Is there anything ‘country’ on this album, either production, lyric or imagery? What classifies this as a country project other than the fact they live and work in Nashville. Did you know Shay Mooney was a rapper signed to T-Pain’s label? The man will do anything for some money and since 2014 he’s been singing in basically a boyband with the attractive Dan Smyers.
Over three albums Daniel and Seamus, as I call them, have clearly been targeted as much to pop audiences as country ones; their smash with Justin Bieber, who is also managed by Scooter Braun, was on a NOW compilation, while their recent tunes I Should Probably Go To Bed, Glad You Exist and Lying are all pop-inflected and are only country because the pair live in Nashville. The opening track that gives the album its name is poppy too.
It’s time for them to leave country behind, as Taylor Swift did before them and as Kelsea Ballerini should do. Kelsea’s last album contained a pop song called A Country Song and a hoedown called Hole in the Bottle.
With a different arrangement Let Me Get Over Her could be a sad country song but with orchestra (budget!!) and falling chords, it’s Bette Midler or Celine Dion. It must be a knowing joke that one of the seven songs added to the previous four is called One Direction, which uses the word ‘accentuating’ in the second line and mentions ‘freckles’ too. Shay sings over acoustic guitar before the chorus cranks up; it’s a combination of Sheeran and Mumford and it sounds like an end credits song at the end of a Netflix teen movie. Or money, as it’s also known.
Two pop writers are in the album credits: Shawn Mendes was in the room for the beach-ready Body Language and there will probably be a collaborative version out soon. Julia Michaels was there for hooky piano ballad Give In To You and Irresponsible (‘to be this close after midnight’).
The production by Dan and Scott Hendricks, who masterminded Blake Shelton’s sound, is aimed at the 25-44 demographic of couples in love, the people who swooned at Speechless and 10,000 Hours. You, with a backing choir, and Steal My Love are hooky and effective and sound like Rascal Flatts, who have aged out of country music and are in any case too Christian. Dan + Shay are perfect for communicating feelings of desire for other human beings, a note that is well sung but repetitive. Stereogum’s reviewer correctly compared the duo to Christian music with ‘worship leader energy’.
At least the songs are over quickly, with little flab and a desire to get to the end as soon as possible. This is not a country album but it’s being marketed at country fans, who deserve something less like pop music and more like country music. But money doesn’t talk, it yells. Enjoy your mansions.