Country star Kacey Musgraves has made a name for herself in the country music world with her honest, “rebellious” lyrics. Her songs tell off judgmental peers, question the status quo and -- gasp! -- dare to challenge heteronormativity. With the release of her new album "Pageant Material" in June, Musgraves continues that legacy by offering songs that empower listeners while keeping it real.
As a girl who grew up in the bro-country-worshipping South, I find Kacey Musgraves' clever, gritty songwriting to be totally refreshing. Her spot-on lyrics speak to real experiences and emotions, and she delivers them with just the right amount of bite.
To celebrate this fresh "tomato" of country music, here are eight lessons from Kacey Musgraves songs that nail what it's like to be a woman today.
1. Sometimes you just have to do what makes you happy -- because there's no winning society's approval either way.
“Follow Your Arrow”
If you save yourself for marriage, you're a bore
If you don't save yourself for marriage, you're a whore … -able person
"Follow Your Arrow" is an empowering anthem that tears down the unfair judgment women often face for their personal choices. It also gained notoriety for the notably non-heteronormative chorus -- "So make lots of noise and kiss lots of boys/Or kiss lots of girls if that’s somethin' you’re into."
2. Objectifying women is not cool.
And it ain't that I don't care about world peace
But I don't see how I can fix it in a swimsuit on a stage
The new album’s titular track is in many ways a critique of beauty pageant culture. At the same time, the song's lyrics promotes Musgraves' enduring message about being yourself and refusing to conform to society's expectations.
3. The glass ceiling still exists, but we're doing our darndest to shatter it.
“Good Ol’ Boys Club”
Don't wanna be a part of the good ol' boys club
Cigars and handshakes, appreciate you but no thanks
Another gear in a big machine don't sound like fun to me
The lyrics to "Good Ol' Boys Club" sound like a pointed critique of the male-dominated country music industry. In an interview with Fader, however, Musgraves says her song also has a more universal message about the workforce. "I’m talking about a lot of different people. Any industry has its shoo-ins and people that get in because they know somebody, or their dad worked here, whatever."
4. From school to relationships to motherhood, tearing other people down won't make you feel better about yourself.
Just hoe your own row and raise your own babies
Smoke your own smoke and grow your own daisies
Mend your own fences and own your own crazy
Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy
The lead single off "Pageant Material" is both an adorable play on words and an important reminder not to judge other people (or engage in the "Mommy Wars").
5. Slut-shaming is pervasive, but standing up for yourself feels good.
“The Trailer Song”
You ain’t gotta ask what I did to my hair
Or whose underwear’s on the line -- It ain’t mine
I ain’t gonna ask who's been mowing your grass
So you ain’t gotta ask who mows mine
Continuing Musgraves' themes of self-acceptance, "The Trailer Song" is about confronting nosy, slut-shaming neighbors and standing up for yourself.
6. Boundaries are important, especially when it comes to relationships. Make them -- and feel empowered to stick to them.
“Keep It To Yourself”
Keep it to yourself if you think that you still love me
Put it on a shelf If you're looking for someone
Make it someone else when you're drunk and it's late
In "Keep It To Yourself," the singer puts her foot down when it comes to late-night booty calls and a harmful relationship. She also touches on problematic assumptions about female desire and consent with the line, "If you see me out and I'm standing alone, well it don't mean that I'm gonna need a ride home."
7. You can't please everyone, so it's best to just be yourself.
"Cup of Tea”
Maybe you married the wrong person first
Maybe your hair's way too long
Your sister's in jail
Or maybe you failed out of college
Well, hey, life goes on
We've all got the right to be wrong
"Cup Of Tea" is an upbeat, tongue-in-cheek song that draws from Musgraves' personal experience as an artist and encourages others to embrace what makes them unique, despite what others think.
8. It's empowering to brush off negativity from people who don't support you.
Don’t wreck my reputation
Let me wreck my own
Confidence-fueling "Step Off" is an inspired response to hateful people who try to bring you down.