener stages the stark contrasts awaiting to dive further.
The slow vibes continue immediately into the next track which follows the same ambitious musicality of Musgraves. Vocal distortions and augmented synths send listeners on cloud nine with its atmosphere. Then, suddenly crash them down to Earth with lyrics that hark on regretful decisions made on commitment. “Good Wife” contains all the elements and incentives of trudging through a modernized take of Romeo and Juliet. In this case, the Juliet of the story questions if she can be a “good wife” to a husband who “may not be right”. Much like the ill-fated couple, the track reaches on strafing for a thing that’s not worth continuing. But the rawness of its pop splendor disappears into the echoed strumming as the questions are left unanswered.
The outward perspective on seeing the relationship head south carry on in the glistened track “Breadwinner”. The interval hardens a new spurn on jealousy over being the “breadwinner” of the relationship. But its straightforwardness that Musgraves basks in are almost self-affirming towards being better off. Though, second-guessing is always in the back of the mind as “camera roll” shows it can be difficult to come to a decision clinging on. The simplistic lyrics of both tracks leaves the singer’s account vulnerable to love’s brutality. These inner remarks and underplayed production culminate in a judgement that sets the relationship towards a conclusion.
If “Good wife” was meant to be the question, “easier said” would be the answer. Realizing that loving someone is easier said, our narrator heralds the bittersweet ending of a marriage. Celestial country vibes make it seem, ironically, a feeling of relief as it draws on the understanding from both partners. The airy mood and fading vocals place all the matters of the heart in an advising track. With melodic structuring that’s minimal, the pop chorus abandons the disillusioned venture between two who agree to finally part ways.
Musgraves has never been known to shy away from her thoughts or views on particular subjects. Her latest project emphasizes the gut-wrenching point of view of love that’s run out as quick as jumping in the saddle. But an uplifting conclusion from a poignant third act makes Musgraves the everlasting muse of honesty. Whether listeners find comfort in its realness or human interest in Musgraves tumultuous marriage, Star-Crossed is unrestrained passion for all to hear. As 2021 begins its outing, Musgraves delivers one of the most candid albums of the year. The important noting from the artist is the matter-of-fact knowledge that this isn’t a love story. It’s a story about love.
Written by Trenton Luber