In country music today, the distinct lack of young voices on the radio has never been more apparent. The hole that was left behind once Taylor Swift jumped into the realm of pop has never been filled, but instead covered by a myriad of male-driven acts singing about tailgates and tan legs.
When Maddie and Tae released “Girl in a Country Song” last year, they changed the dynamic just in time. With a mixture of clever songwriting and playful sass, they took on the status quo that many were too afraid to try and fight. Instead of replacing the at times overly-emotional sentiment that teenaged Swift had supplied, Madison Marlow and Tae Dye brought a feminist perspective that hasn’t been so bluntly seen within the genre for decades.
With Start Here, Maddie and Tae reveal who they are as artists outside of the initial blinding spotlight. Their fresh perspective on modern country storytelling is as fun as it is honest. Within 11 tracks, the duo takes listeners through stories that feel ripped out of a journal.
What Maddie and Tae have accomplished with their full-length debut is expertly vocalizing the complicated feelings and thoughts of their age-group. The album’s first track, “Waitin’ on a Plane”, is all about the urge to spread your wings and start over. What follows is a series of songs that detail the good and bad that come with that personal journey. From the reality of moving away from mom and dad (“Downside of Growing Up”), to the struggle of finding real love (“Smoke”), the duo honestly describes the best and worst parts of figuring out who you really are as a young adult.
Even if you’ve made it past these struggles, there’s an authenticity that shines through the at times overproduced Big Machine sound that allows you to connect with their stories. There are also some lighter moments, including the sassy “Shut Up and Fish”, which reminds listeners that Maddie and Tae are smart enough to not take themselves too seriously.
It’s impossible to ignore Marlow and Dye’s individual vocal talents, but there’s a certain magic that ignites as soon as the two begin to harmonize. With this much talent at such an early age, it’s a safe bet that Start Here will likely act as a marker of a long career for Maddie and Tae.