When it comes to great writing, the word Shakespearean often gets tossed around, and it’s rare that a person is able to amass a body of work worthy of it. Kacey Musgraves, with 2018’s Golden Hour, solidified herself as one of the very best songwriters of our time, though — and after such an immaculate album, all eyes were on the follow-up.
With star-crossed, out today (September 10th), Musgraves takes the idea of Shakspearean writing much more literally: the album follows a three-act structure. It’s rife with heartbreak, tragedy, and great loss. It centers around our sympathetic hero — and Shakespeare always proved that the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Here, though, listeners might be surprised to discover that the antagonist Musgraves is wrestling is not her former husband, fellow Nashville songwriter Ruston Kelly, but the inevitable passage of time and all that comes with it.
The album is designed to be listened through in order, and Musgraves lays everything on the table during the exposition, leading with the previously-released title track before diving right into the drama on “good wife.”
Musgraves’ music often conjures the feeling of weightlessness, sometimes psychedelic, other times just so packed to the brim with sincerity that listening can be an out-of-body experience. star-crossed is a definite departure from Golden Hour in many ways, but this effort still retains enough of that magic to feel like a connector from her previous era to the present moment.
Throughout the album, she approaches the subject matter of her lost love without malice — there’s more of a desire to go back and rewrite the story. On “if this was a movie..” she imagines how the story might have played in the hands of screenwriters in the Golden Age of Hollywood. The devastating “camera roll” includes the everyday relatability that draws people to Musgraves’ music, and anyone that’s experienced heartbreak will understand the sentiment: “I don’t want to see ‘em, but I can’t delete ‘em/ It just doesn’t feel right, yet.”
This week in Nashville, Musgraves unveiled a one-night only pop-up that took guests through a recreation of her 1994 bedroom, a Blockbuster-style video rental store, an intentionally cheesy photo studio, and supermarket with velvet tracksuits on the mannequins. Titled the Simple Times Machine, referencing the track “simple times,” the exhibit also featured clips from the album’s accompanying Star-Crossed: The Film, which is similarly draped in throwback aesthetics.