Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Pageant Material: @KaceyMusgraves | Album Review w/ @sslluvsbooks

Rating: 95%
Artist: Kacey Musgraves
Genre: Country
Release Date: June 23, 2015
Label: Mercury Records
Track Count: 14 (on iTunes)

Track Listing:
1. High Time
2. Dime Store Cowgirl
3. Late To The Party
4. Pageant Material
5. This Town
6. Biscuits
7. Somebody To Love
8. Miserable
9. Die Fun
10. Family Is Family
11. Good Ol Boys Club
12. Cup Of Tea
13. Fine
14. Are You Sure (Hidden Track) feat. Willie Nelson

The first thing you should know about me is - I have been a Kacey Musgraves fan since the very beginning. While my taste in music has changed and diversified since then, if I were to name an album that I have consistently listened to the past three years, it would have to be Musgraves' debut Same Trailer Different Park. There's something about Kacey's relatable, witty lyrics, broad subject matter, and acoustic, homey sound that allow me to listen to her on repeat. Unlike all other albums I listen to, there isn't a single song on STDP I dislike and each have a special, nostalgic place in my heart as their easy sound has accompanied me on many a late night of poetry writing.  

The big question remained until yesterday upon Pageant Material's release. 
Will Pageant Material come anywhere near Same Trailer Different Park

Give her another Grammy!
What critics have been both praising and criticizing is the fact that it has been more than three years since Same Trailer Different Park. In that time, she has become internationally recognized, won two Grammys, toured with Katy Perry, and been exposed to the music industry, love, and life. People have assumed that Musgraves sound and style would be changed due to the demands of what's "hot," following the country-pop trend most female artists are sounding like nowadays. If there's one thing fans know about Kacey is that does not conform to societal expectations. Her sound is raw, acoustic, authentic country, and generally nothing like what's currently riding the airwaves. Each and every one of her songs have a story to tell and an underlying message that most certainly does not stay underlying. Kacey Musgraves was one of - if not the first - major country artist to recognize the LGBT community in her music. Country originated in the south, and often the perception is that everyone is a right-wing, conservative redneck with their John Deers, glasses of various alcoholic beverages, and shotguns. 

Title/Cover | While Same Trailer Different Park spoke directly to Musgraves' country roots, Pageant Material is a physical marker of her evolution as an artist. While the majority of her lyrics could have ben her sophomore record's signature, Pageant Material speaks to the glamorous glitter and sparkles Kacey loves to adorn her sets and costumes in, giving a Random a slightly different impression than who she is. However the title and cover art are their own inside joke with Kacey Musgrave's loyal listeners and upon listening to the title track, one learns that the line goes "I ain't pageant material."

What sets Musgraves apart from not only country artists, but artists in general is the fact that most of her songs aren't about love. I can't tell you how many times I'm annoyed by hearing the same thing on the radio about breaking up and making up and falling in love in between. Even though it's an extremely relatable subject, you would think that someone would be able to come up with another topic to sing about and that someone is Kacey Musgraves. The songs with *stars* next to them are the ones NOT about love.

*Die Fun* | 99% | From the very first note I was completely and utterly obsessed with this song. There is a "we" that could be directed towards a partner, but my own interpretation of the song is directed to the general "we" of society and the young generation of people growing up and attempting to find their place in the world before becoming old, decrepit, and cynical. There's so much pressure on teenagers going into high school and college to take the safe route that will make them the most secure and the most money but this song is really just a message into the void that we don't have to grow up and we should take the chances we can while we have them. So the gist of this is that this would be the poster song for any John Green novel.

"Do we really have to grow up? // If we never do then so what // Before we get to heaven, baby let's give 'em hell // We might as well // Cause we don't know when we're done"

Somebody to Love | 95% | When I first heard of this song, I had hoped Kacey had done a country cover of Queen which we all know would have been incredible. Regardless, Musgraves dabbles in string instruments throughout the track which gives it a unique feel. This is obviously about love, but somehow gives it a new perspective on how lost humanity is. While I'd like to play devil's advocate and say you don't need someone else to complete you, as someone who is in love, I can't deny that having someone by your side just makes everything better, in both romantic and non-romantic contexts.

"We're all hoping, we're all hopeless //We're all flawed and we're all perfect // We're all lost and we're all hurting // We're all happy, we're all hatin' // We're all patiently impatient // We're all good, but we ain't angels // We all sin, but we ain't devils // We're all pots and we're all kettles // But we can't see it in ourselves // We're all livin' 'til we're dying // We all wrangle with religion // We all talk, but we don't listen // We're all starving for attention then we'll run // We'll miss a dime to grab a nickel // We're all little kids just looking for love //Yeah, don't we all just want somebody to love?"

*This Town* | 94% | Soundwise, This Town feels a lot like the Blowin' Smoke of Pageant Material while painting a picture of this community that is well on its way to becoming what urban city-folk would call more "civilized," but it's still a small town where neighbors are all up in each other's businesses and everyone is family. The chorus goes into a neat riff of rhythm and overall, the song seems like it should be sung through cigar smoke by the town gossips.

"You'll end up in the paper, wreck your family name // What goes around comes back around by Friday's football game // We only got one sheriff, but we all know how to keep the peace"

*Dime Store Cowgirl * | 93% | This was the other pre-released track and a great song overall. There's some quality about it that makes me want to jump up and dance as Kacey sings about still being a country girl and its proof that she hasn't changed, just grown since her previous album.

"I'm happy with what I got, cause what I got is all I need // Just cause it don't cost a lot, don't cost a lot, don't mean it's cheap"

*Family is Family* | 92% | Family is Family is one of the tracks released before the entire album and it gets featured during Musgraves' series of behind-the-scenes for making the album. Luke Laird admitted that it's the most cleverly written, witty song on the album and I would have to agree. If you need to hold a particular song up to credit Kacey's skill, it would be this one because the song is just so much fun to listen to.

"Can't live with or without 'em; you might talk about 'em // But if someone else does, well, then you'll knock 'em out cause // You might look just like 'em; that don't mean you're like 'em //But you love 'em"

*Miserable* | 90% | This is the signature Kacey Musgraves song that confronts what she thinks about society and basically tells society to shove it up their you-know-what because there are more important things to spend your time on. Miserable could be subtly directed to a lost love who screwed things up, but it's more likely that it's just directed to the pessimists of the world. As always, she crafts this narrative of things we do on a daily basis that have trapped us into this negative mindset --- "Your neighbor's dirty laundry's cleaner // And the wolf at your door's always meaner // The sky's still grey when the sun's around // But you can't set sail if your anchor's down"

*Biscuits | *86% | This was the debut single off of Pageant Material and personally, I think that was both a good and a bad decision. Good because of its catchy tune, strong message, and the truth it delivers. Simultaneously, Biscuits is what dubbed her sophomore album as another country album and while I like the song, it definitely doesn't atone to Musgraves' skill as a song writer or diverse sound.

"Nobody's perfect, we've all lost and we've all lied // Most of us have cheated, the rest of us have tried // The holiest of holies even slip from time to time // We've all got dirty laundry hangin' on the line"

Fine | 80% | Something about the instruments used in this song are what bumped the rating down for me, but I do love the message. So commonly, the response we use is "I'm fine" when we're really not, and Fine is just another person's story and struggle with putting a good face on after a hard break.

"I pick those tomatoes we grew off the vine // They look out the window just in time // I reach for the phone just to make sure it's on // And I'm fine // I put on my makeup for no one at all // My heels on the hardwood echo down the hall // I open the wardrobe, put my face in your clothes"

*Pageant Material* |  77% | It's quite clear from the beginning of the song why this became the title track and lyrically feels a lot like Blowin' Smoke. The chorus itself isn't one that fits my preferences but the lyrics themselves are quite hilarious.

"And it ain't that I don't care about world peace // But I don't see how I can fix it in a swimsuit on a stage // I ain't exactly Ms. Congenial"

Late to the Party | 75% | While this song could apply to a close friend, I'm assuming it's meant for a lover. It's my own taste that doesn't makes this track my favorite. The thought, while endearing, is one that doesn't make as much sense as some of Musgraves' previous songs. Or it just peeves off my slightly OCD behavior because I never want to be late to parties :)

"Oh, who needs confetti? // We're already falling into the groove // And who needs a crowd when you're happy at a party for two? //The world can wait"

*High Time* | 72% | This is the kind of song I feel like my opera-singer parent would sing to me if she was a country artist because it talks about taking a step back to re-evalute your needs and the flashiness of life which she loves to do when I'm on my phone constantly.

"Been missing my roots // I'm getting rid of the flash // Nobody needs a thousand-dollar suit just to take out the trash // Ain't gotta be alone to feel lonely // I'm gonna turn off my phone, start catching up with the old me"

*Cup of Tea* | 70% | This song has more of a down-home feel to it and I can picture a signature Kacey Musgraves music video fitting this song. It has a nice message to it about independence and not giving a crap about who people think you are. And I would seriously pay money to have some of these lyrics on a t-shirt.

"You can't be everybody's cup of tea // Some like it bitter, some like it sweet // Nobody's everybody's favorite // So you might as well just make it how you please"

*Good Ol' Boys Club* | 68% | When I first heard this song, I was a bit skeptical because it rang faintly of Another Sunday in the South by Miranda Lambert with the beginning chords and lyrically when the song began there were definitely some similarities. By the time the chorus rolls around, it's clear this is a Kacey Musgraves song speaking against the stereotypical boys clubs of the south and there are speculations of a little wink to Big Machine Records which is known for making Taylor Swift famous.

"Cigars and handshakes, appreciate you but no thanks // Another gear in a big machine don't sound like fun to me // Don't wanna be a part of the good ol' boys club"

*Are You Sure* | 67% | This track is only available on iTunes and features the one and only Willie Nelson. Because of this, it follows the lulling guitar playing Willie is known for and sounds like Are You Sure could fit right in with his 2013 album To All The Girls where he sang with prominent female country artists both new and old. It's certainly not my favorite Kacey Musgraves song but I like the message of wondering whether you're happy with the way things are and where your life is heading.

"Please don't let my tears persuade you // I'd hoped I wouldn't cry // Although lately teardrops seem a part of me"

Conclusion | Kacey Musgrave's sophomore album most certainly does not disappoint and marks a young artist's progression through life in unique narratives and acoustic sound that takes us back to guitars and campfires that make country feel like it did in the beginning. If I like Pageant Material this much on the first few listens, it will only get better with time.

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