This launched an interesting conflict in Maddie & Tae’s career. They succeeded by criticizing the very thing they needed to have success. And while this worked once, and maybe twice if you count “Fly,” that’s the last time it's worked for them, and that was five years ago. To be fair, they haven’t released a full record since 2015, so the content available to success was fairly limited.
But this new record is a reckoning with that conflict: an embrace of the current trends in country music, and a commitment to the tradition of country music. The best representation of that comes in the form of “Die From A Broken Heart,” a song the duo actually sent to country radio. It currently sits at #21 on the Country Airplay chart, the highest the duo has sat on the charts since 2016’s “Shut Up and Fish.”
This song is the masterpiece of the record, the heartbreak song of the year. Tae’s harmonies are nowhere near as perfect anywhere else on the record and the simple instrumentals allow the story and Maddie’s sweet twang to shine. It’s reminiscent of “Fly,” the follow up to “Girl in a Country Song.” But this is grown-up, well-written and specific; specificity not as easily found on the duo’s debut record.
The radio influence isn’t absent on The Way It Feels. It’s most prominently heard in lead single “Friends Don’t,” and album tracks “I Don’t Need To Know,” “Drunk or Lonely” and “Ain’t There Yet.” Some of these are gems — the chorus of “I Don’t Need To Know” would be a smash at pop radio if it lived within a Halsey song.
But Maddie & Tae do their best work in the bluesy-rock take on country, the kind that existed in “Shut Up and Fish” on Start Here. On this record, this is found in “My Man,” “Bathroom Floor” and “New Dog Old Tricks.”
“My Man” is a No.1 in the making, a song that the duo has said they wanted to simply be a love song about being newly-weds (both of the women are). Maddie & Tae don’t need snap tracks and excessive synths to have a shot at succeeding in the country-pop game: this is the way to go.
This song is also a sort of mantra for a record that focuses heavily on the beauty of finding 'the one.' The Way It Feels has a sprinkle of heartbreak songs, but it's mainly about the beauty of both of the women finding lasting love. This record feels grown-up and conveys the womens' unabashed infatuation with love. That's what makes it great: this is the way life feels to Maddie & Tae.