Before Maren Morris, 12 Other Women Loaned Vocals to ‘The Middle’
Maren Morris hit No. 1 earlier this month with crossover hit "The Middle" — a collaboration with Zedd and Grey — but before her, there was a long list of female singers vying for lead vocals on the song.
In an interview with Variety, producers Stefan and Jordan Johnson and Marcus "Marc Lo" Lomax — part of production team Monsters & Strangers who helped to shape the song, which was written by Australian songwriter Sarah Aarons — explain how 12 other females lent their voices to the song before Morris' version was released.
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The chorus for "The Middle" was written in January of 2017. As Stefan explains, in February and March they continued perfecting the production of the song before it was sent to Lovato. "It was a super long process,” Stefan says. “We never lost the feeling for that song,” adds his brother, Jordan. "Even a year later, I, as a creator hadn’t gotten tired of it. It was special."
Demi Lovato, Camila Cabello, Anne-Marie, Carly Rae Jepsen, Charli XCX, Tove Lo, Bishop Briggs, Bebe Rexha, Lauren Jauregui from Fifth Harmony, Daya and Elle King all put their vocals to the lyrics, but the pieces never fit together.
Lovato's vocals were impressive, but she didn't want to release "The Middle" as a single, instead opting for her now-hit, "Sorry Not Sorry." It was a similar situation after Zedd put his talents to the production of the song, which was then sent to Cabello. She didn't want another song to overshadow her single at the time, "Havana."
Rinse and repeat. Unfortunately for the producers, it was the same thing each time they tried. They had reached out to English singer Ann-Marie, but at the time she was being featured on Marshmello's song "Friends," which was about to be released to radio so she was out, too.
Jordan says Morris is "the angel that saved us all." He and his brother were unaware that Morris had cut a version of the song, and once Zedd heard her take, he flew to Nashville to record her full vocals. That was in early 2018.
“She sounded incredible,” Lomax says. “It was the best one yet, no question.”
Stefan agrees: "The lyrics took on a whole new meaning when Maren sang. All of a sudden, you believe it. The taps are running. Dishes are broken. It sounded a little Nashville and felt right. We were pumped. They sent new art with a new name again. And there was a new release date: Jan 26. Still, we were, like, we won’t believe it until we see it on the Grammys."
"The Middle" made its debut through a Target ad during the 2018 Grammys, and it was well-received. Plus, the song's success has allowed Morris to break into the pop world. While Monsters & Strangerz have yet to meet the country star, they have nothing but praise.
“This song was her ‘I can do this and watch me do it’ moment,” Stefan says. “Now she has no ceiling.”
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