There’s a rumor out there that Frank Ocean and director Tyrone Lebon were both tripping on acid when they shot the video for “Nikes” in 2016. It adds up. There are those shots of Ocean sitting on the dirt, surrounded by his cars, a styrofoam cup in his right hand, eyes closed as the screen splits and he says he’s “got two versions.” The way he stares at the camera as he pulls that balaclava over his face, ready to stagger forwards, on fire. The angle of his arms around his torso when his voice finally settles at the end of the song and he’s covered in glitter on stage and he tells us that he’s “Living so the last night feels like a past life.” The way the video cuts away when he sings, “Acid on me like the rain / Weed crumbles in the glitter,” then chops the lines down to their basic functions: “Rain / Glitter.”
On Blonde, Ocean was one step to the left of reality with his eyes wide open and pupils dilated, and nobody in pop music had really joined him there until Kacey Musgraves released Golden Hour last week. Blonde and Golden Hour are quietly hallucinatory records, swept away from mundanity by flood after flood of serotonin. The two singer-songwriters come from radically different places—musically, spiritually, geographically, culturally, name it—but life has thrown them both into similar spots. On their third full-length projects, grappling with the onset of their late-20s and awkward adulthood, both searching for beauty behind ugliness, they’ve tried to see the world for what it isn’t, immediately.
You didn’t need to read Musgraves’s Twitter missives about drugs to figure out that she’s been working with new chemicals. As I wrote the other week, many ofGolden Hour’s lyrics seem to have been typed out on a cell phone in the middle of a trip. “Bursting with empathy / I’m feeling everything,” she sings on the minute-and-a-half-long “Mother,” speaking both to her mother and husband. “Hope my tears don’t freak you out / They’re just kind of coming out / It’s the music in me / And all of the colors.” In the week since the record was released, the little things have started to come through more clearly. “Slow Burn,” the opener, is laconic and awe-struck in equal measure, at ease with the world and desperate to consume it all at once, a mellow stream of acoustics beneath Musgraves’s insistence that we “look at all the flowers.” There’s a two-bar interlude towards the end of the song in which the chords change up momentarily and Musgraves sounds like she’s yearning for something, possessed: “Whatever feels good.”
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