EP Review: CollageWonkeyDude98 Mini-Description: In my second EP review, I expose the Chainsmokers' sophomore extended play, and explain why it was a big mistake to give them any benefit of the doubt.
Best Song: "Don't Let Me Down" ft. Daya
Worst Songs: "Closer" ft. Halsey, "Inside Out" ft. CharLee, "Setting Fire" ft. XYLØ, "All We Know" ft. Phoebe Ryan
I've had some...complicated history with the Chainsmokers.
I'm pretty sure most people knew them from the disastrous monstrocity known as #SELFIE, a song that has quality as terrible as its aging. It was trying to laugh at the general "social media overload" society has become, but even by that standard, it was not at all funny, had no punchline to finish off the jokes, and had a synth lead so nauseating and weak that it wasn't even good by EDM standards.
Fast forward to 2016, where the Chainsmokers are the biggest non-Canadian name in pop music. It's actually pretty insane, because for the first half of the year they were making some of the best pop you'd hear. Between Don't Let Me Down making the best out of two awful acts, Roses probably being one of the best hit songs of this year, and New York City being plain pop perfection, you would never have expected a joke duo to be making quality music.
Then came Closer.
That was all of a sudden when I realized that it was an illusion. A song that is currently on its eleventh week at #1, and will easily reign as one of the worst, if not the worst, songs I've heard this year. I'll get to more about this later, but between that and All We Know, and revisiting Bouquet, I realized that the Chainsmokers never breaked away from their soullessness -- but rather evolved it. Sure, Bouquet is still a solid EP, but it was also a sterile one, and between that and several interviews with the group showing some really ugly truths about what their warped definitions of "music" are (combined with slogging Weezer, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna, all artists who even at their worst still have more passion than these guys), I set myself up for one of the worst records of the year (and the worst EP of the year) in Collage, especially considering that they haven't released an album yet, which shows that they're afraid of getting exposed for who they really are. Was I right?
Well, YES, to say the least. If anything, it shows further that any integrity that these guys had was a ruse. It's bad, and it's bad in the worst way possible for an EDM EP: by being so forgettably limp and safe that it completely negates what mainstream electronic is praised for, while adding multiple traits that should never go near the genre.
A good place to start is Andrew Taggart, who only appears on Closer and All We Know -- and let me tell you, 2 out of 5 tracks is 2 out of 5 too much. His voice is completely and utterly gutless, barely audible in the mix. This isn't due to the awful mixing (though this definitely doesn't help), but more because he's just weak, and the thin, charmless quality to his voice gets grating fast. When you get outmatched by Halsey at her most shrill, thin, and watery and Phoebe Ryan's worst, most bored performance yet, you know you're doing something wrong.
Of course, that's not saying most of the performers here are any good. Halsey somehow sounds like she just woke up, while still managing to sound like she's trying to do falsetto after having been starved of water since Badlands got released. Phoebe Ryan's stiff, almost prepubescent whine fits the instrumentation in the worst way possible as she "harmonizes" with Taggart. XYLØ tries to have soul and completely fails in a discount Maty Noyes-esque fashion on Setting Fire, and CharLee is an insufferable Christina Perri vocal twin on Inside Out. The only performer that even remotely works on this album is, to my surprise, Daya on Don't Let Me Down. The difference between her and literally everything else here (not just the singers) is that she actually sounds like she cares about the music she's talking about, plus compared to her disastrous debut album I talked about before, she's nowhere near as obnoxiously shrill or nasal.
But Daya's great performance, which easily makes Don't Let Me Down the best song here, is negated by the big issue of this EP: the production. It really does paint the Chainsmokers as the electronic equivalent of Charlie Puth here. The only song that remotely works is Don't Let Me Down, with the dissonant guitars accentuated by the reverb-y cracking, at least before the absolutely horrendous DJ Snake-esque drop (that completely killed the mood of one of the best buildups of all time) complete with a fronting squeal, that is, to be fair, decently well-balanced by the percussion and huge bass. But what really won me over with this song are the bridge and final chorus, which piles on the grand swells of horns and smooths out the tension, it really could have been a masterclass.
But the fact that the instrumentation on Don't Let Me Down is merely good (because of the drop) and is still the best here makes the rest of the songs look all the worse. Like the pitch-shifted synth crooning on Setting Fire, or the barren wasteland of guitars on All We Know, the complete nothingness of Inside Out, or worst of all the desaturated pianos and the absolutely hideous non-chord on Closer (I know TheDoubleAgent already talked about this and I give all credit to him, but the synth is the fundamentally broken A(#?), G, G#, C, which isn't a chord), it leaves no room for swell or bombast, rather than baring it all down to the bones just for the sake of your product.
I can't think of an electronic record with worse production. At least Flume's offbeat barely-listenability can be weirder than this. At least Kygo, as much as I undiscerningly resent him, gives his songs more color and tightness than this. Even Major Lazer's robotic wallops actually have tone. Even DJ Snake's trap insufferability, even post-sellout, had more personality than this. Wanna go further? Even Afrojack, Calvin Harris, and EVEN DAVID GUETTA, give their songs more empty energy and opulence than this. Even the Chainsmokers themselves, on their very last EP, gave their songs more sweep and made them rely on more than just the drops to get themselves attention.
But that would imply that the drops here were any good, which....no. No they're not. I already established Don't Let Me Down, but how do the rest of the songs compare? Well, badly. Setting Fire is the second coming of This One's For You except without Zara Larsson to compensate for the piercing vocal sample. Inside Out thinks a thin, weedy synth fragment that should only be used to start crescendos rather than paying them off is a good idea for a drop. The only drop that remotely adds anything to the song is All We Know and even there it's just as nondescript and bland as the rest of the song. Worst of all is Closer, after an extremely lame buildup we get this scratchy, shrill, nasal three-note synth that's just piled on top of the same dissonant, rigid instrumental as the verses, which gets even worse on the final chorus as it gets multitracked about a hundred times. It's easily the worst song on this EP.
And most of the reason for that is where we have to get to the lyrics. And make no mistake, the Chainsmokers really show that they only see music as a marketing scheme, because nothing here sounds like they remotely cared about any of the music they're making. Every woman on this album makes themselves out to be submissive, disturbingly loyal, almost objectified dolls for these guys, because it's clear that they are the ones getting talked to. Prime example is Closer, where Andrew Taggart portrays himself as a bitter, detached drunkard who's very much fine without Halsey and has no qualms dissing her friends, but not only does the chorus completely transition into a disgustingly detailed "we're never getting older" message, we also have Halsey for some reason entirely falling head-over-heels for Taggart without any kind of given reconciliation.
Just because the worst song on this EP suffers this, doesn't mean it isn't a universal issue throughout. Don't Let Me Down is unbelievably overwrought and desperate, which I actually wouldn't mind at all if Daya's debut album wasn't an overcompensating front against this attitude. Setting Fire actually makes me really terrified, because it's a song where XYLØ is trying to help keep a relationship afloat by bringing herself down, despite on the bridge making it very apparent that she doesn't want to do this. Then just break up with him. But the real ugly song here is Inside Out, where CharLee wants to know everything about this guy, which she describes as "loving him inside out", "building him up and then picking him apart", and "taking his scales, even the ones he doesn't know". These are all sorts of creepy.
These things only further highlight that these guys pay no mind to how questionable/detestable the music they are producing and writing is. I'm pretty sure they know this, but are completely unwilling to fix this.
Beyond Closer approaching being one of the few songs I'd ever give a 0/10, the only thing worse than all the problems I just described here is what these are symptomatic of: the Chainsmokers' attitude towards the music they make. They have essentially gone on record saying that they don't see music as an art form, but rather as a way to make money; alongside taking shots at better artists who put more effort into their music, this is the pop mindset stereotype. These guys are the reason poptimism has to be a thing, because corporate, greedy hacks like these guys have put no effort or enthusiasm into their music, yet people will still fall in love with this like the puppets they are. You two should probably listen to guys like Mark Ronson, because this is a very light 1/10 and absolutely no recommendation. I know that in a year like 2016, electronic really has been struggling, but when we have Robin Schulz, Kungs, Daft Punk, even Calvin Harris and Flume doing better electronic this year, there's absolutely no excuse for this to be as aggressively awful and as popular as it is. Avoid it like it's lung cancer.
This is WonkeyDude98, and I'm glad I got that off my chest. Next is Corey Feldman. Grab the popcorn.
I'll give you "All We Know" and "Closer", but I personally like Inside Out and Setting Fires. - Spark_Of_Life
Lol - WonkeyDude98
As amaazing as Inside Out, All We Know and Don't Let Me Down are, even they can't improve Setting Fires and Closer
Strong 5/10 (Boquet- 10/10)
Biggest sell out since Maroon 5
(Overexposed- 9, V-3)
2nd Biggest of all time only behind Green Day
(21st Century Breakdown-10, Uno! - 3) - ProPanda
Uno: 2/10 - WonkeyDude98
In PMs you gave American Idiot an 8. How is 21cB better? - ProPanda
Because it is - WonkeyDude98
Fair enough - ProPanda
I'm the only person that likes Closer. - RalphBob
Yes you are. - WonkeyDude98
It's been @ #1 for like 12 weeks, so you're not the only one - ProPanda
I don't get overplay since I barely listen to music that isn't in the WWE 2K16 soundtrack, and I only hear that so much since I play the game almost everyday. - RalphBob