Kacey Musgraves: Pageant Material

Kacey Musgraves follows up her hit 2013 debut with a sharper, more confident LP

Kacey Musgraves performs during the 2015 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee on June 12th, 2015. Credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

With 2013's Same Trailer Different Park and "Follow Your Arrow," Kacey Musgraves became not just a breakout star but a figurehead for a generation overhauling country's whole approach — something like Lena Dunham with pedal steel and big hair. Her follow-up is more calculated and confident, intent on both courting and bending the mainstream with wit and timeless arrangements. It misses some of Trailer's storytelling wistfulness and formal experiments — but track for track, it's stronger, an object lesson in Nashville songwriting.

Musgraves and her A-list co-writers (including Shane McAnally, Brandy Clark and others) deliver enough needlepoint homilies to launch an Etsy business. On haters: "Pissin' in my yard ain't gonna make yours any greener" ("Biscuits"). On the music biz: "Another gear in a big machine don't sound like fun to me" ("Good Ol' Boys Club"). On sketchy relatives: "They might smoke like chimneys but give you their kidneys" ("Family Is Family"). Songs like the title track allude to Musgraves' whiplash fame, but she dodges any second-album slump with weed jokes and homegirl charm. And as a stellar hidden-track duet with Willie Nelson ("Are You Sure") demonstrates, she's earned that fame, every inch.