Country singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves has spent the better part of the last five years making a name for herself as she has remained true to her honky-tonk roots while also avoiding the shift toward the pop-country genre that has dominated popular radio. Behind an abrasive personality and in your face lyrics she has been highly successful while leading a wave of unapologetic women in the country music genre, but her seventh studio album, Golden Hour, seems to be a drastically different project from her previous works.
Unlike her previous albums, Musgraves’ Golden Hour is a vulnerable display of emotion as the 29-year-old trailer park queen takes a break from addressing gossip and societal norms and focuses on, what is mostly, a light-hearted and introspective mindset as she sings of life, love, pride and forgiveness. The album is also the farthest Musgraves has strayed from her strict country roots as many tracks cover a wide range of musical styles from twangy acoustics to bass driven funk.
In the months leading up to the March 30 release of Golden Hour Musgraves released three singles that encapsulated the joy, sadness and boldness that the album would ultimately possess. Each of the three singles also hinted her shift toward a much lighter and pop sounding record.
The first of these singles is the piano heavy ballad “Space Cowboy” in which Musgraves mournfully reminisces upon fading love and the heartbreak that comes with letting someone go. This sadness and style of writing also plays throughout the album on other tracks such as “Mother”, in which she considers the way she feels being so far from home, and the album’s finale, “Rainbow,” in which Musgraves encourages the song’s protagonist to realize their worth despite their personal feelings of loneliness and depression.
“Butterflies”, the second single released from Golden Hour, brings a much different feel to the album as Musgraves playfully sings about falling madly in love over the sounds of simplistic banjo plucking and calming guitar strums. This theme of happiness and love comes as no surprise as Musgraves recently married in Oct. 2017 and even admits that the song was influenced by her courtship with her husband. Love is also present all across the album in tracks like “Golden Hour”, “Love is a Wild Thing” and most notably “Happy & Sad” in which Musgraves expresses her inability to understand the emotions she feels and that she “don’t want to come down” from the high she feels with her love.
The third and final single released before the official album dropped is “High Horse”, a funky, bass-driven tune in which Musgraves channels much of the signature writing style that has gotten her where she is today. The track is very similar to her past hits such as “Biscuits” and “Step Off” in the fact that “High Horse” is directed toward a prideful man who takes pleasure in placing himself over others that he feels he’s better than. Despite this abrasive and confronting attitude that Musgraves has become so well known for it is not very prevalent across the album as a whole.
Altogether Golden Hour is Musgraves’ most complete and diverse album to date and shows signs of maturation in both sound and artistic expression. Despite brief glimpses into the realm of pop-country Musgraves remains true to her roots and ultimately created an album that is both an enjoyable listening experience as well as a wonderful form of art. It seems as if Golden Hour could be the album that finally brings one of country music’s brightest stars out from backstage and directly into the spotlight, and for fans there is good news as she does not appear to be moving on any time soon.