The 15 Best Kacey Musgraves Songs

Music Lists Kacey Musgraves
The 15 Best Kacey Musgraves Songs

From the start of her career, Kacey Musgraves seemed destined to become country music’s next sweetheart. While she does have a few sweet songs and a heart of gold, there’s nothing wide-eyed and innocent about the 32-year-old singer/songwriter, now one of Nashville’s biggest stars. She has never been content to abide by country music norms, a trait which became abundantly clear when she released her first hit single “Follow Your Arrow,” which encouraged self-expression in all its forms and shouted out support for gay marriage (to some disgruntlement in the country community), in 2013. Since then, Musgraves has toured the world and released three studio LPs, plus a Christmas record and even a Christmas special. Already a revered lyricist in many circles, Musgraves shot to stardom in 2018 with the release of her critically acclaimed album Golden Hour. We named it one of the best albums of the 2010s. It’s one of those records that begs re-listens in times of both grief and great joy. Since 2020 has definitely been a mix of those two emotions, what better time than now to look back on Musgraves’ catalogue? She has taught us so many lessons, like to mind our own biscuits, remember the rainbow over our heads and what to do with a lonely weekend. We rounded up 15 of our favorite Kacey Musgraves tunes. Follow your arrow to the list below to see our picks.

15. “Miserable”

Absolute misery is one thing, but wallowing and self-pitying is another. Musgraves examines a chronic pessimist on this Pageant Material track, which always, without fail, inspires me to take a long, good look in the mirror and ensure that I’m nothing like its protagonist every time I hear it. We all know someone like this person: a persistent complainer, a killjoy, Eeyore’s very likeness personified. In this situation, Musgraves knows that what’s best for her own emotional health isn’t easy, but it’s necessary: cut that negative energy out of her life. —Ellen Johnson

14. “Wonder Woman”

It’s always good to manage one’s expectations—especially when entering a new relationship. Your partner isn’t your therapist, and they’re certainly not a superhero. Musgraves says it best on this underrated Golden Hour gem: “But, baby, I ain’t Wonder Woman/ I don’t know how to lasso the love out of you / Don’t you know I’m only human?” —Ellen Johnson

13. “Biscuits”

Musgraves’ catalogue is full of life advice, but none is as delicious as this: “Mend your own fences and own your own crazy / Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy.” If you stay out of other people’s drama and aren’t quick to compare yourself to others, your life will be that much closer to pure bliss(cuits). —Ellen Johnson

12. “Rainbow”

“Rainbow” was released as a single with an inspiring accompanying video after Golden Hour’s release and subsequent Grammy wins, and while it never got a chance to work the album cycle, it still landed on country radio and brought more fans to Musgraves’ music after she took home a few golden gramophones. Musgraves encourages the unconfident, downtrodden and dispirited among us, singing, in a tone not unlike that of a lullaby, “Let go of your umbrella, ‘cause darlin’, I’m just tryin’ to tell ya / That there’s always been a rainbow hangin’ over your head.” Light follows us around, even if we don’t see it ourselves. —Ellen Johnson

11. “Butterflies”

This song captures love’s first delight so perfectly, it’s hard to think of many other songs that even come close. The best romances often sprout from unexpected places, and Musgraves’ fluttery description of those special feelings is clever, yet classic country, too. —Ellen Johnson

10. “High Time”

Musgraves has never been shy when it comes to talking about (and singing about) her favorite substance. The Texas-born singer takes after country great Willie Nelson in her admiration for the green stuff, and “High Time” is a nod to letting go and leaning back. But you don’t need marijuana—or anything else—to relax. All you need is yourself and somewhere to kick back and close your eyes: “Let the grass just grow and lean way back.” —Ellen Johnson

9. “Happy & Sad”

Musgraves is all-too familiar with life’s ups and downs, lights and darks, and how they often co-exist. “Is there a word for the way that I’m feeling tonight?,” she sings on “Happy & Sad.” “Happy and sad at the same time / You got me smiling with tears in my eyes.” That track is a lesson in feeling comfortable with dark emotions, but Musgraves spends the bulk of Golden Hour basking in the light, giddy with new love. —Ellen Johnson

8. “Late to the Party”

Parties can be fun, but sometimes the most meaningful togetherness happens at home, quietly. Musgraves and her partner aren’t the most punctual in this Pageant Material tune, and they ultimately decide to skip out on the event where their presence is awaited. No matter—the only gathering that will ultimately serve them is best enjoyed on the couch with joints in hand. —Ellen Johnson

7. “High Horse”

Two twinkly tracks from Kacey Musgraves’ revered 2018 album Golden Hour, “High Horse” and “Space Cowboy,” work as a sort of pair. Both play with barnyard imagery, expand the definition of country pop and sonically stun. But where “Space Cowboy” releases and reckons, “High Horse” sasses—“Space Cowboy” is about the pain in letting go, while “High Horse” is about giving someone the boot. Kacey Musgraves is not a typical country star. Rarely in music history has disco so closely intertwined with country twang, but, on “High Horse,” Musgraves convinces us that disco and western styles are destined to be together. In the video, Musgraves assumes the role of a bored office secretary, begrudgingly tolerating bigot bosses and tired co-workers. But in her dreams, she’s a disco queen, karaoke connoisseur and stylish horse wrangler. The video’s office scenes bring to mind images of a feisty Dolly Parton circa 9 to 5, while the disco moments recall the glory days of Studio 54. —Ellen Johnson

6. “Oh, What A World”

Ask any music critic what makes Golden Hour so special, and they’ll likely tell you it was something to do with Musgraves’ eagerness to experiment with sounds not often associated with country music. “High Horse” has disco and “Butterflies” has watery-sounding pedals, but “Oh, What A World” has something even more interesting: AutoTune. It’s the sound of a perfect trip, when everything around you seems to glow with a pinkish tint and your soul soars. Like “Slow Burn,” it’s about relishing what’s around us. Musgraves manages to make a song about everything and nothing at the same time. As we get older, we lose appreciation for things that once delighted us, but she takes in even the most mundane occurences with a childlike awe (and a banjo). —Ellen Johnson

5. “Merry Go ‘Round”

We already know that Kacey Musgraves has a way with words, but “Merry Go ‘Round” off her first record Same Trailer, Different Park, might be her strongest lyrically. On “Merry Go ‘Round,” she sings about growing up in a small town (in a trailer) and regardless of whether that was your upbringing or not, the familial themes and underlying anxieties of growing up are relatable to all. It’s certainly not be her flashiest song, but it shouldn’t be. The lyrics alone are clever enough, and you’ll find yourself hanging on to every single word on the very first listen. If we didn’t see from this song in 2013 that Kacey Musgraves would explode into the magical, colorful Golden Hour that we now know and love dearly, in retrospect we should all be kicking ourselves. After all, “same checks we’re always cashin’ to buy a little more distraction.” —Annie Black

4. “Lonely Weekend”

The latest album from Kacey Musgraves is a throwback, but it’s one that looks to a time in the ’70s when country artists were, as they are now, trying to keep up with the sounds of the pop charts. And no song from Golden Hour represents that better than this little gem, a tune that skirts the edge of disco schmaltz without spilling over into a jumble of sequins and overwrought production. It holds steady, riding a perfect groove and even more perfect vocal hook that celebrates and bemoans those days when you’re on your own with not a lot to do. —Robert Ham

3. “Space Cowboy”

Released in February of 2018 (ahead of Golden Hour itself), this song’s haunting country-pop melody and gut-wrenching lyrics are reflected in the lovelorn music video. Musgraves is seen facing her partner before she appears heartbroken, looking out her kitchen window and sitting on her bed. Throughout the video, shot on location in Mexico City, Musgraves is seen sitting on the house beams, by herself at a dinner table and arguing with her boyfriend. The video reaches an intense climax as Musgrave’s beau arrives home nonchalantly before getting into another argument with Musgraves. He ends up taking off into the woods to see a chaotic, cloudy sky before riding off on his horse again. —Adreon Patterson

2. “Follow Your Arrow”

With a voice that’s pretty, but brazen, Musgraves has no problem slinging attitude, crying bullshit or coyly advocating same-sex amour/dope-smoking while skewering hypocrisy. With a lilt in her phrasing, “Follow Your Arrow” demonstrates the beauty of living your life as it feels right, with the tambourine finding the beat and the acoustic strumming merrily away. —Holly Gleason

1. “Slow Burn”

Songs about the passage of time are perhaps more relatable then ever right now as we all adjust to new daily routines and even unexpected downtime. Kacey Musgraves’ “Slow Burn,” the album opener from 2018’s Grammy Award-winning Golden Hour, is all about soaking up the quiet, small moments—and finding the beauty in them. —Ellen Johnson

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