'star-crossed' is Kacey Musgraves' fourth album, coming after her critically-acclaimed album, 'Golden Hour', which managed to win GRAMMY's Country Album and Album of the Year awards, with this album essentially being the end of the golden hour, moving towards something darker. The album is all about her divorce with Ruston Kelly, telling us how her marriage unraveled and how she found motivation during those dark periods, being based on 'Romeo and Juliet' I believe. Kacey hasn't moved as far away from country roots as one would expect as she just adds the country elements into her own cinematic and lush atmosphere, creating sounds that are truly unique. Even though she came up with fresh concepts and sounds, I feel like most of the album still sounds uninspired which might have to do with the fact that the album's got way too many tracks, creating filler, taking away from the density of several songs and turning them into generic, repetition-filled songs that don't convey her emotions in the beautiful manner I expected. 'star-crossed' is super stale as it's nothing except your typical break-up album that doesn't dive deep enough into the story of her breakup, characters, and most importantly her true emotions as I feel like I'm listening to someone in shock, who's repeating the same things over and over again to give themselves comfort which leaves the listener looking for some kind of explanation.
Kacey's vocals are great as she sounds glossy smooth throughout the course of the album, adding a tiny bit of autotune here and there to help her sink into the atmosphere of the album. Her vocals don't have the extreme amount of emotion you'd expect from a break-up album as she doesn't change her tone or intensity as much as she could've, allowing the production to add variety in terms of tone, while she just makes slight adjustments to match the beats. The richness in her vocals are what leave me in awe as there's no way any other singer would be able to slide into her role, having an automatic intimacy that keeps you interested in what she has to say even though she barely says anything worth listening to. She adds a dreamy layer to the entire album, making the whole album sound magical, not having even one bad vocal performance on the album. The similarity of her vocals on each song doesn't strengthen the relationship between the listener and her but actually pulls us apart as the lack of variety really starts to shine in the last five songs where you're just tired of her doing the same thing over and over again even though it was awesome for the first few tracks. The scarce amount of variety we receive are through her background vocals and autotune which can especially be heard on 'there is a light', not working in the lovely way she intended but still being intriguing enough as at that point, I'd take any variety. Overall, Kacey's vocals are kinda cool if you don't mind the lack of variety, reminding me a little of Gunna, but for a country dreamy pop album that's this long, it's basically guaranteed that you'll be annoyed with Kacey for her lack of effort into changing things up.
The production on the album is hit or miss as there's either a lot of laziness or a incredible amount of inspiration, with the album being filled with significantly more acoustic beats than I signed up for. Really wanted more tremendous tangy beats like the title track, but the beats are more like the second single, 'justified', acoustic and bland as the changes between the acoustic beats are honestly barely audible and make me feel like I'm listening to the same thing, with this effect being enhanced due to the lack of variety from Kacey. Additionally, Kacey and the acoustic beats just don't go hand and hand with each other, sounding extremely exhausting and repetitive like I mentioned as her dreamy vocals just don't seem to suit the raw beats, needing some spice to add life into her music. On the other hand, the few flavorful beats that we receive almost make up for it, sounding inspired by Mexican and Asian music, beautifully blending along with Kacey's vocals. An example of one of those beats is on 'cherry blossom', using a watery synthesizer to serve as the base and being topped by majestic drums on the chorus along with a perfect counter melody that actually makes me feel as if I'm walking through a cherry blossom in Tokyo while a few other bubbly counter melodies support it too. Weirdly, the beat on 'breadwinner' really reminds me of 'positions' by Ariana Grande, having that dreamy Disney touch to it, lightening up the mood wonderfully. Even though the instrumentals can be a bit icky, 75% of the drums are perfect, working well to reach its intended goal, ranging from atmosphere-ripping, destructive drums to soft as a pillow drums. Overall, the production on the album has a few flashy moments at the beginning that truly sound inspired, but just gets lazier and lazier as we move towards the bottom of the album, becoming increasingly saturated with soulless acoustic beats.
The lyrics are pretty much awful as it's not just that the lyrics sound severely outdated, but they just lack depth and are just another lazy area as she chooses to flow down the easy route and use an excessive amount of repetition which makes me more tired as a listener after having to listen to Kacey's magnificent monotonous vocals and bland acoustic beats. Wondered why the lyrics sounded so corny and that's when I looked up Kacey's age to find out that she's 33 years, with the age definitely playing a role but at the same time, I guess I'm kinda impressed at how well she executed a break-up album lyrically at her age even if it doesn't come close to matching the quality of lyrics from much younger artists such as Olivia Rodrigo or Tate McRae who understand the topics of youth and modern love much better than Kacey Musgraves. My mistake might be that I'm comparing it to other break-up albums when truly, this is a divorce album that dives into the topic of marriage for the good first half of the album. Not many melodies that stick to me which leads me to the lack of catchy choruses, with even the heavy amount of repetition not managing to help as it just makes the choruses sound really irritating instead of repeating inside my head. Overall, the lyrics on the album are not well thought-out as I thought they'd be, which leads to a lack of details of her divorce replaced by repetition, with none of the lyrics seeming personal to her or her relationship which takes the rawness away from her music to some extent as I feel like anyone could've wrote this album for her.
The title track is basically a beautiful intro and nothing much else as it gives listeners a good idea of what to expect from the rest of the album. 'good wife' and 'cherry blossom' are two tracks where Kacey still has hope for her relationship to last, even though she seems to be sacrificing way too much for her partner, with their chemistry just seeming to be off based on her lyrics and even though 'cherry blossom' is filled with repetition, I love the connection between the lyrics and production. The next four songs represent the slow realization that things aren't going to work for her as all her efforts to keep the boat afloat are only temporary, with tiredness catching up to Kacey, comparing her situation to a movie as she touches on how unrealistic movies are and that if she was in a movie, she would've managed to save her relationship, feeling like she's justified for wanting to be treated right from her husband, adding that she's no angel and that if she was, she would've been able to save her relationship. 'breadwinner', probably my favorite track lyrically on the album as it reminds me a lot of the term, 'gold digger', except that this song represents the total opposite and I'm sure you'll get what I'm saying when you take a listen, being one of the most fun songs on the album. On the other hand, 'camera roll' could be a contender for one of the worst songs of the year lyrically as it's supposed to be the 'supercuts' of the album, where the artist looks back at their relationship, although Kacey's execution is cringe at maximum, singing about how scrolls through her camera roll but can't come to deleting her pictures with her ex. Two contrasting songs in the form of 'easier said' and 'hookup scene' follow, with the first out of the two being about how it's hard to love while the second one is about any regret she has inside her for ending her marriage as she feels like she might've missed out on something and that she didn't realize that she didn't have it so bad. Tracks 12-14 are just a bunch of motivational tracks that really didn't need to be on the album as only one of the three would've been enough as they basically are the same songs lyrically, showing Kacey looking for hope in the haze of her emotions. Thought that the outro was outstanding, being in Spanish as she basically shows her gratitude for being alive, a song that celebrates life.
Overall, 'star-crossed' is not an album that shines in the darkness, instead one that submits itself to the darkness as I feel like Kacey hasn't come to a conclusion on whether choosing divorce was the best decision for herself, seeming shaken, lost and looking for something to guide her, using decent, dreamy vocals, almost average production, and awful lyrics.
Best Tracks: star-crossed, cherry blossom, gracias a la vida, breadwinner, there is a light, simple times
Worst Tracks: camera roll, angel, keep lookin' up, justified