Kacey Musgraves Is a Gay Icon and the World Needs to Know

Photo-Illustration: Maya Robinson/Vulture and Photos by Getty Images

It’s recently come to our attention that many country-averse queens have gone about their lives woefully unaware of the great musical stylings of one Kacey Musgraves, the world’s preeminent country-pop starlet who can fuck up a banjo lick real good and simultaneously know who Trixie Mattel is. She also has a penchant for sequins, psychedelic drugs, and art-directing her live shows to look like the Grand Ole Opry meets Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, all while swallowing hot coals for the LGBTQ+ community at the risk of being shunned by the monolith that is country radio. All Kacey wants is a gay, collective “You’re doing amazing sweetie,” which we’re intent on giving her. On the day of the release of her truly excellent new album, Golden Hour, by our decree as two (unqualified) gatekeepers to the Pantheon of Favs, we hereby induct Kacey into the canon of pop songstresses deserving of gay worship, supported below by select tracks and the inherently queer narratives behind them. Kacey, girl, as the kids are saying: Wig. We’re only 98 percent clear on what that means, but nevertheless: Wig.

“Follow Your Arrow,” Same Trailer, Different Park

We begin with the song that started it all, and by that we mean the first song that actually references gay stuff. “Make lots of noise / Kiss lots of boys / Or kiss lots of girls / If that’s what you’re into.” While the “if that’s what you’re into” line gently dips its toe into the “Ain’t none of my business” pool, the mere mention of queer affection was revolutionary for a country star to feature in the chorus (!) of one of her early singles in 2013.

Fast forward to June 26, 2015, when Kacey played a most charming NPR Tiny Desk Concert on the same day that Obergefell v. Hodges ruled for marriage equality across all 50 states. “How great of a day is today, legally?” she asked everyone before sneaking “Follow Your Arrow” into the setlist in honor of the ruling. With that, she officially embedded herself into gay and civil rights history, or at least their documentation. Wig.

“Space Cowboy,” Golden Hour

Don’t be frightened by the Wild West imagery, y’all (yeah, we two coastal elites are using “y’all” because we’re all born naked and the rest is drag). But stay far away if you’re scared of ingenious vocoder layering and lyrics that pack in stark emotional intelligence. This track is decidedly deeper than its sister song of the same name, ‘N Sync’s “Space Cowboy (Yippie-Yi-Yay),” as it beautifully articulates the feeling of knowing when to let someone go. While her latest album forsakes the biting turns of phrase she’s been known to use, they’re certainly present here, and there’s really nothing gayer than wordplay.

“Good Ol’ Boys Club,” Pageant Material

As adorable as you can get with a song about rejecting the Establishment. And all that pedal steel? Why y’all gagging so? We also have Miss Kacey making a case for meritocratic systems here, reminiscent of Crystal LaBeija screaming about a rigged pageant, which is queer as hell. W-I-G, honey.

“No Scrubs,” Live at the Royal Albert Hall

Giving you ’90s R&B girl group, but with a tasteful touch of twang (the way she pronounces “buster” here is inspired). Make no mistake that Kacey has been slaying covers from disparate genres since the jump — she’s made renditions of “Yellow” and “Crazy” and “Toxic” completely her own. This particular performance of this particular cover gets special mention for her fashions and committed stage presence despite a genteel crowd of Brits who seem half asleep. Any weeknight drag performer in a rhinestone bodysuit can relate to powering through a number for an unenthused audience, and the queer experience is that exact scenario writ large.

“Merry Go Round,” Same Trailer, Different Park

Come thru, examining the socioeconomic tedium of small-town life! Werk, textured lyrical vignettes dismantling overly romanticized rural anthems! Yas, theme-park imagery (for all you Orlando queens)! The point of view in this song is devastating in its relatability if — like many in the LGBTQ+ community — you knew that your place in the world was elsewhere, a place where you’d find your tribe yet.

“High Horse,” Golden Hour

Paging Kylie Minogue! Someone from the country market is coming for your whole gig, okay?! It may have another south-of-the–Mason Dixon song title, but this is definitely Kacey’s most bona fide capital-B Bop. It’s wildly fun and shady as all get-out, and it partly exists to brush off what Miley, Gaga, and Kesha have attempted to pull off in their provisional country-pop crossovers, only to one-up them all in the end. It would be literally applicable to say that your fave could never.

Kacey Musgraves Is a Gay Icon and the World Needs to Know