Reviewing Dan + Shay is almost like trying to critically analyze someone’s wedding playlist. It just does not seem right almost. This comes from a personal place, I will admit, since my girlfriend turned me on to this pop-country duo and it just seems wrong to critique them because of that. Also, these guys just seem so inoffensive and make music that is honestly very cute making it hard to really want to be harsh on them. But still, I have been anticipating Obsessed since I did enjoy their debut Where It All Began and I have my girlfriend’s blessing so I think I will be fine reviewing this.
The record starts with a cover of Lady Antebellum’s “All Nighter” which had me a little worried about the overall quality of this record. The lyrics begin to get irritating right off the bat by forcing the lyrics with the title. We hear about “running through every red lighter” and “feeling like a star right out of the midnight skyer” and it just sounds very sloppy. It is obvious that neither guy had written a word of it. The small guitar solo saves this song a bit, but it is not enough to make it too good.
Next is the summertime song “Road Trippin’” which is about exactly what you think it would be about. The framing of the song does do a good job of letting you know who the intended audience with lyrics about sneaking alcohol and skinny dipping. Dan + Shay know exactly who this album is intended for and by those standards this is a fun song to play and relax with your friends to.
Beyond the first two tracks, the rest of the tracks revolve around love and will definitely have great appeal to high school/college aged couples who enjoy this type of music. “From the Ground Up” is an incredibly touching wedding song that walks the same line as something like “Thinking Out Loud” a song I really do love. The lyrics are transparent which is perfectly fine for a song like this and it does come across super sincere, as do all of the songs here.
This is what has always worked about Dan + Shay and I am glad they have been able to continue their ability to make sincere love songs. Even a song like “Already Ready” which is about not being able to help yourself from having sex with your girl comes across as more of a statement about how beautiful this girl is. In the wrong hands this could have come across poorly but here it comes across as sweet. Songs like “Round the Clock” and “Sway” both fall into this same category of safe, inoffensive love songs that are not challenging but are not bad either.
There are a few more sentimental songs that I think show some growth from Dan + Shay as songwriters like on “How Not To” which goes over the feelings after a breakup. The message of struggling to be the bigger man and handle the breakup well will probably really resonate well with the duo’s younger audience. “Lipstick” is a good follow up, as the subject of the song gets ready for a date, seemingly after a tough breakup, and begins to move on as she starts to see other people. The song “Lately” seems to be following the same formula that Sturgill Simpson followed on his last album, discussing the difficulties of maintaining a relationship while touring and treasuring those relaxing moments you get to spend together.
The closing title track is where I feel the record begins to try and be something interesting. It hits the 5 minute mark, making it longer than any of Dan + Shay’s other songs and utilizes horns to give the track go back to the sounds of bands like Chicago. It shows that this duo are capable of doing interesting things which made me a little upset as to why they did not add interesting instrumentation to other tracks.
If you find yourself in the audience for this album then go out and listen to it because you will absolutely adore it. More critical and matured fans of country music might enjoy the sentiment of some of these tracks but not find much else. Personally, as someone who finds myself in between these two categories I think it is a more than listenable album that I have no problems recommending to people I know will enjoy this.
Best Tracks: From the Ground Up, How Not To, Lipstick, Round the Clock, Lately, Obsessed
Worst Track: All Nighter