On her follow-up to 2018’s Grammy-winning album of the year, “Golden Hour,” Kacey Musgraves’ fourth album, “Star-Crossed,” delves into the end of her marriage. From the album’s first line, “Let me set the stage,” to its final words, “Gracias a la vida,” Musgraves tells a powerful and vulnerable story about the joy of falling in love, the sorrow of dissolution, and everything else that comes with moving on from a great love.
After a preview of the narrative of what’s to come in the titular track, “Star-Crossed,” Musgraves begins to hint at the optimism she had at the beginning of her relationship, and the hope that she had when things began going south.
In “Good Wife,” she sings, “God, help me be a good wife / ‘Cause he needs me,” and in “Cherry Blossom,” she repeats to her partner throughout the chorus, “I’m your cherry blossom, baby / Don’t let me blow away / I hope you haven’t forgotten / Tokyo wasn’t built in a day.” In both songs, she has the impression that whatever is wrong can still be fixed, and that the two are willing to go to any length to solve any lingering problems, big or small.
Musgraves then transitions into reluctantly accepting that her marriage is drifting apart. In “Simple Times,” she recalls moments when her life was at its best through lyrics like, “Every day felt like Friday.” Musgraves immediately follows that track with “If This Was a Movie,” in which she considers what would have happened if their relationship had not been grounded in reality. With her own relationship seemingly put on a pedestal by fans after her radiant, and glowingly happy, descriptions of love in her previous album, “Golden Hour,” Musgraves attempts to remove herself from the magnetic version of her relationship that she had created.
Standout track “Justified” is the transition from the narrative of reluctance to cut off that magnetic relationship to the removal of any rose-colored glasses that might have remained. Musgraves sings, “If I need just a little more time to deal with the fact / That you shoulda treated me right / Then I’m more than just a little justified,” before turning those lyrics on their head and accepting her own culpability — in the song’s bridge, she sings that she, too, should have treated her partner right.
With the realization that her relationship was not perfect, and could not have realistically remained radiant at all times, comes songs that depict how moving on is never as simple as it seems. In “Easier Said” and “Hookup Scene,” Musgraves sings melancholic lyrics like, “It should be easy to love someone / And we’ve been tryin’ and we found out / That it’s easier said than done,” and “I get in my head / Analyzing what I had / It’s a chapter that ain’t coming back.” Both portray a wistful mood in which, despite that realization that things were not perfect, she is still sad about the breakup and finds it difficult to move on to someone new.
Nevertheless, Musgraves bounces back from these two wistful songs with “Keep Lookin’ Up,” where she is seemingly sending a message to herself: “Don’t let the world bring you down / Keep your head in the clouds / And your feet on the ground / Keep lookin’ up.” Even though she says in the song that “true love can turn into pain,” she vibrantly describes life as “beautiful and strange” in a way that tells her audience she’ll be okay.
She closes the album with a cover of Mercedes Sosa‘s song “Gracias A La Vida.” The song, as told by Musgraves to NPR, is “a beautiful way to end this record, this chapter where I’ve done so much self-exploration.” It leaves listeners with the impression that, despite any anguish Musgraves may have expressed throughout the album, she is grateful for the experiences the relationship, and its dissolution, provided her.
Overall, “Star-Crossed” is an executed narrative about a relationship’s gradual demise. Many minor reminiscences, both happy and sad, are interwoven throughout the story in a way that audiences can identify with. Musgraves’ vulnerability shines through in a way that will heartbreakingly speak to her listeners for years to come.