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10 things Kacey Musgraves should do next

February 24, 2014|By Dana Moran and Matt Pais | RedEye Sound Board

Search “Kacey Musgraves Nashville Star” on YouTube and you’ll find the recent Grammy winner performing as a contestant on USA’s now-defunct singing contest in 2007. “The plan for my future,” she sings on “Halfway to Memphis,” “is putting you in my past.”

Since the country singer has effectively crossed over into the mainstream since the release of her fantastic 2013 album “Same Trailer Different Park,” Musgraves should practice what she preaches and keep looking forward. Here’s what we think the 25-year-old Texas native (opening for Lady Antebellum Wednesday at Allstate Arena and joining Katy Perry’s arena tour later this year) should do.

Embrace controversy
Not surprisingly, many conservative country fans balk at the content of “Follow Your Arrow,” which, among other liberal opinions, has an open-minded view of sexuality and drug use. Musgraves has said that appealing to everyone means you’re not doing much of anything, and she’s right; her defiance is part of what makes her significant. –MP

Be a genuine article
At first, we really believed that Taylor Swift was just really, really shocked and excited to be winning huge awards. But now, that "OH MY GOSH, YOU GUYS" face is the expression that launched a thousand memes. By all means, Musgraves should be excited about her career—but she always should be careful to react to situations naturally. —DM

Reject cliché rather than reinventing it
With songs like “Merry Go ‘Round,” Musgraves has acknowledged country music and small-town clichés and then put her fresh, sarcastic twist on them. Next she can look past these elements and really carve out her own niche without commenting on anyone else’s. –MP

Seek out mentors
Country music is home to one of the grandest traditions of them all—the Grand Ole Opry, a place where musicians young and old come together to share their passion. Musgraves already has taken the stage there to perform her own hits and covers like Elvis Presley's "Are You Lonesome Tonight?", but she should use her status as a guest artist to wander the halls and connect with the Opry's stable of legends. —DM

Minimize wordplay
Though Musgraves has a clever, insightful way with words, some of her lyrics (primarily on “Silver Linings”) come a little close to Owl City-esque cutesiness for comfort. Again: Owl City’s terrible, and KM’s awesome. She just needs to be careful. –MP

Expand your reach
A whole new audience was exposed to Musgraves' talent when "Undermine," a song she co-wrote with Trent Dabbs, was sung by Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) on "Nashvile." Musgraves should look for other TV shows and movies in need of a pinch of her sarcastic country flair. —DM

Study more characters
“Blowin’ Smoke” is such a spot-on portrait of life-changing procrastination that I can’t help but wonder what other stories Musgraves, whose songs aren’t all as rich as “Smoke” or “Keep It to Yourself,” has up her sleeve. Keep ‘em coming. –MP

Get your heart broken
Do it a lot. Do it with non-famous people. Do it with a few famous people. But there's nothing like heartbreak to fuel the flames of a good country song, whether it's an angry ode to revenge or a tear-streaked ballad. Just don't name names, OK? —DM

Do whatever you want
A pop-leaning country artist will always get commentary like this tweet recently sent to Musgraves: “You need to stop making pop songs and make real country.” Yeah, yeah. Deliver great songs, gal, and listeners can think what they think. –MP

Keep it country
While I agree with Matt that Musgraves should follow her heart to deliver quality music, if she's going to label herself "country," she's gotta keep that twang. I think we'd all agree that the dubstep drops on Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble" are not even remotely Nashville, but there sits "Red" on the country shelf. —DM

@redeyechimusic

Lady Antebellum, Kip Moore, Kacey Musgraves, 7 p.m. Wed. at Allstate Arena. $35-$59.50.  

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

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