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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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‘Deeper Well’: Kacey Musgraves explores self-fulfillment, musical evolution

Shivani Bondada

Kacey Musgraves is ditching bygone friends and throwing out old habits. Like a tree, she is shedding the dead branches that hold her down to stand taller and stronger. “Deeper Well” is an album that demands to be listened to on a pair of headphones, maybe even on a plane; it opens with a 60s-esque guitar to set a tone of reflectiveness and new beginnings to the rest of the work. 

“Deeper Well” differs from her past two albums, which focused on finding and losing love, coinciding with her marriage and subsequent divorce to singer-songwriter Ruston Kelly. In this 14-song album, Musgraves no longer sings with ego, revenge or sadness, but with a sense of meditation. She looks upon her life from a vast open space, not unlike the one in which she is photographed on her album cover. She describes this new era of self-fulfillment perfectly in the title track, “I found a deeper well,” the first of two singles she released for this album. 

Since her release of the pop/country/disco fusion that was her album “star-crossed,” Musgraves has hinted at a return to a woodsier place. Her collaborations with Zach Bryan for “I Remember Everything” and Noah Kahan on “She Calls Me Back” are slow and reflective, similar to many of the songs on “Deeper Well.” However, this album is not a move farther from or closer to her country roots, but a step in an entirely different direction. 

There are a number of songs in the album that stand out. Some of my favorites include “Giver/Taker,” a solemn ballad where Musgraves’ pure, crisp voice is accompanied by an acoustic guitar and drums, and “Dinner with Friends,” which sounds like a page straight out of a journal, a bulleted list of the things she loves. In form, the song is unlike anything I’ve ever heard from Musgraves. I loved the way “Anime Eyes” sounded, and the use of synthesizer lended it the most modern sound on the album, but I wasn’t able to overlook the track’s out-of-place lyrics, which mention unicorns and rainbows. Musgraves showcases her vocal talent best in songs like “Jade Green” and “Anime Eyes,” as opposed to the soft, soulful vocals she delivers in “Too Good to be True” and “Moving Out.” 

The album’s cohesiveness is both a strength and a weakness. Nearly every song is a mellow, soft rock ballad and they flow perfectly into one another, perhaps too much so. I found myself getting distracted and unable to distinguish between songs the first few times I tried to listen to it. I was finally able to connect with the album while sitting on a flight from my hometown back to New Orleans, suggesting the headspace this album requires the listener to be in. I found the latter half of the album more melodically varied but not as strong as the first half. 

Although the musicality of the album is impressive, Musgraves lyricism falls flat, and she continues to deliver the cliche, somewhat obvious lines she did in “star-crossed,” if not more so. She opens “Too Good to be True,” a song about a new relationship that seems perfect but has yet to reveal its flaws, with the line “Made some breakfast / Made some love / This is what dreams are made of.” Musgraves set high expectations with her self-described “cosmic country,” Grammy winning album “Golden Hour,” and it seems she has yet to top it. Undoubtedly, her journey of self-revelation is powerful, but Musgraves lyrics are not nearly as deep as she thinks they are. 

“Deeper Well” is an album that feels necessary, like an exhale. Musgraves takes her audience with her on a journey of self-revelation as she finally sees life clearly. Unlike “Golden Hour,” which is immediately catchy and full of radio-ready songs, “Deeper Well” is an album that requires the listener to truly hear Musgraves songs of reflection and take them as they come.

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