Song Review: Dan + Shay ft. Justin Bieber, “10,000 Hours”

I doubt this song is what Malcolm Gladwell had in mind…

Country music has been drifting back towards traditional sounds for a while now, but it seems Dan + Shay never got the memo, and they keep cranking lightweight pop-flavored tracks that lean heavily on the earnest charisma that they don’t have. Sticking to their guns like this has certainly earned them chart success (their last single “All To Myself” topped the country charts and nearly cracked the Top 20 on the Hot 100) and made their sound a bit more distinct by comparison, but it hasn’t made their material any more interesting or memorable, and their songs are promptly forgotten the moment it falls off the chart. With pop-country in a lull, however, the duo has decided to break out the nuclear option, bringing in former teen idol and current pop hitmaker Justin Bieber to guest-star on their latest single “10,000 Hours.” Sadly, you can file this thing under “same stuff, different day”: It’s yet another overly-slick love song with some seriously creepy undertones à la Chris Lane’s “I Don’t Know About You,” and it’s not something I’m even remotely interested in hearing on the airwaves.

The production here it exactly as bland and basic as you’d expect from Dan + Shay: An inoffensive-but-boring acoustic guitar on top of a prominent drum machine, and oustide of some electric guitar stabs, that’s pretty much all you get. The vocals are so loud in the mix that they overwhelm everything else, and they try to use background “ooh-ooh” vocals to make the thing feel spacious and atmospheric, which only kinda-sorta succeeds. Such a move throws the vibe here in flux: The brightness of the instruments only occasionally breaks through the vocals to project an uplifting vibe, and while the beat is catchy and energetic enough, it’s a fairly disposable percussion line that you’ve heard a million times in the last couple of years. The whole thing feels like a poorly-put-together mix that doesn’t move the needle in any noticeable direction, and certainly doesn’t entice the listener to pay attention.

The $10,000 question, of course, is how does Bieber sound on this track? Honestly (and maybe this is because I’m really not familiar with Bieber’s work or voice), he and Shay Mooney sound virtually indistinguishable on this track. (I’d give a slight vocal edge to Mooney, as his Gary LeVox impression gives his voice a bit more tone than Bieber’s, and the key falls more in his comfort zone than it does the Biebs.) Part of the problem is that both singers are buried under an avalanche of vocal effects, so I’m not sure I know exactly what Bieber sounds like based on this song alone. (Normally I would call out Dan Smyers for pulling a Brian Kelley disappearing act, but with Bieber playing a bit role, it’s probably wise for Smyers to step back and avoid having too many cooks in the kitchen.) Neither Mooney nor Bieber exhibit the charm or charisma here to actually seduce whoever they’re interrogating, and they come across as more slimy than sympathetic to the audience. In sum, Bieber brings nothing to this track but his brand power, and frankly, that’s more than Mooney can claim.

It’s the lyrics that really irk me here: This is basically a repeat of Lane’s track, with the narrator peppering someone with personal questions and proclaiming that they’ll spend “10,000 hours or the rest of my life” trying to learn everything about the other person. It’s the sort of pushy, stalker-like attitude I’ve been railing against for a while, and rather than feeling endearing or sweet, it instead leaves me rooting for the other person for make the narrator wear their drink. (Also, given that 10,000 hours translates to about 13.7 months, it isn’t exactly a statement of deep devotion.) Seriously, when did people start thinking that asking all sorts of prying questions was sexy? The writers try to disguise their intentions with inquiries like “Did you get your middle name from your grandma?” or “When you close your eyes, tell me, what are you dreamin’?”, but these are cheap pickup lines that are no better and no less awkward than “Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?” Here’s a hint: A person will tell you about themselves only when they’re good and ready to do so, and probing like this will often make them a) more likely to withdraw from the conversation and go into a shell, and b) question the speaker’s intentions just as I’m doing now. Such a tactic is not sweet, is not sexy, and is not an attitude that I’m willing to put up with.

Much like “All To Myself,” “10,000 Hours” feels like another step in the wrong direction for Dan + Shay. They’re becoming less likable with each passing single, and adding Justin Bieber only makes them slide farther down the slippery slope they’re standing on. The production is no more than present, the singers come across as shady instead of sincere, and the aggressive tone of the writing makes me gag every time I hear it. Country music has been trying to move past this sort of drivel in 2019, and this song is a clear reminder of why it’s doing so.

Rating: 3/10. No.