Review: Kacey Musgraves breaks down marriage breakup

“star-crossed,” Kacey Musgraves (Interscope Records/UMG Nashville)

Kacey Musgraves breaks down the breakdown of her marriage on “star-crossed,” her follow-up to 2018’s Grammy winning album of the year “Golden Hour.”

Musgraves delivers the story in roughly three acts of tightly woven pop/country songs: the optimism of falling in love, the sadness of drifting apart and everything that comes from the realization there is no going back.

You don’t have to have suffered through a divorce to connect with the feelings Musgraves expresses about seeking and holding onto love, loss, anger and hope for a better future. She credits a guided psychedelic trip with helping her organize and execute the record.

On “What Doesn’t Kill Me,” Musgraves gives a nod to the smash that immediately preceded this challenging, but accessible, record: “I’ve been to hell and back/Golden hour faded black.”

On the standout track “Camera Roll,” Musgraves describes scrolling through old pictures on her phone and the memories they trigger.

“Chronological order and nothing but torture,” she sings. “Scroll too far back that’s what you get/I don’t wanna see ‘em but I can’t delete ’em/It just doesn’t feel right yet.”

Who can’t identify with that?

“This hookup scene ain’t all that it’s made out to be,” she sings on another confessional, “Hookup Scene.”

“A pretty face might get you far/But still it can’t replace the kind of real connection that I crave,” she sings. “The kind we don’t have anymore.”

“star-crossed” is a brave and brutally honest take on her marriage to singer-songwriter Ruston Kelly that now joins the long list of records detailing break ups. It’s a story of courage and honesty and a stark contrast to the warm glow of “Golden Hour,” with Musgraves showing a vulnerability and willingness to grow artistically that is often in short supply among artists at her level of popularity.

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