We were introduced to Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney at the end of 2013 when ‘19 You + Me’ began its rise towards the top of the country charts. It was a great pop-country song that has certainly stood the test of time.
It certainly propelled Dan + Shay into the mainstream market. Success has come remarkably quickly. They met in December 2012, began writing songs and within two months had been signed by Warner Music.
Their debut album ‘Where It All Began’ came out in April 2014 and their career has followed the course that one would expect a label-backed duo to embark upon. Support slots on tours with Hunter Hayes, Blake Shelton and Darius Rucker and a modest ten date headlining tour to support the first album.
We now have the all important follow up album ‘Obsessed’ and expectations will be huge. Can they move onto the next level and break into the elite group? Can they turn the nominations for Vocal Duo of the Year into wins?
Can they headline their own tours? And, from a personal point of view can they attempt to break the international market? Time will tell but if the answer is to find radio friendly, quality songs you might want to lay a bet that you are going to hear quite a lot of Dan & Shay over the next twelve months.
The marketing has been interesting. There seems to be a trend developing for videos to be released to social media and YouTube before album release. Dierks Bentley released 4 tracks from his ‘Black’ album before release. They released ‘From The Ground Up’, ‘How Not To’, ‘Road Trippin’, ‘Already Ready’ and ‘Obsessed’ as videos before this album. Bearing in mind that it’s a 10-track album we have had prior access to half the songs before release.
These are songs that totally define the interpretation of “catchy” anyway. Dan + Shay have the ability to create songs that hit the spot immediately. Personally we miss the “discovery” aspect when hearing the album but one man’s meat etc…..
There could be a long running compilation album in the making that includes chart singles bundled in a package. ‘Obsessed’ could be renamed ‘Now That’s What I Call Dan + Shay’. Each of the 10 tracks could be potential hit records. They stand alone and totally work individually.
The traditionalists will probably hate this record. If country music needed saving you wouldn’t go into battle with Dan + Shay but that’s missing the point. They are supreme pop-country songwriters, harmonise brilliantly and Shay Mooney showcases his vocal range impeccably.
There has also been a gradual development in instrumentation and production since the release of ‘Where It All Began’. This may be due to the natural maturity of the duo but may also be the involvement of Dan in the production process.
Boundaries are there to be crossed and the perfect example is the title track ‘Obsessed’. This is a song that could easily be a contender for inclusion on an Eric Benet or Tyrese album, such is the soulful vibes and horn section. Zac Brown Band have had music in the Rock charts; this could easily feature in the R&B charts! Perfect summer music nevertheless.
The opening track ‘All Nighter’ was featured as a bonus track on the deluxe edition of Lady Antebellum’s 747 album last year and is one of two tracks included not penned by Dan + Shay.
It’s a concert-friendly pounder that Smyers produced with Scott Hendricks who is a veteran music producer and also happens to be the senior Vice President of A&R at Warner Music Nashville.
The stand out track has to be ‘Already Ready’ which is surely a future smash hit single. Shane McAnally shared writing duties and he adds his magic to a song that has all the trademark Dan + Shay touches. Easily their best song since ‘19 You + Me’.
‘How Not To’ is the second track that features guest writers. It tells the classic country music tale. Boy falls out with girl. Boy can’t deal with his loss. Lyrically not too ground-breaking but the chemistry between the duo elevates the song to a higher level.
‘Lipstick’ is another track that deals with a relationship break up, this time from a female perspective. “Even though she knows it ain’t gonna fix it she’s putting on her lipstick”. A very relatable ballad that will resonate with their legion of female followers.
‘Lately’ begins and continues with a slide guitar and has a country feel. However let’s not get too carried away. It has a synthesised, programmed drum beat that will not go too well with the traditionalists. None of this should detract from the overall quality of this follow up album however.
We loved it. It’s the summer album that you will play in your cars with the hood down or, in our inclement climate, half a window opened.