And I thought Midland had a drinkin’ problem…
You only get so many attempts to make an impression on the radio, and Dan + Shay strikes me as a group that is rapidly running out of chances. “How Not To” was an unremarkable pop-country track that seemed to be forgotten the minute it went recurrent (despite reaching No. 1 on the airplay chart), and “Road Trippin'” was forcefully rejected Dikembe Mutumbo-style before it could even make the Top 40. Now, the group has decided to close the book on the Obsessed era, releasing “Tequila” as the leadoff single for their currently-untitled third album. Unfortunately, the pair seems to bringing the same old sound to the new project, and the result is an undistinguished snorefest that fails to justify its existence.
The production here is an eclectic mix of instruments, opening with a piano and slowly bringing in an acoustic guitar, a steel guitar, a quiet organ, an atmosphere string section, a dobro solo, and a mix of real and synthetic percussion. The mix seems to do a lot of good things (its’s surprisingly cohesive for the size of the band, it creates a spacious but serious atmosphere that fits the mood of the writing, the dobro is a nice touch), but like most of Dan+ Shay’s work, it feels incredibly generic and run-of-the-mill, as if I’ve heard this same sort of ballad a million times before. The mix is also completely devoid of any energy (although the drums on the second verse do their best to add some), and just plods along lifelessly until the listener falls asleep or changes the station. For a song that clocks in around 3:15, it feels like I’m waiting forever for the darn thing to finish so I can hear something else.
Vocally, lead singer Shay Mooney turns in a mediocre performance here, and is no more interesting than the production. The song feels a bit low for his range, making him sound more breathy and less Gary LeVox-esque than usual (then again, given how badly “Back To Us” crashed and burned, perhaps sounding less like Rascal Flatts was actually the goal), but Mooney mostly makes it work, and his flow on the faster portions of the writing is sharp and on point. He also comes across as believable in the narrator’s role, but he seems to interpret the character too literally, which is a problem because when the lyrics are taken at face value, the narrator is not a terribly sympathetic character (more on this later). Most of all, however, Mooney’s performance is just So. Darn. Boring! His steadfast dedication to the production’s sleepy tone makes him just as forgettable as everything else here.
Lyrically, the song features a narrator telling his ex that he’s totally over her, except when the taste of tequila brings back memories of their time together. If written and performed with the proper subtly, the song could be a tacit admission that no, the narrator is not actually over his ex and that he want her to come back. As it is, however, the narrator comes across as whiny and annoying, to the point where you just want to grab the guy and tell him that if his life is as good as he claims, just freaking stop drinking tequila and all your problems will be solved. Unfortunately, not even a frustrating narrator is enough to draw a reaction from the listener, as the production and vocals anesthetize them so deeply that they’re too busy sleeping to lodge a complaint.
In short, after listening to “Tequila,” I’ve officially run out of patience with Dan + Shay. No matter what approach they take, they always seem to wind up with subpar, uninspired material, and they’re taking up radio space that could be filled by more interesting pairs (Sugarland, Brothers Osborne, Maddie & Tae, etc.). At this point, my advice for Dan + Shay is simple: Shape up or ship out.
Rating: 5/10. *yawn*