no. 43 — Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves

I used to be one of those people who said I liked all music except rap and country. I am no longer one of those people. I think writing off entire genres like that is reductive, and even worse, singling out those specific genres tends to be an act of classism and racism. Having grown up in New England, I really bought into North vs South stereotypes. In the most brutal terms, I characterized the South as white trash, less educated fools. I thought New England was a haven against the continued, blatant racism of the South; that everyone below the Mason Dixon line was a dumb republican who voted against their own interests. It’s easy to think this way- an Us vs. Them mentality can clarify anyone’s world view into something that’s easy to process and understand. The problem is that it’s false. When I moved to Baltimore[1], family, friends, and strangers asked how I would ensure I wouldn’t be mugged or raped, something they never asked when I went to Boston or New York City. I understand these impulses, especially because I too once held them as truths, but these ideas are steeped in centuries-deep stereotypes, politics, and disenfranchisement.

With so much rap and country music stemming from Southern areas, it’s clear that my own biases towards Southerners extended to these genres. Not only is this deeply pretentious, but it’s also racist, classist, and exclusionary. I don’t even know why I said that I didn’t like country when I loved the (Dixie) Chicks, but I suppose their outspoken political stance made it “ok” to like them. And while it’s true that I prefer to listen to artists with the same ideology as my own, it’s not fair to paint all country artists as bigots or republicans. That also discounts any country musician who doesn’t fit the mold of the white, misogynistic man who occupies my mind as the iconic country star.

What I’m trying to say is that Kacey Musgraves opened my eyes. Country music is popular because it’s catchy and comforting and often emulates an idyllic way of life. I can’t say I ever truly loved a country music album that wasn’t The Chicks until Golden Hour. My partner started listening to her music before me, and I scoffed at it as simplistic and fluffy. He kept making me listen, though, and I’m glad he did. Although I was late to the game, I fully dived into country music with this album lighting my way. While it still takes up less of my music library than anything else, at the very least it’s helped to dissolve my problematic ideas of the genre.

And the thing is, there’s no skips on this album. Every single song is so good and has a perfect corresponding situation to it. I remember on a beach trip with friends, I was driving and grumpy until I turned on this album. Suddenly, there was no need for tension. I tend to hold grudges past the point of usefulness, and I was on my way to doing that until these songs came on. They’re light, and yeah, maybe simplistic, but they serve an incredible purpose. After having learned more about various country music stars like Dolly Parton, Kacey Musgraves, and hell, even Taylor Swift, I gotta say that a lot of my opinions on the genre were also rooted in internalized misogyny. But I don’t want to be in the business of excluding myself from something fun or enjoyable based on outdated and false principals anymore. I wrote off country music for the wrong reasons, and I’m happy to stand here reformed. I have heard the light, and it is this album.

[1] I never know if Baltimore counts as the South, cause it’s right on the Mason Dixon line. Northerners count it as the South, but Southerners count it as the North. Regardless, it’s more South than my hometown, so I’m counting it as such for the sake of this essay.

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non-binary writer and gardener. I'm stressed out.

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Jenna Sylvester

Jenna Sylvester

non-binary writer and gardener. I'm stressed out.

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