Dan + Shay’s ‘Where It All Began’ Is Like A Country Starter Kit That Non Country Fans Will Probably Enjoy

Written by taylor
/ 8 mins read

It is so cliché to say ‘I like all styles of music – except Country.’ How many of us have heard this line, or even uttered it ourselves? A true music aficionado like myself could never truly be so without conceding that Country music has a lot going for it – you just have to look in the right places. The classics are good, from George Jones to Willie Nelson, yet in modern times, I for one had a real problem getting down with what is considered popular and Country today. From former Country act Taylor Swift to the Bro Country of Florida Georgia Line, I decided ‘nope’, the new stuff has no listening value for me. Not to beat up on the aforementioned artists – but generally, the Pop conventions are what ruin it for me, and in the case of Florida Georgia Line, I really disliked the ginning-up of drawl and Country-ness I detected which I guess was supposed to counteract all the Pop party formula happening. Enter Dan + Shay, a duo I initially wrote off, assuming from a few singles and definitely their visual brand that they would be another sort of cheap shot party Pop duo – but after listening to their newest self titled album, boy was I wrong about them. I enjoyed their music enough to want to discover where it all began, which is why I would recommend any music listener, interested in decent Country Pop, should listen to their first album Where It All Began, which, like much of their catalogue, emphasizes true love and passion over the more usual tropes of drinking and tailgating.

Romantic Voices Designed To Turn You On, With Drawls That Won’t Turn You Off

Sexy, fun, and promissory, “Show You Off” is a perfect beginning to Dan + Shay’s vibe, which downplays some of the more obvious indicators of Country music, minimizing the drawl to just above perception, and subtlety incorporating slide guitars and banjos, for what otherwise is a bright and friendly sounding love jam that, with just a switch of some voices and elements, could easily be a successful Shawn Mendes Pop Rock ballad. And you know it’s a Pop song when you here the pre-requisite ‘ayo-ayo’s’ and human whistles. I can totally see the lyrical flattery at work charming even the coldest of hearts – as it functions in two important ways; there is mention of commitment to one woman, as no one would get a tattoo of someone else’s name without really being easy about her, plus, there is the desire to show off this woman because she is has such a desirable physique and personality. Wow, I’d have to say these are way better compliments than telling a girl in a more typical Country Pop song that she is ‘looks mighty good in them daisy dukes’ or some other douchebaggery. The romance continues, but in an even more exciting way, taking a pun ‘let the good times roll’ and making it their own with the explosive and modern Pop track “Stop Drop + Roll.” Again, the Country-ness is there, but subtle, handled in what I think is a more accessible way, so that when the Southern Rock Guitar solo comes in, I am getting a small dab of flavor in and an other wise ‘take my hand and let’s run away’ Pop adventure song. I have noticed this on their latest album already of course, but Dan + Shay are more interested in singing soulfully than southernly – which I think adds to their crossover appeal. Just as a rapper’s accent can be super annoying to the non-fans of Hip Hop, an overdone drawl sounds supremely unattractive to a non-Country fan – including myself. Trust me, I’m a pretty forgiving critic is I am able to put things into the correct context, but man, there are so many Country songs out there that turned me off because the ‘drawl’ seemed to be more important than the singing at hand. At the end of the day, I am for authenticity, and therefore, if the drawl is real, I feel I can hear it, and with respects to Dan + Shay, yes, I hear their southern charm coming through regardless of their Pop aspirations, and thus, I accept it, however subtle, because it is clearly not a put on, but rather, it’s authentic.

Are Dan + Shay The Freshest Vocal Duo In Country Right Now?

I am mesmerized by many aspects of “19 You + Me.” It starts with the haunted keys moving the melody, and certainly shows off some loud and accomplished instrumentation which builds to a top notch hook, which is both catchy and clever – a challenging creative feat to accomplish. But what is most noticeable is how well this team sings. No note is too high to reach or to long to tackle – and you really feel the emotional power especially when Dan + Shay harmonize. Described here is a perfect memory formed by hot weather, crashing waves, and a first dance in the sand – an experience that cemented a couple’s love for one another; “It was everything we wanted it to be / the summer of / 19 you and me.” Should we all be so lucky, yes, first love is something special. I didn’t really have that experience at 19 per say, but as you get older, you will realize that there are special days, or even parts of days, spent with that truly special someone, which you will happily replay in your mind, whatever your current romantic situation ends up being. The song “19 You + Me” celebrates the life long feeling you will have based on mere moments. Moving on, the album is surely on fire, but of course, it is not without it’s same-sounding sentiments, such as the clunky love song “What You Do to Me.” The juvenile sing rap nature of the verses, while well intentioned and certainly better than older artists who try to do the same style, ultimately, even young guys like Dan + Shay sound moronic trying to Country Rap. The hook is no more imaginative, kind of just aiming for a general ‘chorus’ feeling, but coming as more loud than remarkable. The verdict is, yeah, the guys can sing here as well as anywhere, but even they have not mastered the art of fusing rap with Country. But my fellow readers; that is it. One song out of an album of 12 songs gets a thumbs down. The rest is pure Country Pop bliss.

The Chords Are Strong With With This One

Whether going big or slowing the pace down, Dan + Shay’s brilliance mostly has to do with their emotive chords throughout many tracks on Where It All Began. On “Can’t Say No” is a very pretty arrangement, surprisingly complex for just an acoustic ballad, and I especially like the brief moment of the bridge where the song steps away from the melodic path. This is sexy acoustic in the same way Babyface’s “When Can See I See You Again” was. “First Time Feeling” is explosive hook territory, and boy are they big, and crashing, even on their languid song which includes alternatively quiet moments. Even here, the chords build in not so predictable way. The most memorable melodic parts on “Nothin’ Like You” come from the almost percussive banjo playing which follows epic, soul stirring chords, while also serving as an almost tic-toc pattern – which I don’t feel has a ton of thematic significance per se, but nonetheless sounds romantic to me. Think ‘I’ve got to get to her and tell her how I feel before it’s too late.’ The power chords are even more epic on “Somewhere Only We Know” and the arrangement is so compelling to me that I even forgive some of the hokey-ness of the little rap measures. It becomes evident to me that Dan + Shay really love when their songs ‘crash’ with multi-layered sound, a reoccurring style throughout the album, and one that is executed well enough to not be redundant song after song. The rhythmic banjo shows up again, on one of the best songs which also features those pseudo melancholic yet ultimately romantic chords “Parking Brake” – driving the love and lust of a song about making love in your ride. Because of the sincere way in which Dan +Shay sing, and because the music has a magical, eternal quality, this is much more than a simple hook up song – in fact celebrating how special it is when you have someone to be impulsive with – where you can share both body and heart by a river somewhere under the moonlight. As far as romance and seduction are concerned, Dan + Shay have the most game of any male artists in Country right now.

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Where It All Began is the debut studio album by American country music duo Dan + Shay. It was released on April 1, 2014 via Warner Bros. Nashville. The album includes the singles "19 You + Me", "Show You Off", and "Nothin' Like You".
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  • Dan + Shay


  • Warner Bros. Nashville


  • Dan Smyers
  • Scott Hendricks
  • Danny Orton
  • Chris DeStefano