1. Track List (108)

The Chainsmokers Continue To Present Pop That Can Be Both Cringey And Creative

taylor
Written by taylor
/ 6 mins read

It was suggested that I listen to The Chainsmoker’s new album because they have a newer, more original production value, relying on some organic instrumentals and more of the pop duo’s vocal contributions. First of all, I commend DJs and producers who take up the challenge to offer more than collaborations and remixes – and on this point, The Chainsmoker’s work hard to put themselves up front and center on tracks such as “Beach House”, “Sick Boy”, “Everybody Hates Me”, and “You Owe Me”, while numerous other tracks will find them sharing some singing duties with the feature artist. I think that they do possess, as a singing duo, a basic ability to get their melodic messages across – yet, their sound is not only derivative of Pop or Alternative artists such as Gnash and Twenty one pilots, respectfully, but on specific tracks, the quality of their vocalization is so unbelievably whiney and nasally that I shudder to listen to the whole song. Hey, I don’t mind a nasal delivery if it is backed by some Soul – Stevie Wonder, who has a basically universally agreed upon dynamic style, is in itself more nasally than others, and I can remember having a hard tie conceptualizing the worth of his voice whilst arguing with a Rock fan who simply hated his out-of-the-nose belting. But that’s real singing. The Chainsmoker’s never said they were singers, but they are ‘producer extraordinaries’ to the ears of the Pop scene – are they not? So how come that can’t hear how unattractive they sound? If you can’t sell it, find someone who can – is what I say.

Do We Detect Some Detours From The Previous Sound?

Obviously, there is no denying the uplifting Pop power of songs that made The Chainsmokers famous in the past, like “Something Just Like This”, which captures jubilation to great electronic and rock effect, and features soaring vocals by Coldplay’s dynamite vocalist Chris Martin. While I personally think it’s Martin that makes the song work, I have to tip my hat that The Chainsmokers have a knack for blending styles to produce sellable Pop music. They are doing their job, and just because I want them to do better at their job across the board doesn’t mean that their music is any less successful. Their EP’s seemed to be focused on whatever was hot at the moment of its release, and even if I felt that singles from those collections were annoying; they all touched upon or combined elements of Pop, Melodic, Acoustic and Future Bass, as the duo became the keeper of this genre mash-up of a sound, which seemed to be just what the audience wanted to hear. It’s light, motivational, sometimes quiet, and sometimes deafening. All along though, never did I say, wow, that’s some clever songwriting. It always sounded like a cash-in to me. The album Sick Boy perhaps tones down elements of EDM and Future Bass, and turns up the Rock – but not so much more than what already was happening in their last album Memories…Do Not Open. I guess this time, they thought that putting themselves out front was an even better idea than the better sounding option of leaving the vocals to the experts (like Chris Martin).

Most Fans Will Hear What They Already Expect, But What Is This Duo Trying To Achieve?

If The Chainsmokers were trying to achieve world domination, they basically succeeded, whether they touched my soul or not. Yet if they want to evolve, they will need to stop singing, or get much smoother at their delivery, vocally, while sonically, they would do well to pick whether they are a ballad band or a dance band. I present the question of ‘what they are trying to achieve’ because their same bag of tricks is still in use throughout Sick Boy, from the same melodic patterns of vocal hooks, which rise and fall the same exact way as they do on their biggest hit “Closer” from that 2016 same-titled EP. Just listen to “Closer” and Sick Boy opener “This Feeling” – it’s almost the same exact inflection, note for note. Where, I ask, is the evolution? That Tropical House meets Pop Vocal meets Future Bass familiarity is quite devoid of creativity or originality – all I hear are predictable noises, time and again. I offer, by way of playing devil’s advocate, that The Chainsmokers fill a need which was met by a New Wave Synth Pop band such as Duran Duran in the 80s – who, musically speaking, could out sing, out play, and out write this duo, yet perhaps, against competition from very solid songwriting from other genres, themselves may have come under some sort of critical backlash. I wasn’t around back then, yet I can hear the songs that they produced were equal parts sophisticated and money-grabbing. Flash forward, and to my ear, The Chainsmokers are a pale comparison of the same concept. So, while I don’t have an answer, I ask, what is their particular songwriting style leading to, except for exercises in ‘mash-up-ology.’

So Long As The Pop Duo Keeps Getting Paid, They Won’t Move Beyond Mediocrity

For almost the same reasons that I didn’t dig The Chainsmokers when they came out, I didn’t dig Pop meets Electro artist Mike Posner. But the thing I have since enjoyed about Posner’s work is that he progresses onward, developing upon a sound that I found a little too generic, towards a sound that has further depth – whatever style he is tackling – even if it is as disparate as EDM to Acoustic Pop. I don’t have the same feeling about The Chainsmoker’s progress, and while they will rake in continued dough, I doubt that we can have a serious conversation about their blossoming from mediocrity. I do like the digital shaping of explosive sounds on “Beach House”, and feel that the guitar work is mixed well within all of this synth, yet am bored of the chords used and reminded that I have heard a song like this so many times before, by the myriad copycat acts, following a line of musical reasoning laid down by a truly generic form of Pop act, who exhibit an inability to transcend their own music by themselves. They need their features, and more of them moving forward, plus better writing, and not so typical conventions (how many times can we hear the same damn notes on the horn stabs) to succeed in a future where they play and I listen.

The Chainsmokers Try To Push Forward With Sick Boy, But Just Can’t Seem To Innovate

camjameson
Written by camjameson
/ 6 mins read

When it comes to The Chainsmokers, there’re essentially two camps of people: Those who think they’re the second coming of Christ, like some sort of phenomenal electronic duo who cannot do wrong & those who think they’re a scourge to the overarching electronic music scene, pushing the genre & the entire music industry as a whole in the completely wrong direction as far as trends & popular aesthetics are concerned. For years, I was part of the second group, quickly turning off the radio if one of their songs came on & using them as a scapegoat for my hatred whenever someone who was clearly influenced by their music released a similar-sounding composition, feeling like their continued fame would keep the industry from progressing so long as mainstream listeners kept lapping up every generic monstrosity they dropped; But then, something drastically changed & my attention was once-again turned towards the goofy-looking duo, only this time I was actually interested in what they were putting out – This change was , of course, Sick Boy, the second studio album from the group & a possible sign of them finally growing up as musicians, presenting audiences with a harder, much darker sound & a more varied set of sonic techniques throughout the record. Now, instead of hearing the same boring Tropical House bops & Future Bass ballads like “Paris” or “Something Just Like This” I was genuinely intrigued with

Adding New Ingredients To The Family Formula

Upon first listen, it’s actually quite difficult to find anything truly captivating with Sick Boy, as it undoubtedly uses many of the same techniques that made The Chainsmokers household names to begin with: You get plenty of easygoing Tropical Pop sensibilities in tunes like “Hope” & a painfully underwhelming Dance Pop love stories in others like “This Feeling” with Country popstar Kelsea Ballerini, not to mention a healthy dosage of glitchy, head-splittingly obnoxious EDM & Dubstep spirit in tracks like “Siren,” but these thankfully account for less than 30% of the sonic profiles at play on Sick Boy; The rest is made up of surprisingly soothing Electronic Rock fusion jams like the clearly Ratatat-inspired “You Owe Me,” sad, ethereal Wavy Pop songs like “Somebody” & plenty of other colourful tracks with distinct structures to them, making for a much more entertaining record as a whole that gives listeners much more melodic variance than nearly everything the group had released prior – Sure, you could make the argument that they’re still leaning far too heavily on the EDM side of things, still churning out Dance Pop-centric Dubstep numbers even though that side of the industry died back in 2016, but there’s enough changed up in other locations that you end up just viewing the whole record as an electronic music industry sampler-platter, getting a little bit of everything here & there.

A Hackneyed Attempt To Break Free Of Mainstream Status

As I had mentioned earlier, I’ve held a furious disdain for The Chainsmokers for the majority of their time on the scene, finding their music to be particularly boring & uninventive, especially considering how terrible front-man Andrew Taggart’s personality is as one of the industry’s biggest festival-heads. While a bit over-the-top, that hatred was shared by many patrons of the electronic world, eventually making it back to Taggart to affect his personality heading into Sick Boy, which miraculously led to a much better narrative focus for the album; Now, instead of being so god-damned full of himself, Taggart was a bit more insecure in his lyrics & a lot less trusting of the world as a whole, tearing into audiences with the song “Everybody Hates Me” & delivering an anthem of self-reliance on the tune “Save Yourself” – Unfortunately, Taggart may have actually been his own biggest critic, trying desperately with the tracks on this album to present himself as a ‘cool guy’ who doesn’t align with the mainstream opinion of him whatsoever, releasing songs like “Beach House” try to latch on to the quirkiness of Indie culture & the sensibilities of the Lo-Fi realm, trying to align himself with those comminutes by making remarks about how much he enjoys listening to the band Beach House & producing a soundscape full of airy Synth Pop nonsense. The problem is, he’s clearly not that kind of guy, getting called out by fans all over the internet for ‘appropriating’ a scene to convince people his personality is much different to what it is, coming off looking like a fool on this & many other tracks for the same sort of behaviour – It’s not entirely disingenuous, but you can always tell there’s something a little off about Taggart’s lyrics, even when the songs themselves slap.

Final Verdict: A Fine Out Of 5

At the end of it all, Sick Boy definitely represents a much-needed departure from many of the things that brought The Chainsmokers down in recent years, but it’s not exactly perfect; They still repeat a lot of the same melodic mistakes & patterns from their first outing & have yet to fix their notoriously shitty attitudes, yet it almost doesn’t matter because there’s much more to build upon with this album than what they had before – Take, for instance, the song “Side Effects,” a track that beats unrelentingly with a delightfully funky groove: This track is produced with some of the best fidelity on the scene, beautifully recreating the powerful French Disco & Progressive House vibes from the late-nineties & early-noughties electronic scene, almost out-Daft-ing Daft Punk as this roller-disco odyssey rolls on; If they can continue in this direction, producing a full-on House album with old-school systems & modern recording techniques, they could be a much more impressive creature come album number three, completely wiping away their tumultuous past from the eyes of mainstream viewers & using their celebrity for good to push the industry in a direction it could truly benefit from – Only time will tell, but I for one am more excited about The Chainsmokers’ future than I ever have been about their past & it’s all thanks to Sick Boy.

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12. Artist Info

About

The Chainsmokers are an American DJ and production trio consisting of Alex Pall and Andrew Taggart as well as drummer Matt McGuire. They started out by releasing remixes of songs by indie artists. The EDM-pop duo achieved a breakthrough with their 2014 song "#Selfie", which became a top twenty single in several countries. They have won a Grammy award, two American Music Awards, seven Billboard Music Awards and eight iHeartRadio Music Awards.
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Active

    2012–present

Label

  • Disruptor
  • Columbia
  • Sony