Country’s Most Beloved New Popstar Kacey Musgraves Has Been A Sleeper Agent For Years

camjameson
Written by camjameson
/ 9 mins read

Country music as an entity has experienced an unprecedented amount of critical acclaim in the last decade, with 2018 being home to some of the most successful mainstream releases of all time, delighting countless listeners across the industry regardless of their favoured genres & prior prejudices of Country itself. Of these iconic releases, Kacey Musgraves shook us in spectacular fashion, seemingly coming out of nowhere to produce a near-perfect album of exquisite Traditional Country numbers titled Golden Hour that rekindled the splendor of Psychedelia, progressive thought & analog instrumentation long considered absent from the scene, all whilst promoting feministic ideals that inspired millions in the wake of modern culture’s much-needed #metoo movement, shaking things up in a major way for the first time since Florida Georgia Line popularized contemporary Country Pop all the way back in 2012 – You’d be forgiven for thinking this album was a labour of love that miraculously graced us with its presence considering the vast majority of audiences had never actually heard of Kacey Musgraves before she so brilliantly thrust her charming ways upon us, but the Golden, Texas-born songwriter has actually been making waves in the Country space since she was a child, releasing her first original composition at the tender age of 8 & continuing to hone her craft all throughout adolescence, passionately venturing into the festival-circuit the moment she graduated form high school until she finally found success with her first solo album Same Trailer Different Park in 2013. From the moment this album dropped, she’d already begun showcasing her incredible competence as a musician by delivering empowering female anthems with a southern twang clearly influenced by headstrong women like Dolly Parton & Miranda Lambert, though seeing as the Country machine was still treating younger female artists like Teen Pop idols who had nothing of value to say a la Taylor Swift & Miley Cyrus, her innate talents were continuously overlooked & modified to appeal to the lowest-common-denominator of audiences, unfortunately rendering her nothing more than a basic artist with a cult following. Thankfully, this all changed when she dropped her second & arguably most divisive album Pageant Material, turning the southern-belle Popstar archetype on its head by satirizing Country music itself & pushing a far more progressive feministic agenda in each quirky number, separating herself from the pack by showing she was not only a phenomenal performer but a force of nature to be reckoned with who was unafraid to challenge the status quo, setting the stage for her follow-up album to absolutely mop the floor with melodic creativity the likes of which no one was prepared for.

The Most Pleasant Surprise

My initial introduction to Kacey Musgraves was actually a happy accident which occurred in the winter of 2017 before Golden Hour had even begun its marketing, one of the rare instances of YouTube’s recommendation algorithm successfully directing me towards an artist I’d had no previous knowledge of that would capture my attention beyond belief – As a Content Strategist for the very VIBBIDI you’re all enjoying today, I started my employment here sifting through more than 800 songs a day to curate the best possible mix of both popular & undiscovered artists for a given genre in the interest of enriching our Users’ sonic existence, an assignment that singlehandedly broadened my scope of the industry at large & made me appreciate Country music for the incredibly rich market it is. One day, I stumbled upon a magnificent number called “Biscuits” that lit up the pleasure-centers of my brain in radiant fashion, presenting a quirky little number that was self-aware & comedic in fashion, softening the impact of an otherwise overwhelmingly hokey Country tune; Musgraves was headstrong & confident, using occasionally-crass language to break free of your stereotypical girly-girl persona with a lyrical narrative that asked listeners to stop being such judgmental pricks, lackadaisically singing about minding your own business to achieve enlightenment with phrases like ‘smoke your own smoke and grow your own daisies” that openly promoted marijuana consumption & ‘pissing in my yard ain’t gonna make your any greener’ that encouraged you to stop letting others’ successes in life dictate your own sense of self-worth, all the while keeping a jolly smile on her face & a pep in her step that soothed your soul – In a sense, I was lovestruck, finding her alternative personality & flirtatious pomp to be instantly gratifying in every regard, a welcome departure from the generic ‘he broke my heart & I’m so lonely now’ nonsense most female Country artists had been contractually-obligated to sing about in their music, showing me a whole new side of Country I didn’t even know I’d needed so strongly. While I’m certainly a sucker for soothing feminine vocals & cheery Folk-like aesthetics, this was clearly something fresh & unique I just had to learn more about, motivating me to devour the rest of Pageant Material for the following months until Golden Hour upped the ante in addition to recommending her to all of my friends when they’d ask for a worthwhile entryway into Country music.

A Familiar Voice From A Long-Lost Era

Kacey Musgraves might have won my heart via her radiant charm & dreamy vocal prowess on the aforementioned number, but her greatness can be much more accurately attributed to how impressively knowledgeable she is of her chosen genre, employing anachronistic writing techniques with such efficacy that you’d easily mistake many of her arrangements for well-preserved recordings of Country music past, most notably the Folk-inspired drifter tunes of the seventies & eighties; From the frenetically adventurous spirit of plucky Cowgirl numbers like “Family Is Family” that bounces along gaily the signature spoon-clicking rhythm of Johnny Cash’s vintage Gospel sound to the melancholic crooning of “Good Ol’ Boys Club” that makes you want to drown your sorrows in a bottle of whiskey down at your local saloon, she pleasantly captures the very essence of hoedown-centric Country sensibilities from the genre’s pre-Brooks & Dunn era, aligning herself with the angelic female icons she so-clearly idolizes – Perhaps my favourite iteration of this time-displaced aesthetic is Pageant Material’s introductory track “High Time,” a somber ballad of phenomenal nature that bobs back & forth in the same satisfying manner as Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay,” comprised of tender acoustic guitars playing a fairly-rudimentary walking chord progression, understated percussion lines that exist for no other reason than to hold the most subtle of beats down & wispy vocalizations that tell a captivating story of returning to one’s roots through beautifully airy feminine melodies, literally rocking the listener into a state of serenity with each passing minute. What’s particularly old-school about this song is its usage of symphonic instrumentation as an atmospheric enhancer, soaring string accompaniment fleshing out the overall scale of this emotional number in a distinctly-eighties way which once defined Country music up until around 1993 when this sort of composition fell out of fashion, only existing today in Barrio-centric Regional Mexican music & Japanese Pop ballads thanks to these cultures’ continued operation of older all-in-one Casio & Roland electric keyboards – I’m admittedly getting up there in years with my 30th birthday looming just around the corner, so maybe I’m just starting to get nostalgic for the sonic profiles which surrounded me in adolescence, but Kacey Musgraves’ incredible ability to make such vintage soundscapes feel exciting to modern audiences is an act of artistic genius seldom few have accomplished in the last year or so’s ever-changing Country landscape, earning her every ounce of respect I have as both a musician & a consumer of good vibes.

Undeniable Talent That Went Unnoticed For Too Long

As easy as it may be for me to recognize Kacey Musgraves’ Pageant Material for the work of art it is, it doesn’t changed the fact that this album has gone all this time criminally-underrated in contemporary circles, rendered a surprise gem of songwriting excellence you’d likely only discover after finding yourself hungry for more in the wake of Golden Hour. I’m undoubtedly an outlier in these sort of scenarios, as I find immense joy in exploring the backlogs of all my favourite artists to research exactly how their sound evolved & matured over time, but there’s something inherently detrimental about modern audiences’ inability to turn back the clock & appreciate older music that influenced what they love today, concerned with nothing more than the most current mainstream trends that’ll help them fit in with the crowd; Their ravenous desire to be relatable actively prevents them from learning upon past mistakes when creating new music & also keeps them from enjoying some of the most fulfilling sonic experiences around, but I suppose it’s just the luck of the draw, something we’ll need to combat as a team to improve our culture rather than hoping I can change your minds all on my own – Regardless, I hope a steady stream of listeners eventually find their way to Pageant Material, as it contains so many fantastic hints as to how Golden Hour would develop with songs like “Are You Sure (feat. Willie Nelson) Hidden Track” in addition to giving budding Country artists a dissenting voice of inspiration to follow as they carve out the next progressive path Country music will take, thus cementing itself as an important piece of modern Country culture we’ll all be referring to in the future when the scene reaches its next revolutionary iteration. But, hey, you don’t need to listen to my opinion when they songs speak for themselves; Go forth & enjoy the hell out of this album!

2. Track List (14)

3. Official (14)

4. Live (8)

5. Featuring Remixes (2)

7. Similar Albums (1)

8. Similar Artists (2)

9. Album Info

About

Pageant Material is the fifth studio album and second major label album by American country music artist Kacey Musgraves, released June 23, 2015, through Mercury Nashville. Musgraves co-wrote all 13 tracks and co-produced the album with Luke Laird and Shane McAnally. The album made numerous "Best Albums of 2015" lists and was nominated for Best Country Album at the 58th Grammy Awards.
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Songwriter

  • Kacey Musgraves

Label

  • Mercury Nashville

Producer

  • Luke Laird
  • Shane McAnally
  • Kacey Musgraves