Maddie and Tae
Allister Ann

Maddie & Tae’s debut album, Start Here (Dot/Republic/Big Machine Label Group), opens at No. 2 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart (dated Sept. 19) with 24,000 sold in the week ending Sept. 3, according to Nielsen Music. The pair is blocked from No. 1 by Luke Bryan’s Kill the Lights (Capitol Nashville/Universal Music Group Nashville), which rules for a fourth week (38,000, down 30 percent).

Start Here marks the strongest unit debut by a female duo on Top Country Albums since The Wreckers (Michelle Branch and Jessica Harp) bowed at No. 4 with 44,000 units in 2006 with Stand Still, Look Pretty. The last female duo to place a title higher than Maddie & Tae on Top Country Albums? The Judds, nearly 27 years ago, when their Greatest Hits topped the Oct. 29, 1988 tally.

Start Here is the first full-length from Maddie & Tae (lead singer Maddie Marlow and guitarist-vocalist Taylor Elizabeth Dye). The duo’s introductory four-song Maddie & Tae EP peaked at No. 28 on the Nov. 22, 2014 Top Country Albums chart. The new album was produced by Aaron Scherz and Dann Huff. Maddie & Tae co-wrote all 11 songs on the set, and five of them with Scherz.

“Since it’s our first [album], I don’t think we knew what to expect, and we tried not to [expect anything], because that’s a lot of pressure,” Marlow tells Billboard. “This year has been so intense and so crazy that it’s a project just keeping up with ourselves, to be honest, and that’s plenty. But the fact we’re right behind Luke Bryan, that’s a pretty good start. He’s as big a deal as there is right now, and if we can be behind him on our first week, then that’s pretty cool.”

The LP’s “Girl in a Country Song,” the pair’s tongue-in-cheek, bro-country-skewering debut single, led the Country Airplay chart dated Dec. 20, 2014 and reached No. 3 on Hot Country Songs. It has sold 667,000 downloads to date. Current single “Fly” wings 16-12 on Hot Country Songs as the top Streaming and Digital Gainer. It also zooms 16-7 on Country Streaming Songs (1.8 million U.S. streams, up 28 percent) and 25-16 on Country Digital Songs (16,000, up 68 percent). On Country Airplay, “Fly” retreats 9-10 but keeps its bullet (26.5 million audience impressions, down less than 1 percent). The song has sold 229,000 since its release.

“I’m glad the way things have worked out, because Big Machine let us put out a second single [“Fly”] that meant so much to us,” says Dye. “But  they believed in our writing and what we want to say to the fans for the long haul.”

‘NIGHT’ MOVES: Dustin Lynch leaps 2-1 on Country Airplay with “Hell of a Night” (Broken Bow) (48.2 million, up 2 percent). The song reigns in its 44th week, becoming one of just five songs to take that much time to reach the top. (Chris Young’s “Voices” led with a 51-week ascent in 2010-11.)

“What an incredible journey and year it’s been,” says Lynch. “It wasn’t such an easy climb, but my [Broken Bow] soldiers believed in this song and, with as much importance, believed in my career.” Lynch adds that “Night” has been a “game-changer” in concert: “I’d just like to thank the folks at country radio for believing in me.”

“Hell” is Lynch’s second Country Airplay No. 1. “Where It’s At (Yep Yep)” topped the list for two weeks beginning Sept. 27, 2014 (in its 26th week). Both singles are from his second studio album, Where It’s At.