Kacey Musgraves‘ songs are some of the best-written in contemporary country music.
Musgraves has been kicking around the fringes of the music business for years, releasing three independent albums and competing on Nashville Star in 2007, but she rocketed to national prominence with her major label debut, Same Trailer Different Park, which bowed at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart when it was released in March of 2013. And in addition to her own music, Musgraves has written songs for other artists, as well as for television.
From world-weary cynicism to upbeat anthems of self-acceptance, our list of the top Kacey Musgraves songs displays her unique talents.
One of the musical highlights of the first season of TV’s Nashville was “Undermine,” which Musgraves co-wrote with Trent Dabbs. Performed by Hayden Panettiere and Charles Esten, the song is a perfect blend of strong melody, classic country instrumentation and a well-crafted lyric that says, “It’s a whole lot harder to shine than undermine.”
4. “Follow Your Arrow”
Musgraves’ major-label debut is chock full of witty, observational songs that challenge the stereotypes of Nashville and country radio — but none more so than “Follow Your Arrow,” which encourages the celebration of individuality, saying, “Follow your arrow wherever it points.” The song’s acceptance of same-sex relationships and marijuana use might have made it problematic for radio, but it quickly became a fan favorite.
3. “Blowin’ Smoke”
“Blowin’ Smoke” centers around a group of waitresses talking trash while on a smoke break from work. A perfectly drawn skewering of how people talk about aspirations that they will never act upon, it features a number of classic lines, such as, “Brenda’s traded smokes for cake / Still hasn’t lost that baby weight / And that baby’s ’bout to graduate from college.”
2. “Mama’s Broken Heart”
The fourth single from Lambert‘s Four the Record was “Mama’s Broken Heart,” which Musgraves wrote with frequent collaborators Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally. The song is a modern-day breakup scenario: “Go and fix your make up, girl, it’s just a breakup / Run and hide your crazy and start actin’ like a lady.”It reached No. 2 in Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart.
1. “Merry Go ‘Round”
Musgraves’ debut single was a sharply cynical observation of life in small-town America, where couples marry and live and die in a cycle of inertia and ennui: “Mary, Mary, quite contrary / We get bored so we get married / And just like dust we settle in this town / On this broken merry go ’round.” Written with Josh Osborne and McAnally, the song reached No. 10 before its parent album was even released, launching Musgraves on a trajectory as one of country music’s most respected newcomers.