Kacey Musgraves Ditched Her Formula to Make CMA-Winning ‘Golden Hour’ Album
Kacey Musgraves is cool with being labeled an "album artist." The 2018 CMA Awards winner for Album of the Year has just one lifetime Top 20 radio hit, but all three of her albums have earned industry accolades and hardware.
Golden Hour was the surprise CMA winner only if you haven't been paying attention to the kinds of albums that have won this honor recently. This category is where voters let their freak flags fly, often ignoring radio success as they choose a winner. Chris Stapleton's From A Room: Volume 1 led a category with very few No. 1 hits in 2017. Eric Church's Mr. Misunderstood topped more pop-friendly efforts from Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban in 2016. Kenny Chesney and Jason Aldean are two often-nominated artists with zero recent wins. Perhaps Blake Shelton's 2013 win for Based on a True Story ... was the last time the critic's choice didn't win.
"I personally enjoy seeing someone's whole idea," Musgraves tells Taste of Country after lamenting the popularity of the album in its entirety. "It's like the whole breadth of their idea, what were you trying to say as a whole?"
Her CMA-winning album is a complete, nuanced album that finds one song relying on the one before and after it to be totally understood. It's part of the reason songs like "Butterflies," "Space Cowboy" and "High Horse" didn't work at radio, although it's not really clear how actively any were promoted as "radio singles."
She had a vision.
"This one, I kind of stepped out and I was playing with some different styles," she says. "I wanted to get away from my own formula. Although I liked the albums I was putting out before, it was important for me to ... I don’t know, figure something else out for myself."
Musgraves' goal was to transcend country music without alienating the country audience. That's a thin wire to try to walk and a courageous proposition. Perhaps that's why she was so emotional in accepting the honor — even the bold bask in validation.
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While women have been struggling to get songs on the radio it's worth noting albums from female artists have done well at recent country awards shows and in year-end Best of lists. So the question becomes are women responding to obstacles at radio by creating more artistic albums or are more artistic albums creating obstacles. It's a discussion that requires more points of view and in depth analysis but one thing is certain, Musgraves isn't about to let the tail wag the dog, so to speak. Her record label knows to step back and not press too hard for that fabled "radio hit."
“Otherwise we wouldn’t have a relationship because I just can’t — my creativity can’t be told," the 30-year-old Texan says.
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