Release Date: April 10th 2020
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Everywhere I’m Goin’
- Bathroom Floor
- My Man
- Tourist In This Town
- Drunk Or Lonely
- One Heart To Another
- Trying On Rings
- Write A Book
- Water In His Wine Glass
- Die From A Broken Heart
- Ain’t There Yet
- Lay Here With Me (feat. Dierks Bentley)
- Friends Don’t
- I Don’t Need To Know
- New Dog Old Tricks
Guess what everyone? We’re now into month 6 of quarantine or lockdown or restrictions or whatever your country is doing to protect the citizens and people from COVID-19. Month 6, guys! Just think about that and dwell upon that fact for a second. COVID-19 has essentially robbed us from having a normal life for half a year already. And thus, this is what 2020 is unfortunately. Some would say that 2020 is a write-off because during this time, we’ve all had away from ‘normal’ activities and instead be ‘stuck’ at home trying to work from home and trying to entertain ourselves while some of us go stir crazy. Yet for me and presumably for others, 2020 hasn’t been that bad. Aside from the very notion of a pandemic sweeping the globe and aside from the fact that there are deaths and people are sick; people have generally received a well-earned break, myself included, from the daily grind and the hustle and bustle. In no way though am I trivialising COVID-19- and I do agree that this virus is bad news. However God has inspired and encouraged me greatly during this calamitous and chaotic year, and I’m sure He is and He will be doing the same for each one of you. And so as we are still counting down the days of when we as people can ‘return to civilisation’ so to speak; what left is there for us to do? Well… for one I would say that we can listen to music, and we can listen to music that we would probably never have heard before. I mean… we’ve got the time right now, don’t we?
And though I know that we as humans gravitate to music that we’ve known and loved throughout the years and music that we’ve grown up with because it’s sentimental or nostalgic; I reckon that now’s the time to listen to someone new. Just as how we can gain a new perspective from someone who thinks differently to us, so to can we glean new ways of thinking or even solidify our own when we immerse ourselves into artists whom are vastly different from our own preferred genre. As I’m sure you have read from our reviews and as you have been scrolling through our main review page, we have written about albums from artists like Natalie Grant, Needtobreathe, Matt Hammitt, Caylee Hammack, Lindsay Ell, Chris Tomlin, We The Kingdom, Jason Gray, Skillet, Kelsea Ballerini, Mickey Guyton, Gabby Barrett, Jimmie Allen, Cassadee Pope, Lauren Alaina, Carly Pearce, Jordin Sparks, Tori Kelly, Colony House, Ronan Keating, Pentatonix and The McClymonts over the past few weeks and months. And now as I’m sure your familiar with these hopeful and inspirational artists (who are all encompassing many different genres!); now’s the time for yet another album from another ‘new’ artist. Country music duo Maddie & Tae (comprising of Madison Font and Taylor Kerr- sister in law of CCM artist Hannah Kerr) have taken the world by storm with their debut album Start Here in 2015, and while I won’t go into depth of that album and the hit songs and how the duo started and got into music (as I will leave that for another day when I write about Maddie & Tae in my blog series!); what I will say is that the last project from these two, titled The Way It Feels, contains some of the year’s most vulnerable, honest and inspiring material. Sure, this album is predominately about relationships, and it may sound a bit odd for a single guy and a Christian to be championing a country album about solid relationships- however as I know that God can and will use anything He wants to inspire and encourage us in life and draw us closer to Himself… why would it surprise me that He uses Maddie & Tae?
It has been four years since we’ve released an album. For us, this is a lot more than just an album release. This sophomore album will always be a reminder that no matter the setbacks and struggles, we will come out stronger and better. We are so proud of this 15-song story. We wrote these songs during the most vulnerable times and our hope is that people hear that and connect…these songs will always represent something so beautiful and spiritual to us. And hopefully, it will represent something similar to people who listen.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and intimated by the 15-song track list, you don’t need to be. Every song tells and story and every song, at least to me, doesn’t feel like filler. “Die From a Broken Heart”, one of the most emotional and inspiring songs on the album, is driven by light electric guitar, as this thought-provoking, comforting and impactful melody asks the question about whether we as people can die from a broken heart or not. The song imagines the persona calling their mother, and asking her questions about failed relationships and how you get through them, and while the answer is that you can’t die from a broken heart; this song is seeped in personal experience and raw emotion, inspired by Tae’s break up with singer/songwriter Jackie Kelly in 2017. Brutally heartfelt and sure to tug at our emotions, the lead single may sound to laid back and lullaby-ish for some, however gives us a timely reminder to safeguard and cherish our relationships, and ensure that they are built on a solid foundation, otherwise opportunities to die from a broken heart will continue to arise even when we don’t want them to.
The rest of the album showcases the girls singing in perfect harmony and tackling a myriad of issues and relevant topics. Album opener “Everywhere I’m Goin’” is a reflective ballad directed to the girls’ spouses, as they declare that everywhere they’ve been and everywhere they’re going can be summed up by their husbands and their love for them; while the playful, energetic and joyous “Bathroom Floor” encourages us all to get up off of our feet and not wallow in self-pity when we’re feeling down, but rather think about the good things in life and celebrate the moments of happiness and peace and love and positivity instead. 3 minute lead radio single “Friends Don’t” calls out so-called male or female friends who act more than friendly and lead people on, as Maddie & Tae remind them that ‘friend’s don’t do those kind of couple-y things’; while the emotional and poignant “Trying On Rings” describes an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness, as the duo thank God for guiding them through life and guiding them to their wedding day with their husbands.
“My Man”, cowritten with Dave Barnes, is a straight up pop song and a straight up love song, and a refreshing one for the music industry, given that so many celebrities break up and it certainly feels very commonplace. Yet “My Man” champions the love of a spouse or a significant other, and reminds us that true love can be found if we’re willing to look and we’re willing to put in the work and make the extra effort. “Tourist In This Town”, a slower tempo guitar led ballad, is as heartbreaking as it is confronting, as the song dives deep into the notion of the persona having to find different ‘special spots’ in the hometown because of the breakup with the ex and the sentimental value the previous ‘hangouts’ had with the relationship (and that’s really a brutal experience to ever go through!); while “Drunk Or Lonely” is another hard-hitting track about the realisation when a relationship is about to hit the wall and go off the rails, all because the other person is ‘drunk or lonely’. I mean, people break up probably more times than they get together, and so it would be great if break ups due to people drifting apart never happen, however the reality is that they do, and my hope is that this song peels back the layers of the cruel reality of people, and encourages us to be that support system for our significant others, and ensure that being ‘drunk or lonely’ are not the only two options.
“One Heart To Another” is a rather pessimistic way of looking at love and life, but this is the reality sometimes- that people cheat and people move ‘from one heart to another’ quicker than you could say ‘hello and goodbye’; while the subject matter brightens up yet again with the R&B flavoured “Write A Book”, a sort of female prominent reverse subject matter companion piece to for KING & COUNTRY’s “Priceless”- and on this track the girls speak about their man and comment on how he should write a book about chivalry and treating women, as he’s so good at it. “Water In His Wine Glass”, probably the most vulnerable and personal track the girls have ever recorded, deals about the almost-taboo theme of alcoholism, and pleading with God to ‘…pour water in his wine glass, bring the man he used to be back, ’cause I wanna look him in the eyes and see someone I recognize, I’m on my knees, and all I ask is, Lord, pour water in his wine glass…’, while the poppy “Ain’t There Yet” gives us permission and allows us to feel all of the emotions involved with anything- not just a breakup, with Taylor relaying that “…“Ain’t There Yet” is about leaning into whatever you’re feeling when you’re feeling it, which is a big lesson Maddie and I have learned over the past couple of years. I think it’s just so important to let yourself heal in whatever way that is, and to give yourself grace. Cut yourself some slack. You don’t have to move on immediately or feel better immediately. Just take it day by day…” “Lay Here With Me”, a stirring and powerful duet with Dierks Bentley, is a personal standout, as even though the persona is in a rough patch with her significant other, the song represents the first step towards reconciliation, and recognising that two parties still love each other- a reminder that true love can’t be rid of that easily and that if people are meant to be together, God will find a way to let that happen.
“I Don’t Need To Know” is a penultimate track, where Maddie & Tae earnestly remind us that when two people break up, they’re allowed to move on, and one person doesn’t need to know about the other’s new lover. Or maybe they do for closure… yet this song delves into the thought processes behind this person receiving information about their ex moving on with someone else, and asks their friends as to why they keep talking about it. As a song it’s very catchy, and with the message being that we all need to check ourselves before we gossip to the wrong person about this other person moving on; “I Don’t Need To Know” asks the question of is ignorance really bliss? Or do we actually need to be informed about everything under the sun to gain a better understanding of people in general? Album ender “New Dogs Old Tricks” calls out sleazy people and predators in bars looking to take advantage of young girls and other vulnerable people- and though this isn’t the perfect song to end with (maybe as a opener it’d be pretty good? And possibly end this project with “Water In His Wine Glass”!); Maddie & Tae have fun here, and give another warning to us- and if we heed this one, I’m sure that life will be very pleasant. We’d be still alive and we won’t have that many hangovers and one night stands that we regret!
We wanted to make an album that you celebrate to, that you cry to—that you party to. We were writing things that we had never written before. We got deeper than we ever had—we were beating everything we had written a couple of years ago… We had to figure out how to put the pieces back together. As an artist, so much of your self-worth is tied to what you do. We had to learn how to separate what we do from who we are. That allowed us to be able to make an album that we love and feel proud of. Now, it means so much more… I’m so proud of how honest we were, and how specific we were. The reason we’ve been able to connect with our fans so deeply is because we’ve let them into the nitty gritty of what we’re going through, the good and the bad. We aren’t afraid to talk about stuff that doesn’t feel good—things that are hard because what are we doing if we aren’t being real?
I’ve said before that I’m not the target audience of this album. Maddie & Tae’s The Way It Feels delves deep into the security of relationships and the transient nature of falling in and out of love. As a single person, I can’t relate to these songs as well as others. Yet there’s something about this album that makes me keep coming back and listening despite the initial misgivings and the initial apprehensiveness. It’s the realness of these songs, it’s the authenticity, the vulnerability, the emotion, the honesty, and the heartfelt nature of the lyrics that pull at my emotions. If you’re not impacted by a number of songs on this project- namely “Water In His Wine Glass”, “Tourist In This Town” or “Die From A Broken Heart”; then what can I say? You’re not really human? Anyway, as you guys all wait to hear more about what I have to say about Maddie Font and Taylor Kerr in my blog in a few week’s time, and how God has used them to strengthen my faith and how God has used them to open my eyes more about the complexities of life; dive deep into The Way It Feels. It may take a couple of listens, but I guarantee that you’ll find inspiring and heartfelt songs that you will resonate with.
3 Songs To Listen To: Water In His Wine Glass, Tourist In This Town, Die From A Broken Heart
RIYL: Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Shania Twain, LeAnn Rimes, Kacey Musgraves, Luke Coombs, Dan + Shay