The Chainsmokers are more popular than ever, but not with music critics

Andrew Taggart (left) and Alex Pall. REUTERS| Mike Blake | File Photo

Just last year, it seemed like you couldn’t escape The Chainsmokers. Their song “Closer” was arguably the most popular song of the year, dominating the Top 40,  earning the duo a bundle of award nominations and a performance at the MTV Video Music Awards.

But, the Grammy-winning EDM duo, one of which, Andrew Taggart, is from Freeport, have become whipping boys for critics over the past couple of weeks.

Their first studio album Memories… Do Not Open debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 Chart. According to Billboard, their sales were stimulated by pairing albums with tickets for upcoming shows.

However, it was not met with such fanfare with critics. MetaCritic gives the album a 43 out of 100, based on seven professional reviews. Rolling Stone’s Maura Johnston gave the album two of five stars (40 of 100 on MetaCritic). Based on the criticism she penned, that score could have been lower.

The anonymizing of everyone who stopped by the Chainsmokers’ studio would at least be understandable if Taggart’s vocals were worthy of the spotlight, or if his lyrics betrayed even a hint of insight. But his bleat, which brings to mind the wounded wail of a third-tier Warped Tour act, is nothing special; and his lyrics, which resemble hastily texted missives from a friend who never asks you how you’re doing while endlessly railing about the woes of his not-really-that-bad life, are artless pouts about fame being hard and about feeling being misunderstood.

Users of MetaCritic were less kind. They gave the album a 1.4 of 10. Metacritic user sauldiazrey summed up the popular opinion:

The worst album that I have never listen on my life…. All songs are trash, so BASIC and repetitive..  Nothing more to say…..The Chainsmokers R.I.P.

Compounding the harsh critics, a video by John Fassold called “How EVERY Chainsmokers song is written”  appeared under Youtube’s trending tab. It satirically runs viewers through the creative process of the Chainsmokers. The video uses light profanity, so be warned.

The AV Club published an article titled “Get used to hating the Chainsmokers” that both commended their personal success and viciously dragged the EDM act. Clayton Purdom writes:

They directly emulated much better music that came before them, rendering it anodyne, toxically masculine, and dumb. But The Chainsmokers are just Skrillex for the Lululemon set. Their very base is disposability; it’s Vegas EDM for the suburbs. Critics lining up to dunk on it remind me of Kurt Vonnegut’s image of a literary critic as a “person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae or a banana split.” Hating them is a little too easy.

The moral of the story here is that the Chainsmokers have produced one of the most popular albums of the year after producing a mega-hit, but the critics see through their formula. But, these aren’t masterworks of expert composers who wish to leave their imprint on the industry for years to come. AV Club’s Clayton Purdom sums up:

“These are commercial jingles, and their artistic success is measured in market penetration. No doubt, The Chainsmokers are high-fiving over it right now.”