The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


March 29, 2013

Jeremiah Tucker: Musgraves earns rep as the anti-Swift

JOPLIN, Mo. — So far, 2013 has been rough for Taylor Swift. Or as rough as it can be for a multi-multi-millionaire 23-year-old who is one of the biggest-selling music stars in the world.

Online media skewered her for implying Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were bad women for (barely) making fun of her at The Golden Globes. Then The New York Times published a story about a backlash against her, citing declining popularity scores from marketing-evaluation companies and dropped sponsorships.

While this is bad for Swift, it's gravy for 24-year-old country upstart Kacey Musgraves, whose buzzy major-label debut "Same Trailer, Different Park," released last week, is being billed as the palliative to Swift's influence on country music.

The allure of that comparison is almost irresistible. Swift, with her couture clothing and parade of famous boyfriends, represents pop; Musgraves, clad in boots and T-shirts, stands for a purer strain of country.

Then there are the songs. Musgraves' first single, "Merry Go Round," is a clever, finely observed digest of small-town life -- its forlorn banjo and melody, at first, masking the shiv she's hiding behind her back. It is hard to imagine Swift beginning a song with the lyric "If you ain't got two kids by 21, you're probably gonna die alone -- least that's what tradition told you" or deliver a sentiment as bleakly poetic as "just like dust, we settle in this town."

Musgraves' label, Mercury Nashville, reportedly held back her planned second single "Follow Your Arrow," a catchy, upbeat anthem for the YOLO generation, fearing country radio wouldn't play the song because of its endorsement of same-sex kissing and joint smoking -- neither of which, to date, can be found in Swift's discography.

Positioning yourself as the rebellious alternative to the mainstream has been a proven branding strategy since at least The Rolling Stones vs. The Beatles. But for all of the differences between Musgraves and Swift, there are some notable similarities.

Both are unusually attractive young women who co-write their radio-oriented songs with a cast of professional songwriters. A couple songs on Musgraves' album, the kiss-off to a pushy boyfriend "Step Off" and the blindly soul-searching "Back on the Map," wouldn't sound out of place on a Swift album, though Swift would probably ditch the strained analogy of the latter, likely improving it.

Musgraves, to her credit, is more interested in characters than singing about herself, with a major-league gift for writing emotionally complicated songs from the perspective of other people. (Taylor Swift's great subject, meanwhile, is Taylor Swift.) And while Musgraves should get credit for bucking country's suffocating social conservatism and crafting a thoughtful album of tidy, understated songs with catchy choruses that I mostly love, she's no maverick.

For instance, she isn't as rebellious as Elizabeth Cook, a fearless explorer of the stranger corners of outlaw country who was dropped by Warner Bros. Nashville and last year released an EP of gospel music that included a cover of the Velvet Underground's "Jesus."

Last year Musgraves co-wrote a song for the ABC prime-time soap opera "Nashville" that was sung by Hayden Panettiere's character Juliette Barnes -- a country-pop crossover star who is the Taylor Swift of the show's universe. Musgraves' song "Undermine" was used to signal Barnes' yearning to be a more serious-minded artist, like her rival Rayna James, played by Connie Britton.

Though the viewing audience is supposed to cheer Barnes' embrace of a more traditional country sound, ditching the glitter and backup dancers, this struck me as unimaginative for a purportedly strong-willed rule breaker with clout at her label. A good song is a good song, but why does it have to sound like her parents' generation to be considered substantive?

Take country superstar Brad Paisley, whose upcoming album "Wheelhouse" has one song called "Accidental Racist" featuring rapper LL Cool J and another with a title that's either in Japanese or Chinese characters. This could be a huge creative disaster for a variety of reasons, but even if it is, it will be one that hasn't been done before. Rebellion needn't sound like the past.

Text Only
  • r070714palacedrinks2.jpg Spirits school: Drink-making lessons taught at downtown bar

    Some patrons have dubbed it "Drinks with Daniel," but the official name is "Cocktails 101," which has been attracting "students" for the last several weeks.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • 071114_steve cindy head.jpg New exhibit combines works of married couple

    Steve and Cindy Head create different types of art, which means they can be each other's best mentor. Steve makes mixed media works assembled from photographs, headlines and more; Cindy paints vivid patterns and fanciful scenes with bold color palettes.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tantric tours in support of latest studio album

    "37 Channels," the latest album from Hugo Ferreira's band, features a lineup of guests including Hinder's Austin Winkler, Shooter Jennings, 3 Doors Down drummer Greg Upchurch, Uncle Kracker guitarist Kevin McCreery, Saving Abel guitarist Scott Bartlett and Leif Garrettt.

    July 11, 2014

  • mug_joe-hadsall-112613.jpg Globe Phone Test: Concept is clever, but transitions tricky with Asus PadFone X

    It's kind of embarrassing to point this out, but "Candy Crush Saga" is one of the best ways to illustrate how well the Asus PadFone X, a smartphone and tablet combo really works.

    Anyone who has more than one device will understand this situation completely: Let's say a player fires up "Candy Crush" on his tablet computer and really digs the game. A lot. So much so that he downloads it to his smartphone.

    Only there's one problem: All the progress made on the tablet is stuck on the tablet. The smartphone has a completely separate path of progress, meaning the player has to play each level twice. This makes progress through the game twice as long. (This problem can be fixed by signing up for the game on Facebook, but no one really wants their Facebook friends to know they spend so much time crushin' candy.)

    The Asus PadFone X is the dream solution to this nightmare of a problem.

    Available exclusively from AT&T, the device is actually two devices. A standalone smartphone can be plugged into a tablet computer, meaning the owner can take his pick of how he wants to play the game, and all the progress he makes is saved on one device's hard drive.

    AT&T loaned us a device that we tested for more than two weeks -- didn't like having to send it back -- and we found a lot of its qualities and quirks.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • 071014_sugar rush1.jpg Sweet summer: Candy factory opens floor for tours, tasting

    When family from Kansas City came to visit Christy Albertson in her family's Webb City home, she wanted to find something entertaining for five kids.

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • images_sizedimage_108172906 Benji Tunnell: 'Transformers' reaches new level of terrible filmmaking

    Then there's "Transformers: Age of Extinction," a film so bereft of originality, spontaneity and life that one would assume its creator must be a talentless hack. That's when you remember that it was directed by Michael Bay.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Marta-mug.jpg Marta Churchwell: Crystal Bridges' coup makes art world cry foul

    I find Eastern art snobs insufferable. I have little patience for their pretentious eyebrow-raising over anything unworthy of their refined tastes.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jermiah-Tucker-020812.jpg Jeremiah Tucker: Power pop plays perfectly for Fourth of July

    One of the best bits from the long-running -- and sadly now defunct -- "Best Show on WFMU" with Tom Scharpling was the character Power Pop Pop Pop. The independent call-in and comedy radio show explored this menacing, Godfather-like figure of the power pop community via one of his minions, played by the brilliant indie rock drummer and comedian Jon Wurster.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • mug_joe-hadsall-112613.jpg Joe Hadsall: Found-footage tornado movie may be terrifying

    Funny how all it takes is one little thing to bring back the full onslaught of tornado-related dread, desolation and depression. This time, it was a movie trailer.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • aisha-sultan-mug.jpg Aisha Sultan: Study shows popular kids peak too early

    It was, of course, a popular mean girl who made my life miserable in middle school.

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo

Speaking of Gardens


Although the president of the United States is limited to two terms in office, members of Congress have no term limits. Would you support term limits for U.S. representatives and senators?

     View Results

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter