BY PARKER KLYN
At the time of writing this review, the Chainsmokers’ “Closer” has spent 11 consecutive weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Not since “Uptown Funk” has one song dominated the pop landscape for so long.
The fact that it’s happened mostly in fall, as opposed to summer when pop songs usually dominate, just adds to the track’s accomplishments.
Now, as the Chainsmokers’ ubiquity in the cultural zeitgeist shows signs of fading, they drop a new EP: the aptly titled “Collage.”
The five-song compilation is a good showcase of how far the duo, consisting of Alexander Pall and Andrew Taggart, have come.
The Chainsmokers burst onto the pop scene with the novelty hit “#SELFIE” and followed it up with “Kanye.”
Both of these songs are completely and irredeemably awful. The cringe-worthy lyrics and pandering of the former are only matched by the gratingly annoying vocals of the latter.
If the music of these tracks had tried to experiment at all, they might have been at least interesting, but the production was by-the-numbers electronic dance music with no soul passion. I never wanted to hear another Chainsmokers song.
Then, the duo stunned me. They released “Roses,” an astonishingly classy and exhilarating piece of tropical house.
It made use of an ingenious beat flip at the drop, where all percussion aside from hand snaps fades away and lets a pulsating synth-chord flow through. It was a perfect party song and showed a side of the Chainsmokers that we hadn’t seen before.
Now, we have “Collage,” led by the aforementioned “Closer” – one of the very best pop songs of this year.
It’s the epitome of a college song, with its criticisms of forced capitalism (unaffordable cars, tattoos, and stolen property) and ruminations on young love.
It’s not a coincidence that the two cities mentioned in the song, Tuscon, AZ and Boulder, CO both hold two of the largest state universities in the United States.
Plus, the classic boy-girl turn (with Halsey providing the best vocal performance of her life) makes the track endearing and timeless. It’s the best song on the EP by far.
Unfortunately, the rest of the EP fails to match the high standards of “Closer”. “Don’t Let Me Down” was a hit this summer, and it’s the hardest-hitting track that the Chainsmokers have released yet.
Its dub-influenced drop is solid in the right circumstance, but it’s a song that will fade into obscurity in a few years.
The rest of the tracks on Collage try to emulate the success of “Closer” with vocals led by unknown female singers and hooks that are just synth leads.
None of “Setting Fires,” “All We Know” or “Inside Out” left much of an impression, although the latter at least has some stadium-ready synthesizer passages and a likable vocal performance from newcomer Charlee.
Still, the monotony of these tracks makes me just want to skip until I get to “Closer.”
I never thought I’d review a Chainsmokers project, because I don’t review acts that I don’t feel have legitimate artistic potential. If the duo had only released “Roses,” I would’ve said it was a fluke.
But they’ve struck pop gold twice now, and, for that reason, I’m interested to see what a full-length album would look like from them in the future.
Even though “Collage” won’t be on any year-end lists, it’s an encouraging sign that we’ve moved past artless templates like Calvin Harris and David Guetta onto something more invigorating.
There’s a youthful exhilaration in compelling pop music that’s lost in those acts, but it’s something that the Chainsmokers have been able to pick up on. “We ain’t never getting older!”