She’s known for rocking the proverbial country boat. Kacey Musgraves, that is.
When Musgraves released her first album back in 2013, it had a few things to say about broken marriages, dysfuntional relationships, sexual preferences and even marijuana. The last two subjects, especially, weren’t common themes in country music at that point.
Now, five years later, she’s rocking the boat again—though in a less controversial way. When you think of country, you may stereotypically think of songs that sound the same and say the same thing. You know, songs that glorify drinking away the weekend, small town livin’ or loving that next-door beauty everyone’s overlooked. But Kacey doesn’t touch on those things. Instead, she bring a different perspective and a unique sound to her third studio effort.
Combining piano, acoustic guitar, synth-pop and even a bit of disco feel on a track or two, Kacey proves to be a bit of a musical explorer on Golden Hour. This time around, she dives into her appreciation for things like nature, humanity and love, among other topics.
It’s evident that Kacey has met a man who has changed her life for the better. In songs such as “Golden Hour,” “Velvet Elvis,” “Happy & Sad,” “Butterflies,” “Oh, What A World” and “Love Is a Wild Thing” she sings about how love has taught her to live in the moment, eased her fear of commitment, helped to heal her broken heart, brought out the best in her and proved to her that she can really have a happy ending.
In “Butterflies,” for instance, we hear, “Now you’re lifting me up, ‘stead of holding me down/Stealing my heart, ‘stead of stealing my crown/Untangled all the strings, round my wings, that were tied.” Then she adds, “I didn’t know him and I didn’t know me/Cloud nine, was always out of reach/Now I remember what it feels like to fly.” And in “Love Is a Wild Thing,” she says that love is a treasure that can be found all around, in both beautiful places and unexpected ones: “Running like a river trying to find the ocean/Flowers in the concrete/Climbing over fences, blooming in the shadows/Places that you can’t see.”
“Wonder Woman” is the confession of a woman who admits that she will never be perfect: “I don’t need a Superman to win my lovin’/‘Cause, baby, I ain’t Wonder Woman.” That said, she will fight for the one she loves: “I can show you strong, I can fight for you/I can try to move mountains if you want me to.”
On “Rainbow,” Musgraves encourages someone struggling with discouragement or depression (possibly even herself) to step out of a gloomy place and recognize the bright things life has to offer: “If you could see what I see, you’d be blinded by the colors/Yellow, red and orange and green, and at least a million others/So tie up the bow, take off your coat and look around.” “Lonely Weekend,” meanwhile, reflects on the value of solitude: “Even if you got somebody on your mind/It’s alright to be alone sometimes.” And in “Slow Burn” she’s OK slowing down and “taking my time, let the world turn.”
“High Horse” states Musgraves’ intention to “take the high road” in a conflict. Slightly melancholy “Mother” finds the singer “just sitting here thinking ‘bout the time that’s slipping/And missing my mother” as she feels “the weight of the world on my shoulders” and the distance between herself and her mom. In similar sad-but-thoughtful territory, “Rainbow” addresses the subject of someone struggling with depression.
“Slow Burn” glories in not rushing things … including a steamy night with a guy. Musgraves says she’s “good when you’re putting your hands all over me,” then adds, “I’m alright with a slow burn/ … If we burn it down and it takes all night
It’s a slow burn, yeah.” Near the end of the song, we get another familiar take on that old cliché, “If it feels right, it can’t be wrong” as Musgraves tells us, “It’s a slow burn/Whatever feels good.” Elsewhere, “Butterflies” and “Love Is a Wild Thing” hint at the “magic” that can be found in a kiss or touch, though things never get too explicit.
“Happy & Sad” references drinking as an anxious woman says, “So is there a way to stop all this thinkin’, just keep on drinkin’?” And “Oh, What a World” suggests that our creation is an unknowable mystery: “Things that swim with a neon glow/How we all got here, nobody knows.”
We live in a world where people often focus on the negative. So it’s refreshing to hear someone choose to focus on the positive instead. Kacey Musgraves does exactly that on the aptly named Golden Hour.
Musgraves’ third album isn’t without some content bumps while driving down these back country roads, including some nods at alcohol and intimate relationships where she she’s willing to do “whatever feels good.”
More often, though, her tasteful, refreshingly diverse country songs focus on relevant, healthy messages. She says it’s OK to be alone in a culture where co-dependency (with humans and technology) is pervasive. She realizes that some relationships are better let go than held onto. And she sings beautifully of the power that love has to change us into better people, even as she encourages us to simply slow down and enjoy life.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).