After speaking with Beef Wellington last night, we’ve decided that getting drunk is a piss poor excuse to not write anything. So in the spirit of professionalism and alcoholism, these thoughts are provided to you by our sponsors at $12 bottle of rum at our local liquor store. Why rum you may ask? Because it’s summer, and when its 95 degrees out, it means you need a lighter alcohol. I’m in full vacation/summer/pirate mode. Yesterday I even had a Blue Hawaiian. What the hell am I talking about? Oh yeah, Kacey Musgraves.
Musgraves is a revolutionary force in country music in the sense that there are two many attractive men disguising themselves as musicians in the country field and exploiting lonely drunk girls into buying $200 dollar tickets for country-fest to see them. This is not magic fucking mike. These are supposed to be talented MUSICAL artists, right? But in taking a page out of the chauvinist playbook, women are flocking to country shows to get drunk and holler in unison at under-talented pretty boys blathering on about the US of A. They might as well me popping out of a comically larger cake. And in response to the red-solo-cupping/tractor-fucking/stars-and-stripping “bro country” music phenomenon, actual country loving women are pissed. Oddly enough, the pop centric Kacey Musgraves is being held up high as a counter force to these stereotype-absorbing pissants that are selling back water-downed pop-country to their over-funded, trend following drunks. After listening to Musgraves latest album, Pageant Material, I’m pleasantly surprised that there is a smarter way to bridge the gap between pop and country music.
Kacey Musgraves is not exactly a country pioneer, but she has been hyped as much for writing about songs that are relatable to a general audience that is not more obsessed with guns than equality. You won’t find as much whiskey and misery as our “true country” godfathers but at the very least it is refreshing to hear a young country singer singing about anything other than “god and country” propaganda or least common denominator drinking songs with frat bro lyrics and that Garth Brooks/Faith Hill over-the-topness quality. Her songs are as much indie-pop as country, but let me give a big round of applause for Musgraves for remembering that pedal steel is your friend, and for writing songs about what you care about instead of what creationist trash will buy your album for. There are some serious “alt-country” influences on this disc, and while at times it’s too poppy for my tastes, there are some obvious similarities between Pageant Material and the country-fried pop of Interventions and Lullabies, the debut album of the since defunct The Format, a personal favorite.
Listening to some songs like “High Time” or the title track “Pageant Material” have a sorta Jenny Lewis quality where it’s really contemporary pop music, but it does wears some of its ’60 and ’70 era country influences on its sleeve. Some of this sound goes back to Loretta Lynn, and continues with strong female country voices like Dolly Parton and Alison Krauss. Meanwhile, a song like “Good Ol’ Boys Club” rallies against the sexism women still have to face in the traditionally male dominated world of country music, and is a theme we of both genders can related to in world where the power is consolidated in the hands of a few select rich, connected dickbags. If I’m a relatively young white male and I feel oppressed, what the fuck is like for young women in this society? I understand why people may be overselling Musgraves in this unequal political climate full of shitty gender roles and the shitty music movements that back it up. We need some hope for change, even if that comes from 26 year old country loving pop singers instead of our nation’s “leaders”. And while her big single “Biscuits” is corny in its message and recycled usage (although intentional) of previous country themes, it’s catchy as hell and a better example of what “pop-country” should be than the crap our airwaves have been filled with in recent years. Musgraves seems to have a good grasp on not only her talents but of the better acts that came before her. I’m not sure that I will be listening to this album often, but like mostly every other writer discovering her (and yes I use that term loosely) Musgraves has won me over.
The Drink: Cheap Rum.