Dan + Shay don’t deserve the flack and criticism they’ve received. When this duo entered the scene a few years ago, perhaps some of it was earned, as their debut album was quite a rocky listen and they seemed to lack an identity. Their sophomore album was better, but still had some noticeable issues in finding an identity. The duo has admitted this themselves in interviews. But on their new self-titled album, Dan + Shay have clearly found themselves and it’s their best effort yet. One of the highlights of the album is their new upcoming single “Speechless.” It’s a uplifting, soulful love ballad with a ton of heart. The chorus of this is instantly infectious, with the soaring harmonies creating a sense of warmth and connection with the listener. It’s perhaps one of Dan + Shay’s best vocal performances so far in their career. The electric guitar solo in the bridge adds even more texture to the song. I also like how the song gets straight to the point and doesn’t try to get too cute to turn the song into another saccharine country love song. Dan + Shay have come a long way and “Speechless” is fine proof of their growth as artists.
Songwriters: Dan Smyers, Shay Mooney, Laura Veltz & Jordan Reynolds
In recent years country music has clearly had issues attracting younger listeners. Once the bro country era ended, the genre has been searching for answers. But there are answers right in front of their faces, as there are clearly a handful of artists in the genre who interest younger listeners. One of those is undoubtedly Maren Morris, who burst onto the scene with her debut album HERO in 2016. It brought lots of praise from critics and a few jeers from the traditionalists in the peanut gallery. She’s just released what will probably be the final single from the album, “Rich.” It’s an instantly catchy ear-worm that plays on the phrase, “If I had a dollar every time…” In this case it’s every time she’s sworn her man off, every time he’s lied to her and how many promises he broke, she would be pretty damn rich. It’s the timeless country heartbreak theme with a modern coat of paint. I’m glad it was chosen for a single because it’s not only too catchy to be left to an album cut, but it’s the direction modern country should be taking. It’s still country, but bringing a fresh approach that will resonate with the new generation of country fans. “Rich” has a wealth of qualities and deserves to be a summer hit.
Songwriters: Maren Morris, Laura Veltz & Jessie Jo Dillon
Ryan Hurd is probably best known as the now-husband of pop country star Maren Morris. But Hurd is a pretty good singer-songwriter himself. Hurd has been helping write hits for some of the biggest names in Nashville for years and even helped pen Luke Bryan’s current single. Up until this year Hurd has only released a small EP, but right before he got hitched with Morris earlier this year he released his newest single “Diamonds or Twine.” As you could tell from the title, it’s a love song that’s dedicated to his wife. He vows to be by her side and be hers no matter if it’s diamonds or twine around her finger. It’s a simple, but heartfelt song. The soulful, waltzing sound gives it the perfect romantic feel that will be relatable to other loving couples. With Hurd’s experience as a songwriter in Nashville, I’m surprised that he hasn’t caught on more. He clearly has a knack for writing and can pen songs that resonate with listeners. Regardless, Hurd is someone you should have on your radar and “Diamonds or Twine” is just another example of why.
Songwriters: Ryan Hurd, Laura Veltz & Mark Trussell