Over the past few years, The Chainsmokers seem to have become one of those bands you just can’t ignore if you follow the charts. Whether you love them or hate them, you probably know what #Selfie or Closer sounds like. I chose to review them this month mainly out of curiosity – given how much success this American duo has had with just EPs and singles, how impressive would their first full-length studio album be? The short answer is, not very. Keeping in tone with majority of the songs that make it to the charts right now, what we have here is twelve somewhat mediocre tracks, which all cling a bit too close to the band’s typical style, and sound so similar that even after multiple listens, I can barely tell them apart.
Now to be fair, playing to your strengths isn’t necessarily a bad thing – everyone does it. But was it really necessary for The Chainsmokers to imitate their last hit to such a great extent? When you listen to Young, it almost feels like they got so anxious about the potential failure of the new album that they quite literally took the tune and format of Closer and replaced lyrics about never getting older with lyrics about being young. Other tracks like Bloodstream sound wonderfully different and more mature than Closer, but are ruined with the repetition of “I-I-I-I-I” and an instrumental break in the same style as the former, which doesn’t go with the rest of the song at all. Tracks like The One and Last Day Alive on the other hand, sound slightly better with some element of innovation in their use of harmony and more striking melodies.
The brighter side of the album is mainly the songs in which the duo collaborates with other artists. The result usually retains the catchiness of The Chainsmokers’ creations with the addition of something a little unique to each track, thanks to the contribution of the featuring artist. Wake Up Alone which features Jhené Aiko, and It Won’t Kill Ya featuring Louane are enjoyable listens, with the refreshing female vocals bringing out the duo’s typical instrumental breaks more distinctly. And to be honest, Something Just Like This featuring Coldplay, which I had initially criticised, sounds quite decent, especially compared to the rest of the album.
The memories The Chainsmokers do not want to open on this album seem to mainly be those of being young – the duo seem to adore describing how superficial, indecisive and wrecked they think our generation is. Ten of the twelve songs on this album are about being antisocial, sad, or unable to commit to a relationship. The lyrics are always either about how “You’re not the only one on my mind” (Honest), how they “gave up three times this week” and are “f**ked up”, “faded” and “so complicated” (Bloodstream), or how “learning to love” is “hard when you’re young” (Young). I’m not sure what they were trying to achieve by maintaining this theme in all their tracks: maybe they think we’ll relate to them more? I can’t really speak for everyone, but personally, this approach just weakened the lyrical quality of the album for me. The lyrics across the tracks are so similar, you don’t really have to pay attention to them to know what the song is about. Then again, maybe that’s what the band wanted – there’s no denying that lyrics nowadays have become a mere filler while you wait for the drop in the track.
I guess overall, this isn’t an awful album. It isn’t worse than the tracks The Chainsmokers have put out in the past, and it definitely isn’t better. All these songs would definitely be pleasant to listen to during a late-night car ride, or in a club. Still, the album left me feeling a bit empty, since nothing I heard really had any kind of noticeable impact on me. The entire effort feels a bit soulless, but like I said, that’s probably just because The Chainsmokers are trying to make sure their latest effort fits in with the rest of the charts.