Dan + Shay

Obsessed

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"Obsessed" seems too strong a word for Dan + Shay, the country-pop duo who seem constitutionally allergic to any forceful emotion. Hardness is anathema to this Nashville pair, something that was evident on their 2014 debut, Where It All Began, but its 2016 sequel doubles down on softness, offering a syrupy reduction of Rascal Flatts' sweetest moments. This is the essence of Dan + Shay, but they're clever, realizing that they can't simply recycle Y2K adult contemporary crossovers in 2016. They may not accentuate the fleet-footed hooks of "Nothin' Like You," the 2015 Top Ten hit that could've provided a foundation for a modern R&B-savvy update of their sound, but they do sometimes spit out quick rhymes and rely on densely sequenced rhythms, loops that provide a background that's a shade too busy for the group's anodyne harmonies. Even if the production often overwhelms the duo's personalities, that is part of the album's appeal: it's music that drifts into the background in a mall, office, car, or lifestyle. Oddly, the title track provides an exception that proves the rule. By stripping away the modern accouterments and relying on a classic slow-burning Southern soul foundation, "Obsessed" shows that Dan + Shay can sell a song, plus they sound more convincing unadorned. The rest of the record, though, is enjoyable background music where the singers are incidental to the album's charms.

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