Musgraves is not good at opening up her feelings in songs. She tends to stray more towards telling stories about other people or covering serious topics up with witty hooks. On this record, she avoids being to personal by writing songs about people in general, even though they are probably all about her. This is proudly displayed in "Somebody to Love" and "Cup of Tea." Especially in the former track, Musgraves digs deep into human nature, and writes about things that every single person on earth has in common. These little things like "we all just want somebody to love" connect all people who listen to the song to Musgraves and too each other. In her last record, Musgraves wrote a few songs about terrible people, like "Step Off" and "Stupid." This song is her going back on those more holding thoughts and saying - 'Wait. We are all the same. All trying to get the same things out of life.' This is a sign of growth, both musical and as a person for Musgraves. She is seeing that even if someone can majorly annoy you at one point in time, we are all people, and we all make mistakes.
There are two places on this album where it is absolutely clear that Musgraves has changed as an artist. In the tracks "Late to the Party" and "Miserable" it is easy to hear the emotion in Musgraves' voice. There are artists known for being able to sing powerfully: Carrie Underwood, Danielle Bradbery, Morgan Dawson as examples, and artists known for being emotional: Taylor Swift, Mickey Guyton, and others. Musgraves has never fit into either of those categories, but with these two emotional tracks, she proves she can fit right in with the latter category.
From her debut single, Musgraves has always been critical of small towns and uppity society. This trend continues throughout this record, in the "This Town" and in the title track. The former song begins by a snippet of Musgraves' grandmother talking about gossip in their town, and goes into a jaunty, darker tune about how everybody knows everything about everybody else in small towns. The title track "Pageant Material" is a very comedic song, saying that Musgraves has never been pageant material, even though it was the norm in her hometown. Naming the record after this song was an interesting choice, but truly does reflect the direction and personality of Musgraves, in saying that although she does take music seriously, she does not take herself seriously. It is refreshing to see such a talented artist staying so grounded and acknowledging that she's honestly no better than the rest of us.
What makes Musgraves stand out, is her truly country-oriented sound, and her new take on that sound. But despite that in the title track she claims she's not 'pageant material' and is not like anyone else she knows, with this album she loses a bit of her spunk. There are no tracks as daring as "Follow Your Arrow" and none quite as weird as "My House." Even so, she varies her tracks more on this record, and stays true to herself. She's created an album that's definitey a Best Country Album or even an Album of the Year contender at next year's Grammys. She's proved that she's here to stay.
Best tracks: Dime Store Cowgirl, Pageant Material, This Town, Miserable
Throwaway tracks: Biscuits
Overall rating: 4 crowns