One of my favorite albums of the year is 24-year-old, Nashville country singer-songwriter, Kacey Musgraves’ Same Trailer Different Park. I should note, she co-wrote the twelve songs on the album, but still, the lyrics serve as sometimes witty, sometimes depressing ruminations on small-town American life where there’s only broken dreams to be found.
In her hit single “Merry Go ‘Round,” she says, “We get bored, so, we get married. Just like dust, we settle in this town.” And that’s what the album is about; the metaphor of going ‘round and ‘round on the merry go ‘round is apt here.
With “Blowin’ Smoke,” she talks about the life of waitresses to demonstrate the boredom, the loneliness, the empty words and the lost potential, “Well, we all say that we’ll quit someday. When our ship comes in, we’ll just sail away,” but as the song title indicates, they’re just blown’ smoke.
“Dandelion” hits another somber, metaphorical note juxtaposing the wishful innocence of youth vs. the reality of heartbreaking life. Falling stars, lucky pennies, blowing on dandelions; it’s all for naught. It won’t change anything.
This album is identified as country, but it doesn’t sound like any country music I’ve heard before as it bemoans the broken promises of the American dream and small-town life. As NPR noted in their review, “Musgraves brings poetry to cigarette breaks, double shifts and fading dreams.” That she does; she’s not looking to use her country genre platform as “escapism,” but rather as illumination.
And NPR is also right to observe that there isn’t any unnecessary sentimentality in the lyrics here. She’s not tugging at your heartstrings to say, “Woe-is-me, as a living-breathing member of the millennial generation.” Nah, she’s observing what she sees as kinda fucked up about how we live our day-to-day lives.
Fast-track “Stupid,” that has a bit of a toe-tapping vibe to it, as she speaks frankly about how stupid love is. “You can’t separate the salt from the sugar; there’s footprints on your face, can’t tell anymore if you’re the rabbit or the snake.” But we do it again and again, ‘round and ‘round we go on this merry go ‘round, right?
Often in small-towns, it seems like an archaic 1950s mentality. Christian morality trumps all. Musgraves has something to say about that in, “Follow Your Arrow.” She says somewhat humorously, “If you don’t save yourself for marriage, you’re a whor-able person.” It’s a clever play that gets across her intention just fine. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t, and so do whatever the fuck you want. There’s no way to win amongst this contradictory small-town ethos.
Echoing back to “Merry Go ‘Round,” she says, “Say what you think, love what you love, ‘cause you just get so many trips ‘round the sun.” We’re all going ‘round and ‘round in this monotonous, broken life and yet, we’re only getting so many ‘rounds; why waste it on trying to please others? Even if you’re gay, too, it should be noted.
But it is what it is. And that’s exactly how she ends the twelve-song album with “It Is What It Is.” I find this one to be the most somber, vocally. She seems to be speaking specifically about a love interest, but what she says could also apply to her small-town, working-class life, too, “Maybe I love you; maybe I’m just kind of bored. It is what it is, till it ain’t.”
That’s a frankness about such uncertainly, about “not knowing” that I love and gravitate toward on this album. Her, what I like to refer to as, “minimalistic” vocals accompanied by her co-written musings make this album endlessly repeatable for someone that feels they can relate to the “’round and ‘round we go, where we stop, nobody knows.” There isn’t a song on the track-listing I don’t enjoy on some level.
I would recommend her album to anyone that says they don’t like country, as this is a different animal than the norm. I would recommend her album to anyone that feels like they just don’t know what to do with this whole living thing. She doesn’t have all the answers, but her lyrics sure do cut away the bullshit lies we tell ourselves.
The Washington Post named her album the “Album of the Year” ahead of Kanye West’s Yeezus and for good reason, as they said, “The dread of the millenials can’t be captured in a selfie, so Nashville’s newest star is picking up the slack and singing about what happens when a generation of idealists inherits a broken country.”
It’s fresh, and different and spearheaded by a talented singer-songwriter. Helluva debut, I’d say.