Maddie Marlow and Tae Dye are calling Nashville out.
Not that you’d know it to hear them talk. The two 18 year olds, who together make up new country duo Maddie & Tae, come across as sweet, effervescent, and totally innocuous when talking about their upcoming debut single, “Girl in a Country Song.”
“One day ... we were just talking about all the country songs we love that are on radio right now ...” Tae says in a videotaped interview. It’s left to their co-writer Aaron Scherz to finish the thought: “And Maddie said, ‘You know, I’d hate to be the girl in those country songs.’”
No wonder. As Entertainment Weekly’s Grady Smith has documented so well, “bro- country” has taken over Nashville. You could play Country Radio Bingo—some people actually do—with all the references to downing endless beers, driving in trucks on dirt roads, and dancing on tailgates in the moonlight. While women are usually essential to these activities, they’re referred to simply as random, almost Frankenstein-like collections of scantily clothed body parts—most often tanned legs in cutoffs.
Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kind of Night” is usually cited as one of the worst examples, though in fact it’s typical. It starts as follows:
I got that real good feel good stuff,
Up under the seat of my big black jacked up truck,
Rollin’ on 35s,
Pretty girl by my side.
You got that sun tan, skirt and boots,
Waiting on you to look my way and scoot
Your little hot self over here,
Girl, hand me another beer, yeah!
Those two sweet 18 year olds have something to say about that.
Bein’ the girl in a country song
How in the world did it go so wrong?
Like all we’re good for is looking good for
You and your friends on the weekend, nothin’ more
We used to get a little respect
Now we’re lucky if we even get
To climb up in the truck,
Keep our mouth shut
And be the girl in a country song
And a little later, as though in specific response to Bryan and some half-a-dozen other singers’ invitations to scoot or slide on over:
Tell me one more time you gotta get you some of that
Sure I’ll slide on over, but you’re gonna get slapped
Cheekily appropriating much of the sound of modern country, the two young women directly quote well-known bro-country lyrics and titles, from the likes of Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett, and Blake Shelton. Everything gets lampooned, from the cutoffs (“it’s gettin’ kinda cold in these painted-on cutoff jeans”) to the constant use of “girl” and similar epithets:
I hear you over there on your tailgate whistlin’
Sayin’ "Hey girl," but you know I ain’t listenin’
’Cause I got a name and to you it ain’t
"Pretty little thing," "honey," or "baby"
As Dot Records general manager Chris Stacey says in his new duo’s introductory video, “That’s a viewpoint we haven’t heard in the marketplace before.” Not, at least, since the glory days of Conway Twitty and George Strait, the only two male singers to get respectful tributes in “Girl in a Country Song” as men who “never did it this way.” Strait, who’s still recording, is one of the few who’s never given in, even the tiniest bit, to the “bro-country” trend.