Dan + Shay

Where It All Began

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There's pop country and there's POP country, and Dan + Shay show they aren't the least bit afraid of polish or studio trickery on their first full-length album, 2014's Where It All Began. Strip away the occasional banjo and mandolin accents on these songs and filter out the mild Southern accents in the voices of Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney, and most of the songs on Where It All Began would fit pop radio like a charm, especially as they toss some double-time rap-style vocals on "19 You + Me," harmonize about romancing hot babes during Spring Break on "Stop Drop," hit a secluded make-out spot in "Somewhere Only We Know," and dreamily rhapsodize about first love on "First Time Feeling" (on the latter, the signifier that this is supposed to be country is that George Strait is playing on the car radio instead of, say, Katy Perry). As far as craft goes, Dan + Shay clearly know what they're doing and are remarkably canny; there's enough digital sheen in this music (especially in the Auto-Tuned and carefully sculpted harmonies) to pass muster with any discerning pop-crazed listener, while at the same time, they sound like regular guys whose antics seem benign even when they're putting on their best moves to impress the ladies (heck, they don't fight, they hardly ever drink, and when they talk about "sippin'," it turns out to be iced tea rather than anything you need an ID or prescription to buy). If country radio needs clean-cut but hunky young men to croon with maximum professionalism for a younger demographic with a fondness for current pop, there's no question Dan + Shay can fill the bill, and Where It All Began shows they do what they do very well indeed. Of course, some folks might ask what this has to do with country music, and not without reason, but it's not as if we live in a world where this will get played back to back with Johnny Cash -- or George Strait.

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