From the lowliest depths of pop country hell,a bright spot has emerged on the scene for mainstream country music. Maddie & Tae came out of the box strong last year with their timely and hilarious hit "Girl In A Country Song". Most critics were quick to point out that country fans needed to cool their jets, as these were just two young girls and we couldn't heap all these expectations of wrestling country radio back on their shoulders. Well, with the release of their debut album, somebody is going to have to cool me down. Is this "old fashioned traditional country"? Not really. But is it one of the very best and most authentic country albums of the past few years in mainstream country? Hell yeah.
Start Here is a collection of tunes that put Maddie & Tae on the front lines of the country music battle. These two ladies have combined sharp wit, tender harmonies, and pop-country instrumentation to create an album that is the definition of mass appeal. These girls are young, sassy, and hip enough for the mainstream crowd, but talented and rooted enough for country fans who may be turned off by radio. "Girl In A Country Song" is just the tip of the iceberg. Their wit is also fully on display in the catchy "Sierra" and the hilarious "Shut Up And Fish". Both of these songs feature girls with strong voices that you would want your daughter to look up to without sounding pandering or cliché. Of course, both feature great country instrumentation and earworm hooks. The entire sound of this album is like a slightly more pop version of the Dixie Chicks, or maybe Sara Evans in her heyday. The point being, you can make good country pop. There is a difference between a country song that has a pop influence, and a pop song with some country elements. The songs of Start Here are country songs. The whole lot of them. And they are good.
The girls really shine on some great songwriting moments. The single "Fly" may be a little too Hallmark-y for some, but they sure wrote a fantastic soaring melody that really stands out on the radio. The album closer "Downside Of Growing Up" is a great piece of advice for younger listeners and a nice reminiscing moment for older ones. It picks up right were Taylor Swift left off with songs related to growing up, but with considerably more country influence. The real piece of art on this album, however, is "After The Storm Blows Through". Unfortunately, it may not be cut out for radio success in this day and age, but make no mistake about it, this is a absolutely killer song. Any detractor who wanted to write these girls off as a novelty act can't do so with a straight face after giving this haunting ballad a listen. It is simply great.
To call Maddie & Tae a breath of fresh air is a giant understatement. These girls are like a blast of 100% oxygen from a mask while choking in space. Start Here is a clinic in how to make country music accessible and trendy enough for modern audiences and intelligent, heartfelt, and traditional enough for old school fans. This is a healthy evolution of the genre. Take note, men of country radio. Maddie & Tae may have risen to the top with a kiss off song that was light-hearted, but that kiss-off may become all too real when these ladies start knocking you off your comfy roost with their biting wit and tight harmonies. Start Here is a highly recommended album, check it out and request Maddie & Tae to your local station!
Standout Tracks: "Girl In A Country Song", "Sierra", "Downside Of Growing Up", "After The Storm Blows Through", 'Shut Up and Fish", "Fly"
"Girl In A Country Song"
"Downside Of Growing Up"
"After The Storm Blows Through"