Tuesday, December 4th, 2018

Maddie & Tae – Friends Don’t

Friends don’t let friends go nearly three years without covering a Maddie & Tae song, so thanks for watching out for us, Abdul!


Vikram Joseph: A sweetly earnest, widescreen country-pop song in search of a deserving high-school drama to soundtrack; there’s nothing groundbreaking about “Friends Don’t” but goddamn it’s likeable. Peals of slide howl softly like falling stars, guitars flicker and swell like a sunset. The writing is quietly excellent on the subtleties of low-key flirting — “cancel other plans / have conversations with nothing but their eyes”; “finding reasons not to leave.” It might sound like an adolescent ideal, but as a 32-year-old who’s spent the last few weeks doing exactly this mutual, tentative dance with someone, I’m extremely here for it. “I keep telling myself this might be nothing,” Maddie sings, capturing exquisitely the self-doubt I always feel, never quite believing in myself even when it’s abundantly clear what’s going on.

Jessica Doyle: The video’s opening threw me off: I thought the song would be about how a woman shouldn’t abandon her friends for a guy, or leave her friends drunk and vulnerable at a party. So it’s not fair for me to be impatient with the actual song, which is well-executed in both the singing and the instrumentation. (Although that guitar crash to start the chorus feels a little trite.) (And while I’m at it, I’m old now and gratefully far from dating, so: if all that’s happening and the beloved isn’t willing to acknowledge it, they’re being dishonest with either you or themselves, and friends don’t do that either. Move on, or call them on it.)

Anthony Easton: I don’t know if they are singing about a man who is stepping out, or about a friend who has become a lover, there are arguments for both in the text, and the harmony of the work kind of plays against the disharmony of the lyrics. Excellent instrumental breaks complicate an already complicated mess. 

Alfred Soto: How Maddie & Tae define “friends” depends on how willing listeners will accept irony as a device (at the least it’s a complement to Jody Watley’s great “Friends”). Ambiguity serves it. The track unfurls with the confidence of a long relationship, and M&T have dotted it with sharp lines (“Friends don’t stand around playing with their keys”). 

Katie Gill: Shout out to the undersung hero of this song and music in general: the mixing. Maddie & Tae have beautiful harmonies, which are usually undermixed or smoothed over by the backing. Thankfully, this isn’t the case. Those gorgeous harmonies soar on the second verse and the chorus, taking what was a catchy yet generic country music song to new, beautiful levels.

Nortey Dowuona: Soft guitars curl up on top on near invisible bass, while slide guitars wail in the background. Maddie and Tae push and lift each other, powering each harmony and fueling each swing.

Stephen Eisermann: Maybe it’s the cynical gay in me, but I’ve heard this same story from half of my gay friends about their straight crushes. I mean, it sounds better when sung by Maddie & Tae, and the instrumentation is great, but this is still too assumptive for my taste. 

Joshua Minsoo Kim: I can’t tell if I’m meant to approach “Friends Don’t” from the perspective of someone suspecting their lover of cheating, or someone who’s wanting a basically-lover to stop pussyfooting around their relationship status. Virtually every line can be read in either manner, and the vocalizing encourages both readings. This is already a magnificent bit of country pop — that it enters the chorus less than thirty seconds in shows confidence in its songwriting — but its polysemic lyrics account for one of the most impressive musical feats I’ve heard all year.

Reader average: [6] (1 vote)

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3 Responses to “Maddie & Tae – Friends Don’t”

  1. Thanks guys!!! Loving reading your blurbs. With the label drama and country radio’s hesitancy to play this (its been out since May and it’s still struggling to climb into the country radio top 40) I’m a bit worried that this is their swan song for mainstream success.

    A sad thing to say for a promising and marketable new act but I still like the song and hope they can turn things around!!

  2. I couldn’t get myself together in time to blurb this (end-of-semester drama!!) but this would have got a 7 from me, probably. I love Maddie & Tae and just want them to do well.

  3. also would have given this at least a 7

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