Pageant Material

Pageant Material

How do you follow up a debut album that set the country music world abuzz? If you’re Kacey Musgraves, you return with 2015’s Pageant Material, a mellow, countrypolitan masterpiece decked in rhinestones. Riding high on the success of 2013’s Same Trailer, Different Park, Musgraves doubled down on what made her sound so unique, reuniting with her producing and co-writing team of Shane McAnally and Luke Laird for a funny and bitterly honest album that skewers the “Good Ol’ Boys Club,” tells her life story (“Dime Store Cowgirl”), and offers the dysfunctional family anthem we didn’t know we needed (“Family is Family”). She even recruited pal Willie Nelson for the trippy-twangy hidden track “Are You Sure.” The album’s first single, “Biscuits,” is a rambunctious, catchy ode to minding your own beeswax, but it’s Pageant Material’s opener, “High Time,” that really sets the stakes. A lush, stoner, slow-down anthem of the highest accord—pun intended—the song finds Musgraves pandering to absolutely zero trends. Instead, she’s relaxed and introspective, thinking about how to stay connected with her Texas self as her fame rises: Success can change a person, but Musgraves has only stuck closer to her convictions as the awards rolled in—a path she ponders on the album’s title track: “I’d rather lose for what I am than win for what I ain’t,” she sings. Musgraves was sick of women having to please everyone—of having to keep a pretty face when their insides were feeling anything but. That sort of blunt, self-assured approach didn’t endear Musgraves to country radio. “Biscuits” failed to make an impact on the airwaves, and with that snub, one thing became abundantly clear: Musgraves was never going to try and please the powers that be, especially not a bunch of programmers. Luckily, she no longer needed their support. Her crossover appeal was growing, with her Kacey Musgraves Country & Western Rhinestone Revue selling out multiple dates across the country, and pop and rock fans catching on to her sound (including Katy Perry, who took Musgraves on the road with her). The Nashville powers that be may not have seen Musgraves as pageant material, but who cared? With a sophomore album this strong, she easily took the sash as country music’s newest rebel queen.

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