Part promotion of records, part meditation on lyrical themes and part feverish dream gloriously smashed, Star crossed (Paramount +) puts a mess of fun, dreamy visuals to the material from Kacey Musgraves’ fourth studio album of the same name, just released. Remnants of the singer’s country roots songwriting remain. But the very fact that this film exists, as well as its artistic appearance, attests to Musgraves’ assimilation of pop music.
The essential: In 2013, Same trailer Different park, Kacey Musgraves’ debut label, earned the Texas-born singer and songwriter a Grammy for Best Country Album thanks to his straightforward lyrics, quick wit, and unmistakable Nashville grooves. Historical reenactment material, his melancholy and more personal follow-up of 2014, was nominated in the same category. And in 2018, Musgraves had emerged with Golden hour, the album that took him from pure country music to something more pop, and the one that received album of the year honors and certified Platinum status. Everyone loved Spacey Kacey; Under that million-lumen projector, it’s no wonder her brand-new marriage to country singer-songwriter Ruston Kelly didn’t survive. We are now in 2021, and where it ends for Musgraves, nobody knows. But the merry-go-round isn’t slowing down, and rightly so, she released that tried and true documentary in country music lore, a divorce album, tinged with her stylistic evolution to lip gloss pop.
Star crossed is an album cycle, its 15 songs cataloging Musgraves’ emotions during his marriage, from the first blush to rising tension, heartache and ultimately personal redemption. Star crossed the accompanying film follows this path, its 48-minute duration mirroring the three-act disc. Musgrave proposed the concept, with director Bardia Zeinali, and cinematographer and frequent collaborator to Darren Aronofsky, Matthew Libatique, provides often striking visuals. Magical realism is the touchstone here – Musgraves and an ensemble of recurring figures appear in the forms of fantastical bridal adornments or in Chanel’s ivory tweed skirt suits; they go wild in a mall looking absolutely fabulous, or strike a pose next to wrecked cars and dream world hospitals straight out of an Adrian Lyne movie. A color palette of pinks, dusty blues, white satin, and vermilion blend with the California sunshine, and all the while Musgraves travels through the Star crossed songs, sometimes in conventional lip sync but most often moving through space with the material, appearing as its central figure when the music stops, slows down or drifts into an interpretive miasma. This Star crossed the film takes place in a haze created by Musgraves, and it’s not just his weed smoke that speaks.
What movies will this remind you of? Kanye West also probed divorce as a creative outlet with his new album Donda. But in 2010, the polarizing rap artist was rising high with My beautiful twisted dark fantasy, a record that he accompanied and performed with the arty short film, very ‘Ye Run away. And a location used in Star crossed may seem familiar to moviegoers or fans of weddings gone wrong – the dusty and desolate church in Lancaster, Calif., where Quentin Tarantino staged the wedding massacre of “The Bride” in Kill Bill: Book 1 surfaces here with a neon sign offering cancellations for $ 15.95.
Performances to watch: The first act of Star crossed portrays Musgraves and his team as “anti-matrimonial” burglars who destroy discount bridal shops for kicks and satisfaction, and a notable member of the gang is Symone, the winner of Drag race Season 13. Not To Be Outdone is the comic Megan Statler, playing an arms dealer who connects Kacey’s party with a handful of oversized medieval melee weapons, including a morning star and mace.
Memorable dialogue: “I woke up from a perfect dream…” “… Being an adult sucks sometimes; I really miss my simple moments…” “… If I were an angel, everything would be better…” “… Healing does not happen in a straight line ”: Star crossed the album is full of representative, heart-torn verses that don’t obscure Musgraves’ origin at all. And these words act as signposts in Star crossed the film, stitching its imaginative, colorful and sometimes abstract vignettes onto a road map of Musgraves’ heart.
Gender and skin: Nope.
Our opinion : Of course, cigarettes are bad for you. But for decades they’ve lent their flame and leaned on the artiface of cool, so it’s remarkable that the cheeky act of tearing a cigarette makes a small comeback in Star crossed. Kacey Musgraves has always had a keen sense of lyricism, and a knack for rhythm and pronunciation to give his words an ear hold. As she remembers the simple times, or the times made immortal by iPhone film, Musgraves seeks to rebuild what no broken relationship should ever win: herself, and by association, her sense of cool.
This feeling is best represented in Star crossed by those little actions – lit cigarettes and joints, or the dreamlike landscape of a finishing school systematically destroyed by an outlier like Kacey. But it’s also suggested with more gravity by the women who constantly hover over the singer’s shoulder – these are her muses, grieving sisters, struggling protectors, and partners in crime and dance. And the latter becomes a full-fledged kaleidoscopic disco with the redemptive entry of the last album “There Is a Light”.
The old wheels of the promotion have become new again. But why rely on a shared and imperfect platform when your visual content can own the whole room? Star crossed the film is free from the constraints of MTV but nonetheless an ancestor of the music video, an interpretive and long version of the format and a representative of the corporate green light given to the creative whims of a multi-platinum and Grammy-winning artist. And by appearing on a streamer like Paramount +, it also broadens the promotional footprint of an artist who still appeals to a larger pop audience and is set to play a 20,000-seat arena date series in 2021. It There’s a lot of Kacey Musgraves content here for established fans. But it’s the newcomers who might be more politely surprised by the creativity and artistic heart displayed.
Our call: Stream it. This visual accompaniment by Kacey Musgraves Star crossed album lightens the emotional load of what amounts to a divorce case. If you’re already a space cowboy like Musgraves, this is definitely for you. Otherwise, buckle up. And remember: what doesn’t kill you, better run.
Johnny Loftus is a freelance writer and editor living in Chicagoland. Her work has been featured in The Village Voice, All Music Guide, Pitchfork Media, and Nicki Swift. Follow him on Twitter: @glennganges