“Darling, you take the high horse, and I’ll take the high road…”
It’s no secret that there’s been a certain twang trickling into Top 40 pop for the past five years or longer: it’s been passed along from EDM acts like Avicii to Lady Gaga to Miley Cyrus to Kesha to Justin Timberlake to, most recently and offensively, my sacred Disco Diva herself, Kylie Minogue. Results may…vary.
Better, seemingly, is when a country act tries their hand at the pop sound.
Lord knows, the last time that happened, a certain somebody born in 1989 shot to impossible heights of superstardom, only to take on a villainous narrative that permanently soiled her good girl reputation.
Country crooner Kacey Musgraves is releasing a new album called Golden Hour at the end of the month, and by all accounts, she’s going pop. “High Horse,” a song she premiered on Thursday (March 22), is proof of the sonic switch-up – and evidence that she’s fully capable of similar crossover success.
Although I’m not a Little Musgraver (I might be now, officially), I’ve known that she’s quite the clever lyricist with one punchy personality. The same applies here, even if the production is more shimmering than her usual: there’s horsey imagery galore (“giddy up, giddy up…“), a John Wayne reference and plenty of sass to boot. (“You’re classic in the wrong way” – nice.)
The track is a masterful, mesmerizing blend of twanginess with a sturdy disco beat. In fact, it was inspired by the Bee Gees: “I was on a huge Bee Gees kick whenever I was making this album and I was intrigued by the thought of a world where Bee Gees kind of meets country music,” she told Zane Lowe.
“These days I only see music really as falling into two two genres, good or bad. You won’t find someone on this earth that loves country music more than me, but that also doesn’t define all my musical tastes. I was inspired by a thought of a world where all these ideas could come together musically and still translate just as good songs if I sat down and played them on my guitar.”
Other country-pop efforts lately feel like these pop stars are just putting on hats and boots and trying their hand at cowboy drag – which is fine in its own way of course, but mostly comes off sounding like one’s first time at the rodeo. (Eh heh.)
When it comes to delivering a believable fusion of sound, Kacey’s out here serving up the best of both worlds.
“High Horse” was released on March 22. (iTunes)
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Photo credit: MCA Nashville