100 Greatest Women, #71: Kacey Musgraves

100 Greatest Women: 10th Anniversary Edition


Kacey Musgraves

2008 Edition: New Entry

A critical darling who also became a commercial hit without kowtowing to convention, Kacey Musgraves has been among the most delightful success stories of the new century.

Born and raised in Golden, Texas, Musgraves caught the songwriting bug early, composing “Notice Me” at age eight for her elementary school graduation.  By age twelve, she was playing the mandolin and teaming up with friend Alina Tatum, recording and releasing an independent album in 2000 as the Texas Two Bits.  Throughout high school, she played the Texas festival circuit and released a steady stream of independent albums that she sold at her shows.

She moved to Austin after graduating high school, paying the bills by recording songwriting demos. She auditioned for the fifth season of Nashville Star, placing seventh, which helped get the attention of Mercury Nashville. They signed her to her first major label deal in 2012.  She previewed her debut album with “Merry Go ‘Round,” an eventual top ten hit that would win a Grammy for Musgraves and her songwriting partners, Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne.

While that single enjoyed great success in 2013, Musgraves scored an even bigger hit as a songwriter, co-writing “Mama’s Broken Heart,” a #2 smash for Miranda Lambert on which Musgraves provided backing vocals. Musgraves co-produced her debut album, Same Trailer Different Park, with McAnally and Luke Laird, which reached #1 on Top Country Albums. The set would eventually go platinum, and win an Album of the Year trophy from the ACM and the Grammy for Best Country Album.

Radio largely ignored the project after “Merry Go ‘Round,” but their resistance to its third single, “Follow Your Arrow,” proved futile.  It became Musgraves’ signature song, powering sales of her debut album and winning Musgraves and co-writers McAnally and Brandy Clark the CMA for Song of the Year.  Musgraves had another #1 country album in 2015 with Pageant Material, which included the moderate hit, “Biscuits.” It earned Musgraves another wave of major awards nominations, and it just missed the top ten of the U.K. albums chart, helping her receive the International Achievement Award from the CMA in 2016.

After taking a break from traditional recordings with her retro-flavored A Very Kacey Christmas in 2016, Musgraves took her time preparing her third major label album, Golden Hour, which was released in March of 2018. It became her third consecutive #1 country album, and produced a minor hit in the romantic track, “Butterflies.” Musgraves expanded her traditionalist sound on the set, incorporating cosmic elements usually associated with other genres of music.  The album received widespread critical acclaim, and Musgraves will be supporting it with the Oh, What a World Tour, which kicks off in October 2018.  In the meantime, she’ll be the opening act for Harry Styles in North America, carrying on her tradition of opening for a big pop act that began with her support of Katy Perry’s Prismatic tour in 2014.

Essential Singles

  • Merry Go ‘Round, 2012
  • Mama’s Broken Heart (Miranda Lambert), 2013
  • Follow Your Arrow, 2013
  • Biscuits, 2015
  • Butterflies, 2018

Essential Albums

  • Same Trailer Different Park (2013)
  • Pageant Material (2015)
  • Golden Hour (2018)

Industry Awards

  • Academy of Country Music Awards
    • Album of the Year
      • Same Trailer Different Park, 2014
  • Country Music Association Awards
    • New Artist of the Year, 2013
    • International Achievement Award, 2016
    • Song of the Year
      • Follow Your Arrow, 2014
  • Grammy Awards
    • Best Country Album
      • Same Trailer Different Park, 2014
    • Best Country Song
      • Merry Go ‘Round, 2014

100 Greatest Women: 10th Anniversary Edition

Next: #70. Gillian Welch

Previous: #72. Hillary Scott



  1. I’ve always found Kacey Musgraves a bit overrated. Her voice just doesn’t do much for me.

    That being said she’s had such a huge impact and it’s a real shame that radio basically shunned her. She’s definitely done enough to warrant her placement on the list that’s for sure.

  2. To think Musgraves wasn’t even on anyone’s radar ten years ago when this list was first conceived!

    I think her voice can seem deceptively average to above average on record, but to hear her live is very impressive, which is to say that she sounds better live than recorded! When we saw her live (she opened for Alison Krauss and Willie Nelson!), we were impressed and even surprised by how strong her voice was and people around us were even commenting on it. There were even shades of Dolly Parton in her voice!

  3. Kacey is one of my favs in country music currently. Who would of thought in a span of 5 years that Kacey would take country music by storm and breakthrough commercially. She 3 for 3 in her studio albums. Same Trailer Different Park and Pageant Material are some of the best mainstream country albums of this decade. Plus, Golden Hour has to be in the running of one of the best albums of 2018. It’s awesome!

  4. One thing that’s great about Kacey is, despite all she’s done to explore and push the boundaries of the sound and content of country music, she seems to have quite a bit of respect for the history of the genre too, showing up in duets with or tributes to Buddy Miller, John Prine, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Roger Miller over the last couple of years.

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