Kacey Musgraves Crosses Boundaries For Grammy Glory

Kacey Musgraves didn’t name Golden Hour to acknowledge her critical and commercial status at the time of its release. But the feeling of widespread appreciation for her maverick talents, established by Same Trailer Different Park in 2013 and amplified by 2015’s Pageant Material, was further enhanced by the appearance of the much-awaited new album in March 2018. Its performance was equally golden at the following year’s Grammys, where it won no fewer than four awards.

A record imbued with pop, disco, soft rock and electronic influences as much as its country base, Golden Hour was the sound of an artist winning on exactly her own terms, free from a country mainstream for which she remained too outspoken and, in truth, too adventurous. With country radio still wary of her boldly non-conformist style, only its fifth and final single, “Rainbow,” made the country Top 20, and that after she performed it at her triumphant Grammy Awards appearance.

Nevertheless the album was a country No.1 and a Top 5 record on the all-genre Billboard 200 on its way to platinum status, also becoming Musgraves’ first Top 10 album in the U.K. It won Grammy Awards for both Album of the Year and Best Country Album, while “Space Cowboy” won Best Country Song and “Butterflies” Best Country Solo Performance. By 2020, Golden Hour was securing a place just below halfway on Rolling Stone’s updated 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.

Musgraves again served as co-producer on the album, for which she wrote all 13 tracks, recording at a number of Nashville studios including Sheryl Crow’s Big Green Barn. But this time, instead of continuing her highly successful studio collaboration with Luke Laird and Shane McAnally, who had shared the desk with her on Same Trailer… and Pageant Material, Musgraves created a new one, with producers and multi-instrumentalists Ian Fitchuk and Daniel Tashian. The trio have remained at the helm since, on both 2021’s Star-Crossed and the 2024 album Deeper Well.

Musgraves was typically forthright when explaining to Rolling Stone about Golden Hour’s diversions from her country base. “It was a bit of a riddle to figure out in making sure that my spirit isn’t lost,” she said, “and also trying to find a new sound for me, because I am still so attached to the parts of country music that I love and that have gotten people familiar with me. I don’t need to pander around and try to make some random pop album just for the shit of it.”

A matter of days after Golden Hour’s release, Same Trailer… was certified platinum in the US. Pageant Material stopped short of any RIAA certification, but Golden Hour took the star back to both the gold and platinum standard, in June 2019 and May 2021 respectively.

Highlights included “Oh What A World,” a vocoder-driven track that lent its name to the world tour that ran across two legs from October 2018 to July the following year; the first single “Space Cowboy,” of which Stereogum’s Chris DeVille wrote: “The melody is so gorgeously wistful, the wordplay so subtly pristine, the heartache so profound”; and the genre-defying “Butterflies,” which she co-wrote with prolific hit composers Luke Laird and Natalie Hemby.

In a five-star album review, Alexis Petridis wrote in The Guardian: “The success of ‘High Horse’ is indicative of the ease and confidence that courses through Golden Hour. Regardless of genre, you’ll be hard pushed to find a better collection of pop songs this year. Everything clicks perfectly, but the writing has an effortless air; it never sounds as if it’s trying too hard to make a commercial impact, it never cloys, and the influences never swallow the character of the artist who made it.”

Listen to Golden Hour on Apple Music and Spotify.

Related Posts