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Dan + Shay

Obssessed – 2016 (Warner)

Reviewed by Fred Frawley

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CDs by Dan + Shay

Dan Myers and James Shay Mooney came from different parts of the country (Allegheny County, Pa. and Arkansas, respectively) and met in Nashville where each was tracking the well-worn path to country music success. They began writing songs together a little over three years ago, already have a hit album ("Where It All Began") and now have another tiger by the tail.

Dan + Shay know a hook, can write songs and have identified a sweet spot in the formula of country music success. Their songs feature most (and sometimes all) elements of 2016 country music: a sweet, bare opening; evocative verse, three-power-chord chorus, repeated verse/chorus form once or twice, with the last chorus ending in a drop, followed by the resurgence of an anthemic chorus and then ending with a sweet, spare instrumental fade. To deconstruct Dan + Shay is not to denigrate: they nail the elements with lively lyrics, clever multi-word vocal runs and are driven by a petulant percussive backbeat.

Dan + Shay write and sing songs of secular aspiration. That aspiration is nearly always directed toward a woman: partying with a woman ("Road Trippin' ," "All Nighter") getting a woman's hair down, clothes off or to dress in the singer's shirt (presumably after partying) ("Round The Clock," "Sway," "How Not To," "Already Ready"). Even the one track sung from the soon-to-be-shirted woman's point of view ("Lipstick") embraces this aesthetic. But the music is infectious, sung with intricate phrasing (often starting on the upbeat of a previous chord resolve) and well-constructed.

Oddly, the song that departs from the proven track on "Obsessed" is the title cut. "Obsessed" (the song) has an R&B/Philly Soul feel, complete with horn backing on the chorus. It's as tasty as the other tracks, hits the "gotta get you into my shirt after sex" theme, but doesn't really square with the spirit of the rest of the record. It shows there's lots more to Dan + Shay than anthems.

The title cut aside, subtly is not much on display. For example the record starts ("All Nighter") with a sweet, bare opening (see above), followed by Shay (or Dan) shouting "One two three...Here we go!" followed by a cranking guitar riff and the song. But, Dan + Shay have embraced the formula, and their songs are really fun to hear.