In recent years, the Grammy awards have been under fire for their tendency to cater to the mainstream. Radio-friendly albums like Taylor Swift’s 1989 and Adele’s 25 topped critically adored works To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé’s Lemonade, respectively. It all culminated a year ago when Top 40 regular Bruno Mars swept the show’s top three prizes, leaving Kendrick Lamar, Lorde, and Childish Gambino fans scratching their heads in confusion and disgust. However, the results of last night’s Grammys pointed to a possible turnaround for the Recording Academy…
Kacey Musgraves scored Album Of The Year for her magnificent Golden Hour. Submitted into the awards in the “Country” category, some would say the LP is anything but. Musgraves hails from Texas and is certainly a country artist, but her interpretation of the genre reaches far past the south. Only it’s not a rerun of Taylor Swift’s transition into full-on mainstream pop: Musgraves dips her feet into disco-pop sounds, and even sings into a vocoder on the song “Oh, What A World”, but somehow still maintains the enjoyable glitz of the genre. You don’t have to be a fan of country music at all to appreciate her work- it’s even possible her concerts gather more country haters than actual country diehards.
Golden Hour is backed by gorgeous acoustic production. Every guitar stroke is intricately placed alongside Musgrave’s skilled songwriting ability. The 13-song tracklist is ripe with variation. There are bouncy jams like “Velvet Elvis” and the disco-pop banger “High Horse”. It’s got mellow love songs like “Love Is a Wild Thing” and the delicate “Butterflies”. She packs a plethora of clever cowboy references guaranteed to put a smile on your face despite “Space Cowboy” being a breakup song. One of the things that’s caused Musgraves to get “shunned” by the core country music crowd is her advocacy for LGBT rights, which she explores on the closing “Rainbow” (which Musgraves performed at last night’s Grammys).
It’s consistency that really makes the album shine. There are zero skippable songs across the LP. Even the 78-second long piano-driven “Mother” offers insightful emotion into Musgraves’ life. Her smart lyrics are understandable for anyone, rural upbringing or not, while her inviting vocals set the tone for an album that never overstays its welcome.
Riding an 89 Metacritic score, the LP was undeniably a critical darling. Its victory and Childish Gambino’s Record & Song Of The Year wins hint at a much-needed 180° for the awards. Following recent controversies, the Academy enlisted a more diverse pool of voters to address the lack of recognition for the other 98% of music that’s not on mainstream radio. The Grammys were careening towards the bottom after the debacles of the past few years, but the 2019 show pointed towards a brighter future for the best artists to get the praise they deserve. Golden Hour was the best choice for Album Of The Year, and I’m absolutely bewildered and grateful for Kacey’s win. Here’s to hoping the Grammys can keep it up.
SCAD Radio gives Golden Hour a 9.2/10.