I’m not sure country music was looking for an heir to Rascal Flatts, but it appears that it’s got one in Dan + Shay, if “How Not To” is any indication.
Dan + Shay have been making a name for themselves with fluffy pop-country ballads since 2013, and their most recent single “From The Ground Up” will probably be driving us all crazy at weddings for the next twenty years. “How Not To,” in contrast, strikes a more melancholy tone as it explores the difficulty of walking away from a failed relationship.
The production here is by-the-numbers pop country, and while it does a nice job of creating an unsettling atmosphere for the song, it isn’t particularly memorable or interesting. However, the song deserves some credit for its effective use of volume in tandem with the lyrics: It uses a muted, acoustic-driven sound on the verses listing the easy parts of walking away, and then ramping up the electric guitars on the chorus to convey the pain of the hard parts.
The lyrics suffer from a similar problem, as they describe the narrator’s feelings while they go through the motions of a breakup despite still having feelings for the other person. Sure, they’re fine, they’re inoffensive, and they get the job done, but there’s nothing particularly interesting here, nothing that makes the song stand out from the plethora of tracks that have already plowed the same ground.
Honestly, the most noticeable part of this track is how much lead singer Shay Mooney (at least, I think the one singing is Shay) reminds me of Rascal Flatts lead singer Gary LeVox. This similarity is both a blessing and a curse: On one hand, LeVox has great range, a smooth, charismatic delivery, and (at least until now) a distinct voice that was immediately recognizable, and Mooney’s voice exhibits those same traits. However, that also means that Dan + Shay will be hard-pressed to create their own identity beyond being “the guys who sound like Rascal Flatts,” at least until LeVox and the gang decide to retire. (It doesn’t help that fluffy pop-country has been Rascal Flatts’s calling card for the past 16+ years.)
Overall, “How Not To” is okay, and speaks to the potential staying power of Dan + Shay, but it’s not something I’m going to go out of my way to listen to.
Rating: 5/10. It’s worth checking out, but it probably won’t stick with you for long.