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How The Chainsmokers’ “Don’t Let Me Down” Propelled The Duo To Global Success – And The Freedom To Defy Dance Music Expectations

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The pop-ification of electronic dance music didn’t start with chain smokersbut no act blurs the line between arena anthems and DJ culture quite like Alex Pall and Drew Taggart.

In 2013, the duo was just another EDM duo doing remixes of indie rock bands for DJs on Hype Machine. In 2017, the duo headlined their own international arena tour following a multi-platinum concert that had just broken the record for longest streak in the top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100. story.

When looking for an explanation – a musical knot that ties together the fabric of the Chainsmokers’ dubstep-heavy DJ sets and the band’s de facto pop stardom – one must inevitably turn to 2016’s crossover hit “Don’t Let Me Down “. “

Powerful and eruptive, the song’s dark electronic hook and gleaming melodic verses straddle the Chainsmokers’ bloody synth past and radio-crafted future. The two halves are stitched together by the haunting, yet emotionally desperate, performance of singer Daya, then 17.

It’s a single that was as much on a festival set list as it was in the darkest electro-trap club rooms, and it earned the Chainsmokers their first GRAMMY win for Best Dance Recording of 2017. That begs the question. : how did they pull that disabled?

If the Chainsmokers give off an energy of brotherhood, it might not be their fault. The duo shot to fame straight out of college, and the group’s 2014 single “#Selfie” was indeed meant to be a joke. It was a gag song, a catchy pot shot at the tasteless VIP bathroom talk that goes on at Miami Beach megaclubs like LIV.

Buzzsaw synth lines and four-on-the-floor bass kicks gave the song a stereotypical EDM vibe. But in the spotlight of the novelty hit, Pall and Taggert strived to write real songs full of love, nostalgia and infectious pop hooks. They were never going to remain the “#Selfie” guys, even if they had to fight tooth and nail.

“Roses” – a sunny pop track with hints of the future popular offbeat bass sound and an earworm of a synth hook – was the first taste of things to come. While the 2015 hit marked a shift towards Chainsmokers’ now signature sound, its 2016 follow-up really turned heads – and it all starts with a clear, soulful guitar strum.

“All of our new songs come right after buying a new instrument,” Taggart said in a “How I Wrote That Song” segment for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” in 2016. “We bought a new guitar electric Fender, and I listened to a lot of the xxand I wanted to make a lonely guitar sound.”

“So I did that, and it was pretty vibrant,” he continues, “and then I was on a plane, and I got this new sample pack and it had this cool, bouncy sound, so I cut it and dropped this cool trap. We had never done trap music before, so I wanted to try it out and see if we could do it.

Coming from their friends at electronic hip-hop duo Loudpvck (whose member Kenny Beats has gained his own internet fame alongside productions of big looks for Vince Staples, Ed Sheeran, Gucci Mane and more), this trap breakdown is expertly sandwiched between the song. sentimental pop verses that make “Don’t Make Me Down” such a smash hit.

The mix of hard and soft elements – an energetic club hook and sensitive lyrics – make “Don’t Let Me Down” a defining track of its time. The Chainsmokers managed to capture the coy elegance of 2010s indie pop and the gritty world of trap EDM, then mixed it all in with a certain sort of cinematic grandeur. The song begins so subtly and builds in gradual tension until it explodes positively, another element that brings it closer to the roots of the Chainsmokers club.

They knew they had a hit on their hands too, mainly because it fell into place pretty quickly. “Everything we do happens in one session,” Taggart said in the “How I Wrote This Song” segment. But as Pall revealed, it almost became the hit that never was.

“When it was completely over, [the] the computer crashed and we lost the whole song,” Pall said. They had to completely redo it from scratch, but Pall suggested that might have ended up working in their favor. “We did it again, and it’s even better than before.

The song’s dangerously romantic message — the line “It’s in my head, darling, I hope / That you’ll be there when I need you most” sets up the titular phrase – was written by songwriter Emily Warren. (She went on to co-write hits like Dua Lipa’s “New Rules” and Charlie XCX’s “Boys”; Warren is also featured on several Chainsmokers songs, including the 2017 hit “Paris.”)

It was Warren’s vocals that originally graced the single when it was an unreleased set for the Chainsmokers, although she was never intended to be the final vocalist. The song was originally pitched to Rihanna, Taggart disclosed to rolling stone in 2016, but the R&B singer ultimately declined.

At the time, Daya’s hit “Hide Away” was gaining traction. “When I heard that, I knew she had the reach,” Taggart said. say it New York Times in 2016. “His voice was quite unique and unlike any others on the radio.”

As Taggart recalled, Daya “didn’t really need my help” in the studio, reinforcing the song’s magic. But “Don’t Let Me Down” clearly didn’t just have an impact on those involved – it was a runaway hit that won the hearts of critics and fans alike without much effort.

“Don’t Let Me Down” charted in 32 countries, including a No. 3 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Even Bailiff covered the song during an appearance on BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge. To date, the video has amassed over 1.8 billion views on YouTube; it remains one of the Chainsmokers’ three most-streamed songs on Spotify with over 1.5 billion streams.

“Don’t Let Me Down” opened the door for the Chainsmokers to do bigger, more glamorous things – including the biggest hit of their careers. among several other charts around the world), becoming the first single to pass 26 weeks in the top five of the ranking.

The Chainsmokers continued to capitalize on that larger-than-life pop sound, collaborating with Coldplay’s Chris Martin and celebrating the project’s debut album. Memories… Do not open with a world tour of 71 dates.

The band continues to mix their DJ past with their pop star reality, choosing not to play entirely original sets, but to stuff strings of hits to sing between mixes of songs from other artists who influence them. It can be a little clunky at times, of course, and the Chainsmokers serious white style didn’t always make the band a critical darling. But the band continues to sell out and hold their own, continuing their musical history with their fourth album, So far, so gooda project they doubled “the beginning of a new chapter”; Apple Music’s Zane Lowe said it was their “boldest song-based statement to date”.

Are they a group? Are they DJs? Do they still make electronic music? It doesn’t really matter, and maybe that’s the point.

In a world where genres have ceased to define listeners, why would they define the artist? “Don’t Let Me Down” dared to break that barrier – and even six years later, the Chainsmokers continue to prove that there are still frontiers to be explored.

Back with another one of those block rockin’ beats: revisiting the Chemical Brothers’ “Dig Your Own Hole” at 25