Features, Tracks

The Chainsmokers Cast Radio-Ready, Predictable Magic With New Coldplay Collaboration


something just like this

2 months ago, I started having to commute an hour to work every day. My music library on my iPhone was outdated, old. I wasn’t exactly tired of it, I’d just put it on shuffle or play an album I loved and zone out. I started spending less time at home, on my laptop on YouTube or SoundCloud, and more at work. The only free time I ended up getting was my 2 hours of mindless travel back and forth from work on the train.

So, I took the plunge and joined up for my free trial of Apple Music after months and months of adamantly denying it’s need. It couldn’t have been a better time to join, actually. I finally had a library full of new and interesting music, and access to chart toppers that for monetary privacy reasons aren’t on YouTube anymore. Right before Ed Sheeran’s ÷ dominated the airwaves, The Chainsmokers released another song called “Something Just Like This,” and after the viral global success of “Closer,” it made an appearance on the Top 10. A song collaboration, with Coldplay.

There are some artist pairings you just cannot wrap your head around. Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton. Nick Jonas and Nicki Minaj. Taylor Swift and Snow Patrol. The art of a musical collaboration is making sure that each artist’s style harmoniously complements the other’s. Rihanna’s R&B “soft” tones against the vitriolic and, um, caustic Eminem in both “Love The Way You Lie.” Beyonce and Shakira both lending their sexy and powerful voices to “Beautiful Liar.”

Now, look. I love The Chainsmokers for their soft electronic tunes and their head-bopping beats. My favorite song is still “Roses” with “Closer” following up a close second. It took a while for me to digest the fact that The Chainsmokers managed to collaborate with one of the biggest and most popular bands in the world when their previous collabs were with relatively unknown and upcoming artists. Halsey was the biggest star they have worked with and even she isn’t as well known outside the Tumblr-sphere. So, does this make The Chainsmokers really impressive for stepping up their game, or was this all a marketing scheme by Coldplay to make themselves more accessible to the new generations?

Both, I would say.

The Chainsmokers are very good at catchy beats, but their relevance and freshness is quickly dissipating. “All We Know” and “Paris” were both released after “Closer” were and both sound generic and packaged. It’s not as new as “Roses” or “Don’t Let Me Down” were, and it’s increasingly apparent that they aren’t willing to let go of whatever made “Closer” so popular – repetitive and breathy vocals and a head-bopping tune. There isn’t the same level of experimentation that occurred pre-summer 2015. Unless they come up with something insanely different but catchy at the same time, they only can stay relevant by collaborating with artists much more popular than they are, with different styles. Experimentation, but not as risky.

I had written an article previously on The Weeknd’s “Starboy” featuring Daft Punk, where I made it clear that Daft Punk was what made The Weeknd sound fresh. It happens repeatedly in his album, with Lana Del Rey stealing the show in “Stargirl Interlude” and Kendrick Lamar absolutely killing it in “Sidewalks.” I think it’s important for an artist to preserve their own style and vision on a song that invites someone to feature, otherwise it dominates the show. In “Something Just Like This”, I have to say that The Chainsmokers bring almost nothing new to the table as Coldplay lifts the song beyond expectations that leaves you grinning and misty-eyed.

Coldplay are no strangersto collaborating with people you don’t expect a pop-rock band to be singing with. Their unique and anthemic style that pulls such divisive reactions from people is unmatched and frankly, hard to weave other artists into. They’re are fans of catchy tunes with easily understandable but meaningful lyrics. Their biggest selling point is creating a soaring and uplifting emotional experience through a purely musical rollercoaster. They’ve been doing this since 2000 and all their albums are a beautiful mix of satisfying and climactic buildups (“Fix You,” “Strawberry Swing,” “Charlie Brown,” “Yellow,” “Up&Up”),  soft and emotionally wrenching melodies (“True Love,” “Politik,” “Violet Hill,” “Everglow”) and anthemic stadium pleasers (“Paradise,” “Viva La Vida,” “Sky Full of Stars,” “Clocks”). Whether you love them or hate them, you could easily name 15 Coldplay songs off the top of your head.

Coldplay’s collaborations make sure that the other artist is only bringing their unique take and freshness to the style that Coldplay has already set. They don’t dominate, or are even necessary to keep the song alive. Rihanna’s vocals on “Princess of China” were unexpected but the song is very Coldplay-esque anyways. The same thing happens with Beyonce in “Hymn for the Weekend” and Tove Lo in “Fun.” You’d never see any of those songs on their own albums, which is the most vital part of a featuring artist. They feature. Avicii’s fantastic work on Sky Full of Stars isn’t as evident as his own songs, but it’s still very much Coldplay with the soft rock, overtly positive lyrics and climactic finish.

“Something Just Like This” is credited as a Chainsmokers’ song. It’s released on their YouTube channel, it’s their single and their name is first. However, this isn’t new territory for either. The beat is still predictable and “Closer”-ish and “Something Just Like This” sounds almost entirely like a Coldplay song. Lyrically, this is the strongest Chainsmokers’ song ever, and musically, it draws inspiration from “Sky Full of Stars” and the xylophone sounds of A Head Full of Dreams.

Chris Martin evokes such vivid nostalgia and cheesy love by evoking memorable and beloved comic and legend characters. He believably appeals to both the child in us dreaming of being a hero, and the adult, insecure of our own faults and shortcomings. He assuages us with the comfort of knowing that the characters we grew up reading about are exaggerated and fantastical, and as humans we demand more from ourselves than others would. It’s beautiful, short, sweet, evocative and radio-ready. The lyrics are what makes this song the most memorable (although the “do-do-do-do-do” in the chorus highly threatens to negate my point), and they were written almost exclusively by Coldplay. “Something Just Like This” alludes more to “Sky Full of Stars” and “Up&Up” more than any Chainsmokers beat, so it’s not apparent at all what they had to offer apart from the generic chorus tune.

There’s no denying that it’s a wonderful listen, and a great start to your day when it plays on the radio. Is it new? Only lyrically. (Disclaimer: I grin every time I hear the line “And Superman unrolls a suit before he lifts, but I’m not the kind of person that it fits.” Damn, that is such a great, self-aware line.) Does it give you a vague sense of deja vu? Absolutely.

The only thing that everybody I’ve met seems to agree on is that this sounds about 85% Coldplay and 15% The Chainsmokers on what was meant to be the other way around or 50-50 at best. Whatever it is, I’ll still be the first one to happily listen to any new Coldplay content out there.

Keep ’em coming.

March 7, 2017

About Author

Keerthana Batchu Keerthana is a third-culture multilingual chemical engineer, trying to figure out how to survive in a corporate world AND reach as many people as possible. She also has no damn clue about the "cool" side of pop-culture, but she tries.

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