How The Chainsmokers Evolved From A Viral Hit To Cutting Edge

September 11, 4:34 pm

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Trouble-makers with hearts of gold and some of the hottest producers on the music scene, it’s time to familiarize yourself with The Chainsmokers.

Their releases are amongst the most streamed, bring people to dance floors en masse and continually further their brand. Comprised of Alex Pall and Drew Taggart, the pair demands listeners to rethink EDM every time they take the stage or hit the recording booth. Their effect on the industry is far reaching, and it all started with a selfie...

“But first, lemme take a selfie.” Part social commentary and part viral hit, The Chainsmokers touched down in 2014 with “#Selfie.” Boasting a pulsing, club-ready production and lyrics that trivialized (while simultaneously dramatizing) the process of selfie-ing, the vivacious duo flew to the upper echelon of the Billboard Hot 100. Their first major release, and already netting a Top 20 hit. Not a bad start for the up and comers.




The insane energy of “#Selfie” may have jump-started The Chainsmoker’s career, but it also could have been the kiss of death. The track racked up spins in bars and on radios across the US, but critics were waiting for it and its producers to reach their peak and fade out. How wrong those expectations were.

Viral success secured the duo an alleged seven-figure recording contract. A deal of that magnitude may have pigeonholed other producers into creating standard club fare for the rest of their careers. It was unclear if The Chainsmokers would be able to rise above featured appearances spinning at clubs to achieve sustained success; however, Alex and Drew have proved themselves more than capable; their rise to the top has been prodigious, and here’s how they made it possible...

The Chainsmokers provided the ultimate sonic switch-up with the release of five singles in the final months of 2015. Kicking things off with the BullySongs-assisted “Good Intentions,” they reemerged with a drastically evolved soundscape and a distinguished role to play. They were the self-identifying trouble-makers with hearts of gold. Those trouble-makers just so happened to be armed to the teeth with vibrating synths, killer hooks, and crystalline productions. They’re trouble-makers with the hottest beats and the dreamiest releases; the type of trouble-makers you just cannot get enough of.

While “Good Intentions” showcased that their sensibilities could extend beyond drunken debauchery, it wasn’t until “Roses” that they truly became what they are today. Teaming up with rising songstress Rozes, the hitmakers struck rose gold with the dreamy opus. Proclaiming the release to be their best-to-date, they were confident that this song could break pre-existing expectations regarding their musicality. How right they were.

“Say you’ll never let me go,” Rozes coos over the aural production that defined the final months of 2015. “Roses” effortlessly encapsulated a sense of youthful immortality and timelessness. It captured a relationship at its prime and showcased the fragile dreams shared between lovers. The seraphic production caught the attention of the likes of Justin Bieber and raced up the charts, eventually peaking inside of the Top 10 on the Hot 100 and crowning the US Dance charts. The Chainsmokers had found their first certified hit, and many more followed.




Five months of releases culminated in the premiere of their debut EP, Bouquet, and a bouquet of hits it truly was. Working with a slew of up-and-coming vocalists, Alex and Drew compiled a range of tracks. They welcomed listeners to make their asses shake like waterbeds on their twinkling twerk-anthem “Waterbed,” prayed for a second chance on “Until You Were Gone” and lost themselves in the whirling city lights and racing synths on “New York City.” Each track showcased their strengths to the utmost potential and provided listeners with a different emotion to lock in on.

Armed with Bouquet, the "Inside Out" DJs embarked upon their national Friendzone Tour and made appearances at most of the major summer music festivals. Along the way, Alex and Drew proved that their magic and energy extend beyond the recording booth. Performing in front of a set of screens that they lovingly refer to as "The Full Monte," the guys know how to amp a room up. Their electrifying stage personas rise alongside the beats-per-minute, and their stage show effortlessly matches their wild and free aesthetic. These trouble-makers are hotter than a shot of Fireball and just as intoxicating.

This year The Chainsmokers kept the good things rolling and continued to burn up the charts with their Daya-assisted “Don’t Let Me Down.” Organic strings and driving electronica set the scene for Daya’s larger than life vocal stylings. Continuing the trend of featuring rising vocalists, Drew and Alex still managed to diversify their sound on the release. Daya’s pleas for support and constancy were supported by an even lusher and more imaginative production complete with an electric guitar line that showcased the perfect blend of live instrumentation and electro-kissed production.

Their soundscape was even more all-encompassing and powerful than ever before, and it netted them an even higher peak position on the charts. “Don’t Let Me Down” pushed them right into the Top 5 of the Hot 100. It was a respectable placement, and a sign that the relatively untested act was connecting with their audience exceptionally well.

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The Chainsmokers continue to change the game on their latest release, “Closer.” The “not a love song” hooks them up with alt-pop hitmaker Halsey to deliver their most left-of-center production to date. It’s a nostalgia-filled release that references an old relationship, drunken mistakes and features Drew’s first lead vocal on an official release. That’s right; at this point The Chainsmokers are proving themselves capable of more than just producing the hottest tracks on the Billboard Hot 100, they’re also singing on them.

With “Closer,” The Chainsmokers prove themselves to be more versatile than most artists on the scene today, and their risks are clearly paying off. Buoyed by massive fan support on streaming services and radio, “Closer” has netted Alex and Drew their highest chart placement to date, a spot at the very top of the Billboard Hot 100. The Chainsmokers have had the No. 1 song in the United States for three weeks now, beating out the likes of their “Roses” fan Justin Bieber for the highest honors.

Alex and Drew celebrated their ascent to the top at the 2016 VMAs, where they and Halsey took the stage to triumphantly perform “Closer.” Joining the likes of Britney Spears, Beyonce, Rihanna and Ariana Grande, The Chainsmokers delivered an impressive and stripped back showing. As confetti rained down from the ceiling and the trio bounced across the stage, it became clear that The Chainsmokers have made it.




Although they’re currently music’s reigning producers and performers, it hasn’t yet settled in for Alex and Drew. “Honestly, we dont have a fucking clue whats going on. We started making music for us and about us and suddenly all this crazy amazing shit is happening” they claimed in an exclusive comment to BreatheHeavy. “The best part about this all is that it’s just proof of concept of the stuff we have coming up and gives us a lot of confidence in the stuff we are working on now. All in all though it’s just a lot of emotions. Let’s hit some key word: grateful, astonished, surreal, what the fuck, lit…”

Regardless of their success, The Chaninsmokers clearly remain grounded and amazed by the whirlwind surrounding their music.

Nearly a year after their rebranding campaign began, it’s miraculous to see how far they’ve come. Alex and Drew have developed a sonic direction that encapsulates their youth and energy. Their productions have made them some of the most in-demand artists across the board, and every release is a testament to their success. From the standard club fare that is “#Selfie” and ever onward they are driving their music. One thing that remains true though is the fact that The Chainsmokers are not going to let us down. We’ll toast to that!


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