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.
How do you follow a manifesto? In the case of 20 year olds Madison Marlow and Tae Dye, the task is doubly fraught, since that manifesto — "Girl In A Country Song," their blistering, if playful, takedown of bro country tropes — went number one. When the upstart duo appeared last year with the single, country fans took notice. It was a monster hit: "Girl In A Country Song" debuted at the top of the Billboard country singles chart and set the tone for the ongoing conversation we have (finally) been having about the impoverished place of women in Nashville's hierarchy.
Madison Marlow and Taylor Dye made a grand entrance in 2014 with their hit song “Girl in a Country Song”, which gave voice to the nameless, faceless female figures in the “bro-country” songs populating the country radio airwaves. You know, the ones dancing in the moonlight, by trucks’ tailgates, in cut-off jean shorts, off a dirt road somewhere? Marlow, Dye and co-writer Aaron Scherz had them express lightly biting sentiments like, “I got a name and to you it ain’t pretty little thing, hottie or baby,” just straddling that line between polemic and satire. Nothing on Maddie & Tae’s debut album Start Here is as clever or as likely to garner headlines as “Girl in a Country Song”, but that might be for the best.
Part protest, and part indulgence in what they’re protesting, Maddie & Tae’s summer 2014 debut provocation, “Girl in a Country Song,” gently poked fun at the casual misogyny of commercial country by inverting its most hallowed symbols: bikini tops, cut-off jeans, carefree tailgates. Eventually it became popular enough to get airplay without irony alongside the very songs it mocked. For some, “Girl in a Country Song” was a clever distraction from the overwhelming majority of dude voices on contemporary country radio.
A country duo who got together in their teens, Madison Marlow and Taylor Dye topped the country charts last year with "Girl in a Country Song," a sly shot at Nashville sexism in the era of the bro. Their first studio album offers more variations on that theme — check the hooky "Shut Up and Fish," about a horndog city dude who ruins a trip to the lake by "gettin' closer, slidin' over, crowdin' up my castin' shoulder." Even when the sentiments are more traditional, though, Maddie & Tae sound tough-minded and stout-hearted. On the acoustic ballad "After the Storm Blows Through," they offer shelter to a troubled guy who sounds like he deserves it — at least as boys in country songs go.