By Shannon Carlin
“No country music was harmed in the making of this song.”
These are the first words you hear when you listen to Maddie & Tae‘s “Girl In a Country Song.” Then the duo goes all-in on country bros who only think women look mighty fine in a pair of denim cutoffs, especially when they’re sitting pretty—and preferably, quietly—in the back of a Ford pickup.
And it’s true, this song, which grabbed the attention of country and non-country fans alike when it dropped back in July, did not hurt country music. Instead, it got people talking.
Op-eds were written by the likes of the New Yorker, who claimed Maddie & Tae were “taking country music back from the bros,” and Ann Powers over at NPR wrote that the two teens arrived to give those men who make up cutesy names for women’s backsides a “kick in the Wranglers.”
The track even had a few male country singers on the defensive. When The Chicago Tribune asked Florida Georgia Line’s Brian Kelley about the song, he said, “I don’t know one girl who doesn’t want to be a girl in a country song. That’s all I’m gonna say to you. That’s it.”
Madison “Maddie” Marlow and Taylor “Tae” Dye would like to politely disagree with you, Mr. Kelley.
“I think a lot of people are thinking it,” Dye tells Radio.com over the phone. “Maddie and I just happened to be the ones to say it.”
“Tae and I knew it was a really bold statement to come out of the gates with,” Marlow adds. “But there’s a lot of humor in the song, too. It’s very tongue in cheek.”
Marlow and Dye got the idea for “Girl In a Country Song” after listening to the radio and taking note of the words men use to describe their women. Or rather, the lack of words they use. These girls that Jason Aldean and Tyler Farr can’t seem to stop singing about are merely stock characters—”babys,” “honeys,” “pretty little things”—with no unique personalities of their own.
“Like we say in the chorus, literally all we’re good for is getting in your truck and saying absolutely nothing,” Dye says. “As you can tell, Maddie and I have a lot to say, so that doesn’t really work for us.”
The young duo—both 19—grew up listening to ’90s country mainstays like George Strait and Vince Gill, who treated their ladies with respect instead of reducing them to “tan-legged Juliets” like “Redneck Romeo” Jason Aldean.
These days, Marlow says, women are constantly being objectified through song, but if a single is catchy enough most are willing to overlook it. She and Dye, however, could no longer sit back and ignore these silly cliches that they felt were actually harmful to women.
“If you really listen to it,” Marlow says of certain bro-country hits, which she elects not to name, “this poor girl has to show off her sugar-shaker and shake her moneymaker and show off those long tanned legs of hers. I’m 5’2,” Tae’s 5’3,” so there’s no long tanned legs for us.”
In the end, the duo wrote a song for all the women that don’t want to be another girl in a country song because they don’t want to be either.
Marlow and Dye, who hail from Texas and Oklahoma, respectively, first met through their vocal coach when they were 15. The two wrote their first song together—a daddy/daughter song about a girl who wanted a horse instead of a car for her 16th birthday—within the first week of meeting. Three years later, they’ve become the first female country duo since 2007 to enter the top 10 of Billboard’s Country Airplay chart.
It’s a milestone that’s both exciting and saddening for the girls who grew up idolizing female country stars—and radio staples—like the Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain, who Dye says “was always about women empowerment.”
“[Shania] was never afraid—still isn’t afraid—to be completely different,” Dye says. “That definitely inspired Maddie and I to be true to ourselves and be different even if it’s not the norm.”
This is clear from their self-titled debut EP, which has Marlow and Dye bucking the recent country goes pop—and sometimes hip-hop—trend to do something more traditional, filling their songs with mandolin, fiddle and steel guitar.
The girls are storytellers in the classic country sense, tackling serious topics with a lightheartedness that fits their age. The two write all of their own songs, which often surprises people. They just find it strange that anyone could think these young, feminine songs could be written by anyone else but them. “The songs come straight from Tae and I and no one else,” Marlow says defiantly.
The two write about growing up too fast on “Fly” and kiss-off an ex who made the unwise choice of breaking their heart. The track “Sierra” was actually inspired by a real life mean girl of the same name who bullied Marlow in high school. But she gets to enact some sweet revenge throwing off lines like, “I hope that I’m around when you get knocked up or knocked down.”
Marlow has since made nice with Sierra. “The moral of the story is to just stand up for yourself,” she says. “Being a bigger person doesn’t mean keeping your mouth shut.” But it makes a person wonder, do the two really believe in karma like the song suggests?
“Oh, definitely. And the thing about Sierra is,” Marlow says with a chuckle, “she had it coming.”
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