Song Review: Dan + Shay, “Tequila”

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*

3 thoughts on “Song Review: Dan + Shay, “Tequila”

  1. Yeah, we came to the same conclusions on this one. The thing is that the “tequila” in this case could easily be anything else. A cigarette, a beer, heck, a bag of goldfish crackers. There’s nothing distinctive drawing you in with this song. It sounds alright (even if it is a tad sleepy), and Shay Mooney is kind of convincing while retelling a “story” of him and his old lover, but it’s nothing special.

    On another note, it’s weird you brought up the Rascal Flatts “Back To Us” comparison. I just saw that Brad Paisley’s “Heaven South” is done too (his first single to miss the top 40 and top 30 😦 ) It wasn’t my favorite single by him, but I’m a little saddened to know that Country acts of the 2000’s have been continuously phased out by radio. We saw it with Toby Keith earlier, and I have my doubts about Tim McGraw returning with the same fire as a solo artist given the recent lawsuit. Kenny Chesney? It’s hard to say. Either way, it’s an interesting thing to keep any eye on I guess.

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    1. Actually, I first heard about the death of “Back To Us” via your conversation with Chris Baggs on Twitter! 😉

      I would add Dierks Bentley (“What The Hell Did I Say”) and the Zac Brown Band (“Roots”) to the list of artists who were put on notice last year. Bentley coming back with “Woman, Amen” was a good response; Zac Brown coming back with Sir Roosevelt…I’m not so sure.

      What depresses me is that out of the ten artists on my 2017 top song list, I’m more pessimistic than optimistic about the future of five of them (Janson, Corbin, Adkins, Bradbery, Paisley). Throw in Glen Campbell’s passing, and I’m a little nervous about how 2018 will turn out…

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      1. For the Zac Brown Band, definitely. As for Dierks Bentley, I don’t know what happened with “What The Hell Did I Say”. APPARENTLY (meaning I really can’t verify this), people were turned off by the use of “hell”, which caused it to plummet. It doesn’t make sense considering other songs in the past (and present!) have gotten away with saying much worse words, but whatever. Dierks is strange in how he can bounce back from gargantuan flops only to have some fantastic success later on (Bourbon In Kentucky and Riser are some good examples).

        As for your list, I think Janson is also in a weird position. Like, he can release a quality song every now and then just as long as there are a couple of more radio friendly tracks thrown in between. He’s like Dierks in that respect. As for Easton, he really got lucky with his winning formula (soundwise) on “A Girl Like You”. If the rest of his new material is able to somehow capture that same magic blend of modern and traditional, perhaps he has a shot. That one is so up in the air right now that it isn’t even funny. Unfortunately for Trace Adkins, his radio career pretty much ended back in 2011 when “Brown Chicken Brown Cow” failed to be his next “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk”. It’s a shame – “Watered Down” is fantastic, but radio has definitely moved on. Danielle Bradbery is happily doing her own thing at least, but unfortunately I think you’re right on that one. I’ve found two singles I really like so far (“Woman, Amen” and “Shoot Me Straight” – I know we agree on Bentley’s 🙂 ), and there are always a few surprises that pop up over the course of the year, so I guess we’ll just have to see.

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