Country Jukebox Jury LP: Maddie & Tae – Through The Madness

The last proper album from the two now-married ladies was a compilation of three previous EPs. Through The Madness has arrived this year in two parts and, probably for the sake of completeness, I didn’t write up my thoughts on the first volume back in January so I’ll treat the album in its entirety.

There are 16 tracks which, as you might expect from an act targeted at the 18-34 demographic, deal with love and womanhood. Jimmy Robbins brings his magical pop production to the album, assisted by guitar wizard Derek Wells. For the vocals, as ever, Maddie takes lead and Taylor finesses it with some higher harmonies.

One of my songs of 2022 is Grown Man Cry, which also has an excellent one-shot video worth seeing. I love the four-chord loop, broken by a seventh chord (D-flat) just before the chorus kicks in, and the gang vocals in the chorus are tremendous. Another poppy tune on the first side (or volume) is Woman You Got, where the girls sing of being ‘not perfect, I’m a perfector’.

A lot of the songs mimic what’s going on in the LA pop world. They include the come-on song What It’s Like Loving You and the ballad Madness, which sounds giddy and full of affection for the girls’ partners. Strangers is full of intimacy, with its sweeping arrangement underlining the love felt by a couple: ‘How were we ever strangers?’ is a great line and the song has deservedly been streamed millions of times.

Ryan Hurd joins the trio in the writing of Well In Your World, a lovely tune where the girls remember an ex fondly and follows on from the breakup anthem Wish You The Best. Barry Dean and Luke Laird bring their world-weariness to Don’t Make Her Look Dumb, a piece of advice to a guy not to play around with a woman (‘if you don’t love her, leave her’).

These Tears is a pathos-drenched acoustic ballad written with the super duo Jon Green and Laura Veltz. Oddly it’s not part of their live set yet, but I predict fans will demand its presence. Liz Rose and Lori McKenna co-wrote The Other Side, on which Lori also appears: it’s another certified Maddie & Tae ballad full of imagery and pathos: ‘There’s strength in the weakness and light in the pieces’ will comfort many listeners going through grief or pain.

The songs which got a push in advance of the second volume of the album were Spring Cleaning and Every Night Every Morning. On the former, Marie Kondo gets a namecheck in a quirky kiss-off which is 100% yaaas although it nicks the ‘sleeping like a queen in my kingsize bed’ that Lady A used on Heart Break; on the latter, Maddie sings of wanting to ‘get drunk on a weekday’ and grow old together to the most anodyne MOR country backing music.

Similar production choices mark Drinking To Remember: Maddie doesn’t usually drink whiskey but she does in honour of an old flame (‘take the edge of letting go’). Girl After My Own Heart is a ‘u ok hun’ sort of song where the girls recall their song Bathroom Floor by giving advice to the sort of man whom they would be drinking to remember. The sequencing is good.

The sad portrait Watching Love Leave will chime with listeners who had also seen love leave, while the girls sigh on More Than Maybe and ask, over a mostly one-note melody: ‘Maybe I loved you too much…it’s making me crazy’. The lyrical hook (‘I deserve more than maybe’) is the best thing about the song and it makes the listener have empathy for the narrator.

It is lovely that Maddie & Tae can exist in such a male-dominated industry, but their voices deserve a bigger audience. Perhaps March 2023 in the UK would suit them. This month we’ll find out if they’ll be part of C2C.

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