A change in sound, away from traditional leaning material and a change in the substance of her music…6/10
When country artists begin their careers, their first couple of albums are typically their most traditional sounding. Then, as time goes on the albums tend to sound less and less country and for some, any semblance of true country music will disappear all together in favor of more pop leaning material.
You see, in 2018 it’s almost as if being a country artist is a bad thing. They call it evolution but when the songs no longer respect the roots of the genre it’s not evolution, it’s devolution.
What we see from artists of all genres as their careers progress is that as their personal and professional lives continue to improve, the inspiration behind the music changes. The hardships and country upbringing that they may have had is often replaced by marriage, fame and fortune. This ultimately means that the sound and substance of their music will change significantly.
With Kacey Musgraves’ third studio album Golden Hour, we get both a change in sound away from traditional leaning material and we get a change in the substance of her music. This album is without a doubt the least country album that Musgraves has ever released. And for an artist that typically stayed away from love songs on her previous two albums that is what comprises almost the entire third album.
Although some of the songs on the album are not country in the slightest such as “High Horse,” there is a collection of good songs with pop-country elements. “High Horse” in particular is the one song that besides not being country is also not a good song. It isn’t creative or innovative to use a 40+ year old disco production in a song in 2018.
The album opens up with the song “Slow Burn” which describes her desire to take her time through life and not rush through it. Musgraves mentions that the only time that she was ever early for something was in 88′ the year that she was born premature. Like most of the songs on this album it is easy going and light.
The first two tracks from this album that were released were “Space Cowboy” and “Butterflies.” “Space Cowboy” is my favorite song on this album and should have been the stand alone lead single as opposed to releasing both songs as lead singles. Instead of just being a happy, pop/disco, love song this is actually a really good pop country track. “Butterflies” on the other hand is an example of what I have discussed with the album being too happy and void of other emotions. If this were the only song like it on the album it would be easier to get past.
The song “Mother” (if you want to call it a song) is obviously very personal to Musgraves. It’s only 1:18 long and describes one night when Musgraves was high on LSD and missing her mother. It doesn’t add anything to the album and I would normally say it doesn’t hurt, except for the fact that Musgraves is promoting her use of LSD in interviews about this song. A dangerous drug that has destroyed lives and careers was responsible for much of the inspiration behind the songs on this album apparently and she has no qualms about telling the world.
“Happy and Sad” feels very personal to Musgraves and although it’s another love song, she describes how she is feeling happy and sad at the same time. She is so happy and so in love and she worries that it won’t last. She’s the type of person that is nervous when she is at her happiest. With “Wonder Woman,” she explains that nobody is perfect and that they are simply flawed human beings. She isn’t Wonder Woman and she doesn’t need the man she loves to be Super Man. Only in movies are people and love in general so perfect. It’s a mature and realistic way to look at love.
The album concludes with the songs “Golden Hour” and the piano ballad “Rainbow.” The latter is a strong way to finish the album however, by this point in the album I found myself tired of the love songs. The former is you guessed it another love song.
Overall, I found this to be a disappointing album. The songs blend together as one long trippy, disco love song. It lacks variety and that traditional leaning country sound of Musgraves’ previous two albums. It’s easy to understand that Musgraves is at a point in her life where she has found love with her new husband and she is happy in life and her career however, life is complex and even at its best there are challenges. Although much better and more country than Thomas Rhett’s recent album, Golden Hour has the same problem of relying too much on songs about ones spouse. As individual songs many of the tracks on this album are fine but, as an album I find myself wanting more.