Maddie And Tae – Start Here

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Maddie & Tae
constructed their initial single, “Girl in a Country Song,” as a battle
cry camouflaged as satire: it took dead aim at the bros, but the duo
smiled as they sank in the shiv. Clever as it was, “Girl in a Country
Song” ran the risk of pegging Maddie & Tae as a novelty act but their full-length 2015 debut, Start Here,
proves the hit was an opening salvo in a long-term mission to take back
the contemporary country airwaves from hunks in tight jeans. Start Here
is a proudly female album in addition to being a record that fully
embraces the joys and occasional sorrows of being young, smart, funny,
and ambitious. Given their precocious, pop-friendly attitude and
association with Big Machine Records, it’s easy to compare Madison Marlow and Taylor Dye to Taylor Swift, but Maddie & Tae emulate neither the skillful adolescent poetry nor the folky fragility of early Swift.
They’re an unabashed country act, gliding between heartbreak harmonies
and punch lines with aplomb, the gilded ease masquerading the careful
craft behind these 11 songs, every one of which bears songwriting
credits by the duo. Craft is always a key component of the Nashville
machine and producer Dann Huff ensures that Start Here
follows the contours of commercial country; this isn’t outsider music,
this is bright, shiny country that cherishes polish as much as twang.
The reason Start Here feels fresh lies entirely with Maddie & Tae,
how they’re tomboys who wish their boyfriend would just “Shut Up and
Fish,” how they feel as genuine when they’re settling into sentiment on
“Fly” as they do on “Sierra” when they pray for the downfall of a mean
girl. In another’s hands, such scheming could seem crass or nasty but
placed in the context of Start Here,
where it’s surrounded by both sweetness and swagger, it simply adds
another dimension to an album that embodies all the complex
contradictions and unfettered optimism of modern country-pop in 2015.

 

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