Kacey Musgraves is fairly new on the scene despite her stint
on 2007’s Nashville Star, where she initially got her break. She’s recorded
albums independently before and featured on the 2011 single ‘Oh, Tonight’ with
Josh Abbott Band, but ‘Merry Go Round’ is her first big single, and big it is
definitely set to be. It was released back in September along with its
vintage-inspired nostalgic video, but its peak at #28 on the country charts
just doesn’t do justice for this song. So if you didn’t already know about it,
I’m here to tell you about it.
‘Merry Go Round’ is a sweet tribute to small town life with
a subliminal bitter twist that, if we are to undertake a romantic notion, underlies
the hearts of all those born and raised in small towns. “It ain’t what you
want, it’s what you know” sums up the tale of this song, which is supported by
heavy use of the banjo, nice to see in a song these days. There is also an
acoustic guitar, elements of piano, something which sounds like strings put on
delay, and a light shuffle-type beat on drums, if you could even say proper
drums. This song is light personified, and the simple loops and riffs played by
each of the instruments combine to fill a sound in space that is light,
inoffensive and promotes a carefree mood and attitude. Some songs are characterized
by their instruments, others are merely supported by their instruments. Here
Kacey constructs a mood and a soundscape that does not pick out one single
instrument, and that I will be honest and say since I have purchased a few days
ago, have probably listened to in excess of fifty to sixty times. I’ve been
listening on repeat in the shower, walking to university, sitting on the train,
and simply around the house.
It is so pleasant yet meaningful, and if anybody follows me
on Twitter they will note that I have been endlessly tweeting the lyrics. Those
such as “same checks you’re always cashing, to buy a little more distraction”
and “it don’t matter if you don’t believe, come Sunday morning you best be
there in the front row like you’re s’posed to” really ring true and
particularly for someone who hasn’t quite lived the life that many in country
music have done, this is a beautifully real snapshot of the small town folk
outside of the romantic notions and the media. Lyrics that pick out individual
very specific realities and experiences make the best songs for me, because
anybody can write something that is non-specific and interpretative and
universal. Yet it tackles so many universal issues, including “we think the
first time’s good enough, so we hold on to high school love, say we won’t end
up like our parents”, that generational promise that we all make, and that even
in this day and age people still hold on to their high school love (me
included). Also, "we get bored so we get married" presents such an image without even really trying. This is incredibly mature songwriting, and don’t let the pleasantness
of the music distract you from the deep content of the lyrics.
So if you haven’t picked up a copy of ‘Merry Go Round’ yet,
I strongly suggest you do. Kacey’s vocals are gentle, understated and perfect,
and I am desperately waiting for her album, which does not appear yet to have a
title or an official release date (although do let me know if I’ve missed it).
I like this song because it’s not the same old small town pride from her male
counterparts that dominates the charts, but is more realistic and subtly notes
the negatives shadowing such a sought-after, simplistic and nostalgic
lifestyle, yet welcomes it with open arms anyway because it’s a way of life.
Kacey is definitely one to watch, this is my favorite new song of the
Autumn/Winter season hands down and I look forward to a second single and her
album in the New Year.
You can buy the song here.
Watch the video below.