The penultimate song on the Chainsmokers’ second album would register malign on any timeline, let alone one where the president threatens journalists and musicians keep dying young. On You Owe Me, Drew Taggart scolds the callous media and suggests: “They wanna see me hang on the wall.” He continues: “Check my pulse and if I’m dead, you owe me.” (That aside, it’s the album’s best song, its unusual horn arrangement evoking Vampire Weekend.)
To hear Taggart tell it, he’s a martyr, not half of the EDM duo catapulted to fame on a slimy single and absurd interviews that found him and Alex Pall comparing penises. To be fair, they’ve moved on – or, sensing pop’s shift towards introspective nihilism, moved with the money and scored silly streaming numbers with petulant songs about running off to Paris and having sex in unaffordable cars.
Although, as Sick Boy makes plain, these days there is no such thing in the Chainsmokers’ world as unaffordable cars. This sorry situation supplies many problems. “All the things I could live without,” guest vocalist Drew Love sings on Somebody, “I need ’em now ’cause they’re all around me.” Dolorous piano chords hang heavy; a dank synth note drags like the diamond-crusted albatross around their neck. It gets worse: “Everyone knows what I look like,” Taggart moans on Everybody Hates Me, “not even one of them knows me.” So, he walks into the club like everybody hates him, and his funereal mumble explodes into EDM bombast, exposing the gulf between his feelings and reality with characteristic subtlety.
Life on social media makes these sentiments relatable, they claim. With one astute exception (“I can’t even check the time without facing regret”), it doesn’t. Here are filthy-rich men complaining about the problems of being filthy rich. They neg women in one song (Side Effects) and act like sensitive bros for knowing what negging is on another (Hope). They make suspect references to “red pill” culture. Amid this disingenuous dross, the mercifully wordless EDM bombast strikes the most honest note. They have everything they could ever want; may sympathy continue to elude them.
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