For her opening number on Saturday Night Live, aired on May 12, Kacey Musgraves brought more than a massive backing band, a disco ball saddle and a pair of rainbow-striped britches. By selecting the classic dance-pop inspired “High Horse” for her SNL debut, she offered a taste of bygone New York night life that likely shattered some viewers’ perceptions about modern country music. Think of it as down-home disco, with that saddle representing “hillbilly bling.”
There was a potential drawback to this spirited performance of a song that, despite breaking from the norm, captured the storytelling prowess that’s driven three straight non-holiday albums by Musgraves to number one. What if new listeners assume that Golden Hour is a dance record? That could scare off some potential listeners and disappoint others when they hear an equally solid yet sonically different song like “Rainbow.”
To paint a fuller picture of her current sound, Musgraves also showcased the more country-sounding “Slow Burn.” While the first song was more Saturday Night Fever than Saturday Night Live, its follow-up better captured the introspective story-songs that’ve gotten Musgraves this far.
The appearance came on the next-to-last episode of the show’s 42nd season. It wrapped up a solid year of country-related guest appearances, with Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson appearing together in a prior episode. Whoever picks the country acts for SNL has good taste, as recent seasons’ guests included Maren Morris and Margo Price — offering more diversity and quality than a lot of awards shows and other programs branded as county.