2018 single by Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey
"The Middle" is a song by Russian-German record producer Zedd, American country singer Maren Morris and American musical duo Grey. It was written by Sarah Aarons, Zedd, Grey and The Monsters and the Strangerz, with production handled by the latter three. The song was released commercially for digital download and streaming on 23 January 2018 by Interscope Records. It reached the top ten of the charts in the US, the UK and several other countries. It was nominated for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards.
Background and development
The song was first revealed in an accompanying interview of Zedd's cover shot for Billboard, published on 10 August 2017. Zedd played interviewer Chris Martins unreleased material in a studio, one of which was "The Middle", which featured co-writer Sarah Aarons as a demo singer.
On 11 January 2018, Zedd teased the song on social media, saying: "Hey guys, it's that time again. I wanted to show you a preview to my brand new song. Check it out," after which he played a short snippet of the song. The collaboration was officially announced via social media on 19 January 2018, along with the single artwork, which Zedd teased a day earlier without a title on it.
Zedd said in a press release that they "worked really hard on this record to get it just right". He also opened up about the opportunity to work with both collaborators, stating that working with Maren Morris was "super fun because she is clearly an amazing singer and very talented musician", and that he loves working with Grey because they strive to "make the best music possible".
Morris added: "Zedd was so great to work with and so easy-going, it felt like we'd been working together for years. The sound is reflective of my many influences as an artist – a little bit country, little pop, little R&B, relatable, emotional and catchy as hell. There are no limits with this song and I can't wait to see how the fans react." She revealed in a statement that she recorded her vocal for the song with Zedd in Nashville "several weeks ago" before the song's release. Grey admitted that they faced a few obstacles during production, but they "kept fighting for it" because the song was special.
The song was recorded by Demi Lovato, Camila Cabello, Anne-Marie, Carly Rae Jepsen, Tove Lo, Bishop Briggs, Bebe Rexha, Lauren Jauregui, Daya, Charli XCX and Elle King before Morris was chosen for the final version. Stefan Johnson, one-fifth of production team The Monsters and the Strangerz, stated that "it was a super long process". Jordan Johnson of the same team added: "We never lost the feeling for that song. Even a year later, I, as a creator hadn't gotten tired of it. It was special."
Kat Bein of Billboard opined that the song is "relatively sparse with cute, lively flourishes", writing that it has "definite sonic similarities" to Zedd's previous song "Stay".Rolling Stone's Brittney McKenna deemed the song "an infectious earworm" in which Morris "strays from her country roots". She felt that the "Nineties R&B-indebted, vocoder-driven chorus" recalls the sound of "Stay", and that Morris "deftly occupies the new, poppy space". Hugh McIntyre of Fuse found Morris' appearance on the track surprising, "considering the genres she primarily works in", as he praised Morris for "supplying vocals perfectly". He felt that it "leans a lot more pop than electro", which makes the song more appealing to a broader variety of listeners. Regarding the song "an easy-to-love electronic smash" and "a slightly reductive mix" of "Stay" and "Starving", he noted that it is "not entirely original" due to its "reminiscence of what the musicians have delivered before". Similarly, Madeline Roth of MTV News called the song "a poppy earworm" and a combination of "Stay" and "Starving", which is "catchy as hell and practically destined for radio domination". Mike Nied of Idolator wrote that the song "blends elements of country and EDM" and praised Morris for providing "impassioned vocals". Billy Dukes of Taste of Country described the song as "an unlikely combination of EDM, '90s pop and modern country music".
The song's music video, directed by Dave Meyers, was premiered via Target's commercial space during the 60th Annual Grammy Awards. On 25 April, Zedd released a vertical video on YouTube. The dancing was choreographed by Nadine "Hi-Hat" Ruffin, with 50 dancers featured including Lele Pons, Jade Chynoweth, and Willdabeast Adams. More than 400 extras worked on the video.
Two months later, a remix EP was exclusively released on Beatport containing remixes by DJ Marc Benjamin, DJ Bougenvilla, DJ Curbi, DJ UNKWN, & DJ Maliboux.
On 28 April 2018, Zedd and Maren Morris performed the song live for the first time at the Omnia nightclub in Las Vegas. On 20 May 2018, all three artists performed the song at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards. Morris performed the song with Taylor Swift at the Arlington stop of Swift's Reputation Stadium Tour on 5 October 2018. On 26 October 2019, Jess Moskaluke and the Hunter Brothers performed the song at the opening ceremonies of the NHL's Heritage Classic in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Awards and nominations
The song reached No. 5 on BillboardHot 100. It has sold 771,000 copies in the United States as of February 2019.
- "The Middle" – 3:04
- "The Middle" – 3:05
- "The Middle" (instrumental) – 3:02
Credits adapted from Tidal.
|Region ||Certification||Certified units/sales |
|Australia (ARIA)||3× Platinum ||210,000|
|Belgium (BEA)||Platinum ||30,000*|
|Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)||Platinum ||40,000|
|Canada (Music Canada)||4× Platinum ||320,000|
|Denmark (IFPI Denmark)||Platinum ||90,000|
|France (SNEP)||Gold ||100,000|
|Germany (BVMI)||Gold ||200,000|
|Italy (FIMI)||Platinum ||50,000|
|Mexico (AMPROFON)||Platinum ||60,000*|
|New Zealand (RMNZ)||Platinum ||30,000*|
|Portugal (AFP)||Gold ||5,000|
|Sweden (GLF)||Gold ||4,000,000|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Platinum ||600,000|
|United States (RIAA)||3× Platinum ||3,000,000|
|Japan (RIAJ)||Silver ||30,000,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
sales+streaming figures based on certification alone
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