Memories: Do Not Open

The Chainsmokers

Columbia, 2017

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


The Chainsmokers’ storm has been brewing for three years now, with each single seemingly doing better than the last on the charts. “#SELFIE,” “Roses,” “Don’t Let Me Down” and now “Closer” are etched into the consciousness of mainstream pop music listeners. With Grammy wins, a spring 2017 appearance on Saturday Night Live, and two advance singles (“Paris” and the Coldplay collab “Something Just Like This”), anticipation was so high for the duo’s first full-length album that it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart.

And it falls with a resounding thud.

Look, I haven’t been 13 for a while now, so maybe lyrics like “I’m fucked up / I’m faded / I’m so complicated…But I really fucking meant it” set to a pop-EDM-emo beat are all the rage and will really speak to those disaffected white youths in the mall. But it won’t last. Unlike, say, Daft Punk’s my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Random Access Memories, I can’t imagine this Memories will be played as the core audience gets older. It’s an album designed for right now, with several Hot Guest Stars and most of the songs probably designated for the next NOW! collection and the playlist at Forever 21.

I realize in writing this that I sound like a fusty old thirtysomething longing for the music of his youth. Understand when I say that the current thing in pop music has been around since pop music began. Critics looked down on disco, then New Wave, then synth-pop, then post-grunge, then boy bands and Britney Spears, then R&B infiltrating everything, then so forth. Meanwhile, the kids liked what they liked at the time, and record companies and upcoming artists responded, as they always have, as they always will. Nobody is making music for a 33-year-old small-town dad in Michigan to listen to in his Pontiac on the drive home from work. They make and market music for the kids.

I have no doubts that in five years the Chainsmokers will be a footnote judging by the disposability and sheer in-the-moment exuberance of Memories. There’s really nothing here. EDM by design is rather anonymous, and whatever personality these guys had in their early days and their EPs is swallowed up across the course of an album so that all you remember are the guest spots (Emily Warren on two songs, Coldplay, Jhene Aiko). The sheer blandness of this is overwhelming, not just because the songwriting is so banal and repetitive, but because there are so few hooks and so little depth.

Again, this is likely by design. This is midtempo EDM-pop by committee, anonymous and dull. It’s an album can be played in its entirety at the club, at the gym, at your local suburban mall, eventually on ABC’s Thursday night lineup, and the millennials and tweens among us will eat it up. That’s fine. But in trying to write a full-length serious statement, the Chainsmokers has lost their personality and whatever sense of fun they used to have.

Rating: D+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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