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The question in my title is also the title of an article in the most recent issue of 'Paint' profiling Kacey and her music. I feel like there'll never be enough words to describe how amazing Kacey is for the wrench she's thrown into country music. The comparisons to Taylor Swift are valid whether you're a fan or not: both are young songwriting prodigies with unusual insight into life much more fitting someone older than 23-24 and there hasn't been this much buzz surrounding a female country debut since Taylor's back in 2006. Also, Kacey is no Carrie Underwood in terms of vocal ability, but obviously neither is Taylor (though she's gotten better in the last couple years); she's good, not great, but that's okay. The real draw of both girls is their songwriting, but that's where the similarities both begin and end. I'll always love Taylor, but Kacey has definitely seen darker sides of life that Taylor probably never has or ever will and it shows in her music.

Kacey is a wordsmith, turning well-worn phrases and cliches upside down and manipulating language to create an entirely different conversation. The opening lines of "Merry Go 'Round" (if you ain't got two kids by twenty-one, you're probably gonna die alone, at least that's what tradition told you) and "Follow Your Arrow" (if you save yourself for marriage you're a bore, if you don't save yourself for marriage you're a horr...ible person) hooked me instantly. One of the best examples of her way of turning phrase is the bridge of "Step Off" (sticks and stones may build a throne, but you'll be up there all alone), plus keeping up with all the lyrically layered meanings of Mary/marry/merry in "Merry Go 'Round" will make you dizzy in a wonderful way. She sounds quite a lot like a young LeAnn Womack on "Dandelion," examining a more melancholy side of the girlhood game of 'loves me, loves me not,' and "My House" is a fun country road-trip tribute to living on the road like a gypsy just to be with her love. "Keep It to Yourself" depicts the beautiful sorrow of trying to get over a relationship when the other person won't let go, while "It Is What It Is" paints a surprisingly poignant portrait of casual sex and friends-with-benefits relationships. "Blowin' Smoke" is a more tongue-in-cheek look at trying to make ends meet in a dead-end job that fits well within the story song format legendary in Nashville. Admittedly, my favorite songs are when Kacey is at her most snarky and cynical, like "Stupid" and "Step Off," both of which would fit right in with your old Loretta Lynn records in style and substance. In that vein, I'll echo a few other reviewers asking about "The Trailer Song." It's Kacey at her most snarky and bitter and it's honestly the funniest song I've ever heard, so I'm extremely disappointed that it didn't make the album. If you're wondering what all the fuss is about, search the Grand Ole Opry's YouTube channel (named OpryLive) and you'll find an excellent video of her live performance of that song.

"Follow Your Arrow" is set to become my generation's country anthem, and I can't think of a better one. Whether or not you agree or condone those particular lifestyle choices, you cannot deny how brilliantly the song twists modern hypocrisy into social commentary. The examples she cites are extreme but valid, as anyone who's ever been the victim of southern small town gossip can attest. Her affinity for turning phrase is again evident both in how she deals with it (can't win for losing, you'll just disappoint 'em, just 'cause you can't beat 'em don't mean you should join them) and in her flawless execution of the multiple uses and meanings of the terms 'straight', 'narrow' and 'arrow'. However, I think the real hidden gem of this song is the bridge. Listeners might miss it because of the ample other material, but the bridge (say what you think, love who you love 'cause you just get so many trips 'round the sun, yeah you only live once) connects it all together, giving the song's message a personal urgency and making people think, like any good country song. Essentially, the message of "Follow Your Arrow" isn't whether or not it's acceptable to kiss both boys and girls or roll joints; it's the message that life is too short to live in the shadows of others' judging eyes, that the best and only way to really live well is to be yourself and allow others to do the same.

Overall, the album is fabulous. It does not represent perfection and neither does Kacey herself, but I think she likes it better that way. What it does represent, however, is the idea that change is a-gonna come (in the words of Dylan) and that she and her cohort of songwriter friends fully intend to be on the front lines to usher it in. I personally cannot wait to see who this girl will be five years from now, as she is already incredibly fun, open and personable live in front of dozens or thousands. Here's to many more years of hearing Kacey's name all over country radio.



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