Friday, February 15th, 2019

Kacey Musgraves – Rainbow

And we close the week with the Golden girl of the Grammys.


Edward Okulicz: On Golden Hour, this feels like an unnecessary coda tacked on; after the beautiful resolution of the title track, the record didn’t need another song about everything being alright. Also in that context, I find the second verse’s pat rhymes to be a bit gloopy and childish. Taken as a song on its own merits, though, it really works, but almost any other performer wouldn’t have the empathetic character to sell it. And she does sell it, because the chorus is one hell of a warming hug. There’s a fine line between touching and glurge, and this is on the right side of it. I hope it becomes a sizeable hit so Kacey can strip-mine her wonderful album for further singles until she hits “Love is a Wild Thing.”

Alex Clifton: “Rainbow” revisits the theme of “Silver Lining,” the opening track from Musgraves’s first album, in a much different light. “Silver Lining” is a song about someone who’s so afraid to live normally and find happiness that they shoot themselves in the foot by never even trying. “Rainbow” is more about someone who can’t try because they’re too sad to do so. “Silver Lining” is a buck-up song, one to remind you on the hardest days that you’ve got to do the big scary things because there’s no other way to live, while “Rainbow” is its gentle, kind cousin that reminds you to be careful and tender with yourself. It’s a simple, affecting song, just vocals and piano, and yet it never feels sappy; it’s the equivalent of being hugged by someone you love. Uplifting songs are really hard to balance, but “Rainbow” stands out with its restraint. It’s quiet and honest, and that makes it all the more beautiful.

Katherine St Asaph: When Kacey Musgraves sang “Rainbow” on the Grammys — only the goddamn Grammys would stick her with this slush when “High Horse” is right! there! — I had to swear about four times to the person watching with me some variation of “no, wait, I promise she’s actually good.” The reason: “Rainbow” is the kind of piano ballad that is usually a showcase for divas. To quote Musgraves’ album, it’s pageant material. So the understated charm of her vocals, so perfect on “Slow Burn” or “Lonely Weekend” or “Oh, What a World,” here comes off as fourth-rate Whitney Houston, particularly since she swallows most of the high notes.

Alfred Soto: Suspicious about the consensus building around Golden Hour, I hoped Grammy audiences would get “High Horse” or “Wonder Woman,” one of the well-wrought miniatures to which fans had run as if the songs were roaring fireplaces in January. Instead, “Rainbow” offers the poised, broadly scaled empathy that conservatives mock on social media — I’m surprised Carrie Underwood didn’t cover it on her last album. Folks, if you want to convert Kacey Musgraves skeptics this ain’t what you’re looking for.

Nortey Dowuona: Firm, warm and heavy piano twists and turns, Kacey’s empathetic, warm croon soars into the sky, spreading a rainbow behind her.

Thomas Inskeep: The final track on Golden Hour is a pretty ballad, just a piano and Musgraves’ voice singing some really beautiful lyrics. And that sums it up tidily: your reaction will largely be based on how you feel about such stripped-down balladry; I’m good with it on occasion, especially when sung by a voice as attractive as this one.

Stephen Eisermann: This song will mean a million things to a million different people and that’s part of the reason why it’s so great, but I’ve always looked at it as a nod to the gay community. Kacey has regularly spoken about her allyship and the lyrics seem like the perfect thing to tell a closeted teen boy growing up in a Mexican Catholic home; what I wouldn’t have given to hear this wonderful woman singing to me that there is a rainbow above despite all the worry and weight I was carrying. Kacey’s sincerity shines through and provides all the warmth that the sparse piano arrangement allows for and you can’t help but be impressed by the vulnerability of the vocal she provides. Like a rainbow after a heavy storm, this song is a necessary light after a lot of darkness.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Would’ve preferred that Kacey ended her album with “Golden Hour.” Would’ve also preferred that “Golden Hour” (or anything else, really) was sung at the Grammys and became her new single. What we got instead was a plain piano ballad, her own “Yesterday.” The image that’s conjured up with raincoats, umbrellas, and rainbows makes plainness its virtue: a song so universal that it’s well-suited as a lullaby for crying newborns. It’s a sweet sentiment, but most of its power comes in how any person could have made this feel personal. The reverb helps.

Iris Xie: I love, love, love, ballads. But this is unbearably flat, spare, and sounds childish. Maybe when the ASPCA finally stops using that Sarah McLachlan song, they could switch over to this.

Matias Taylor: The gorgeous melody paired with Kacey’s songwriting voice (unpretentious but endlessly clever and resonant) makes the song genuinely uplifting, making it feel like we’vejust discovered a universal but forgotten truth by tuning into her words. Kacey expresses comfort as always within our own reach, as simple as realizing that things aren’t always as bad as they seem, and the perfectly executed metaphor is an ideal match for the simple elegance of this track and the rest of its parent album.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: If singer-songwriters are going to persist in the production of tasteful, unadventurous ballads, I can only hope that they put as much care into them as Kacey Musgraves & Co put into “Rainbow.” It works for the same reason the rest of her catalog does — not necessarily because of any shocking innovation in the form but a good-hearted, detail-filled ethic that suffuses the whole enterprise with a certain joy. Is it the best song on Golden Hour? Certainly not. But it’s the best of its kind, and a beautifully written piece regardless.

Will Adams: “You’re depressed,” my therapist said, pausing for effect. I didn’t know how to respond; it was so direct and simple. Everything to that point felt like a fog, perhaps a storm cloud, of circular thoughts I’d wrapped around myself: the recognition that something was wrong but the inability to name it; the fact that the last time I felt truly happy was when I was nineteen, but the theory that this was just a part of growing up; the fear that every single person in my life was simultaneously staring right at me in judgment and looking the other way in embarrassment; the notion that I desperately needed to talk to someone, the admission that no one would care. And in half a second, it was distilled into a single point of clarity. I could almost feel the clouds part in me. That was in summer of last year, after I’d heard Golden Hour and its closing track, “Rainbow.” I’d appreciated its clear sound and uplifting message, and it hit the soft spot I have for album-ending ballads. But sometime after that meeting, I listened again. I burst into tears. It felt as if Kacey were singing directly to me, reaching out for my shoulder as it heaved, and guiding me toward the sun. Therapy is grueling — I often left sessions with a headache, a scratchy throat, or both, after unraveling myself in front of a stranger, pouring out years of bottled sadness, frustration and fear. As good as it felt to release it in the room, I would walk to my car with the words still swirling, the amount of work I still had to do towering over me. I kept going. I kept talking. I started a prescription. The anxiety persists, but I can resist it better. “Rainbow” remains the keepsake from my 2018, a safe harbor to return to for three minutes if ever thunder threatens me. “It’ll all be all right,” Kacey sings, and it means everything to finally be able to believe that.

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3 Responses to “Kacey Musgraves – Rainbow”

  1. Just went through and fixed the controversy lists, which I had accidentally double-weighted for the 2018 and late 2017 results — Taylor’s “Look What You Made Me Do” was still quite controversial but not the GOAT.

    This made our #1 so far this year, but there are only 3 entries to pick from.

  2. I still love how Seven Lions is #4

  3. That and QT are soooooo “controversial in 2014.” It is very satisfying to me. I’m not sure how it is that 2009 feels like it was 2 years ago and 2014 feels like it was 20 years ago.