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.