Poetry and Music Pairings: Kacey Musgraves Edition
Country-pop crossover artist Kacey Musgraves recently released Star-Crossed, her fourth album and the one most directly tied to poetry. Widely regarded as her “divorce album,” Musgraves said she wrote the emotional project as a “modern tragedy” in the classically poetic three-act structure—even alluding to Romeo and Juliet in the title.
While Star-Crossed may be the album that most clearly acknowledges it, all of Musgraves’ works could be compared to poetry. The beloved, versatile singer is known for her confessional lyricism, establishing imagery, and introspective themes. These four poetry collections connect with each of her award-winning releases.
1. Same Trailer Different Park and Trailer Trash by July Westhale
In her first album, Musgraves proudly showcases her working-class upbringing and acknowledges its role as a central theme in her music. Similarly, in July Westhale’s Trailer Trash—winner of the 2016 Kore Press Book Prize—Westhale reclaims what it means to be “trailer trash,” representing the rural setting where many of the poems take place as resiliently beautiful.
Both Musgraves and Westhale strike an authentic balance in depicting where they come from. For example, on Musgraves’ break-out hit “Merry Go ‘Round,” she mourns the town’s early marriages, teen pregnancies, and religious expectations. In the track “My House,” however, Musgraves celebrates the sense of freedom and adventure that a mobile home can provide, singing, “Who needs a house up on a hill / When you can have one on four wheels / And take it anywhere the wind might blow?”
2. Pageant Material and Gloss by Rebecca Hazelton
Pageant Material shows Musgraves confronting the scripts and expectations surrounding her, cheekily pointing out the ways in which she doesn’t conform. “There’s certain things you’re supposed to know / When you’re a girl who grows up in the South,” Musgraves remarks in the album’s title track, before depicting herself as someone who can’t walk in heels and who’s “always higher than her hair.” Similarly, in “Good Ol’ Boys Club,” Musgraves declares that she never wants her success to be propelled by industry connections, critiquing some of the music world’s norms.
While Rebecca Hazelton’s Gloss takes place in Los Angeles, far away from the small, Southern town Musgraves illustrates, it similarly interrogates gendered expectations and norms. The poems in Gloss unfold on movie sets and against the glossy, airbrushed backdrop of Hollywood, analyzing how real-life women struggle to meet these unrealistic cues.
3. Golden Hour and Cult of Two by Michael Faudet
In some ways, Golden Hour is the perfect contrast to its follow-up, Star-Crossed. Critics called it a “marriage album,” as it chronicled Musgraves falling in love and settling into a committed relationship. These cozy, magical feelings come through most clearly on songs like “Slow Burn,” “Golden Hour,” and “Love Is a Wild Thing.” However, Musgraves also explores the heartbreaks of past relationships and the ups-and-downs of love in aching songs like “Space Cowboy.” Juxtaposition characterizes Golden Hour, along with its quieter, more intimate scope: the growing feelings between two people.
Michael Faudet’s Cult of Two takes inspiration from this same dynamic, embracing both heartache and new romance. Through these twists, it lets readers into the complex, often bittersweet relationship at the center of the collection.
4. Star-Crossed and Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
“A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life / whose misadventured piteous overthrows doth with their death bury their parents’ strife,” William Shakespeare writes in the classic Romeo and Juliet. Musgraves’ fourth album takes its title from this quote, building on the concept of a relationship that seems ill-fated from the start. Throughout her latest release, which reveals Musgraves at her most heartbroken and reflective, she questions what it means for a relationship to be truly “star-crossed.”
Looking for more poetry and music pairings? Check out the Taylor Swift edition.