As Popstars Continue To Dabble In Country, Kacey Musgraves Is The Country Superstar We Need

Written By Sam Murphy on 03/05/2018

Country stars used to go pop, not the other way round. Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and Shania Twain were all successful in building audiences in the country world and then taking them pop. In the case of Swift, she teamed with big pop writers, ditched the banjoes and eventually left behind country altogether as she became the biggest popstar in the world.

Now something strange is happening. Pop is going country, not the other way around, and the results are not good. Bebe Rexha is enjoying the biggest hit of her career with Meant To Be, a strange R&B/country crossover track that features Florida Georgia Line, the same group that helped Hailee Steinfeld go momentarily pop on Let Me Go. Post Malone is also guilty of fusing country and R&B with undesirable results. These songs feel somewhat forced, but no crossover feels like a stretch more so than Justin Timberlake's Man Of The Woods which strangely reaches for a country audience while attempting to maintain the FutureSex/LoveSounds fans.

Usually, outside of the US at least, country stars have to go pop to grab commercial airplay (just looks at Maren Morris on Zedd's The Middle) but maybe it's time for a country superstar that's not dabbling in the genre momentarily.

Kacey Musgraves is the only person for the job.

Musgraves is big in the US but she's relatively unknown here in Australia. She's released two albums and will release her third Golden Hour at the end of this month. Three albums in, she's still making banjo-laden music with earnest songwriting that has nothing to do with beers, trucks and dogs. It's traditional country sung by a modern woman. She's got the infectious personality of Dolly Parton, the early relatability of Taylor Swift and the story-telling ability of greats like Willie Nelson.

She grew up on Shania Twain and Dixie Chicks and doesn't hold that conservative position that is often pinned on the country genre. She's vocal about gender imbalance in the country industry and refuses to be silenced by labels and the like. Every industry grows and while country has often lagged, Musgraves is the voice to prove that it can still be relevant, outside of shoddy pop crossovers.

The first two tracks to drop from her forthcoming album are some of the best she's ever written. The perky, lovelorn Butterflies has some real crossover potential while Space Cowboy is an honest ballad that highlights her songwriting strengths in their simplest form.

She's also an underrated fashion icon, recalling the glitz of early Shania with some incredible outfits. Last week she took to the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon wearing a silver jump suit that feels like she's ushering in a new era of country. Later in the week, she donned a rainbow jumpsuit, giving us a preview of what she's wearing to her funeral, as she put it. She still loves a cowboy boot but is styling it in a way that makes it look like Kylie Minogue studied her before unleashing her latest unexpected pop/country visuals.

That element has been missing somewhat in commercial country for a while now and while her fashion is not the reason we feel she could succeed internationally, it adds to her forward-thinking vision of the genre that is too good to simply be confined to the US.

Musgraves is unlikely to go full pop anytime soon and that's what's so appealing about the prospect of her international success. She could strip the radio of lazy pop/country crossovers and give us something that feels both authentic and totally fresh.