September 29, 2016

GOLDFINE | Alpha Art Bros, Clitoral Bangers and The Chainsmokers

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I love The Chainsmokers and I’m bitter about it.

I love them the way I love reality television: deeply and wretchedly, gluttonously and gloriously. I love them the way you love a boy who doesn’t know you exist.

I’m bitter because The Chainsmokers bought their fame with aural scourge, “#SELFIE,” a pseudo-gesture at cultural critique (about like, image culture or something) that did it’s real work as a femininity-bashing reduction of women to jealousy, narcissism and mirror-primping chatter.


I’m bitter because Drew Taggart and Alex Pall are spokesboys of a thriving subculture of Alpha art bros, aka standard edition bros disguised in floral button-ups and Nike Frees, dripping with entrepreneurial smugness; the EDM analogue to the nerds with god complexes who start a successful business exploiting a market trend, care a little bit about their product (they refer to their music as “topline” or “deliverables”) but a lot about making stupid amounts money and being very famous.

I’m bitter because “Even before success, pussy was number one,” “It’s always work hard, play hard,” “You’ll never see us getting carried out of a club. We’re way too good at drinking,” “Only Justin Bieber and Drake can hold a candle to what we’ve done” and “We plucked ourselves from obscurity and then started delivering smashes” are real combinations of words that have come out of their smirking mouths.


I’m bitter because they advertise the alleged length of their dicks on their webpage and because of this picture:


But I’m mainly bitter because the fact that I can’t not dance my body into smithereens to the music made by their stupid faces with their stupid fade haircuts with their stupid luxury-watch wearing hands on their stupid expensive laptops makes me want to literally drown myself in a kiddie pool full of a solution of PBR and cum.

I’m bitter because they make objectively flawless pop music. The Chainsmokers are brilliant engineers of seamless pop euphoria. Their flirtatious soundbite, love-song-lite lyrics and crisp candy-colored beats are as thoughtless and narratively empty, as they are utterly, meteorically danceable.

I’m bitter because their songs make me feel dirty, and a little sick and not sexy enough to be there — kind of how I imagine I’d feel if I got trapped inside one of their Instagram posts. Their music works so well because (in the oral tradition of Carly Rae Jepsen, praised be her name) it’s assembled for self-insertion: If I close my eyes and fist-pump hard enough, I can tug on the taught skin of whichever breathy, warbling pop star has brought their tracks life this week, and get on my knees while The Chainsmokers pour liquor into my mouth.

I considered titling this article “A Love Letter To The Chainsmokers; And Every Boy I’ve Ever Hated While Also Wanting Them to Go Down On Me” (before this piece deteriorated from a love letter into a cry for help). This title made sense to me because their bangers are clitoral in the pure immediacy of their pleasure, and reliably delivered gratification. Their songs, which if you were to lyrically mine each one, are literally all about sex, unfold appropriately, just like sex, from the fluttery opening beats, to the pulsing bass line, to the sublime pop orgasm of the drop.

But I don’t want to want it. I don’t want to get aural-clitoral pleasure from corny, offensive EDM bros — I don’t want to participate in their scruffy-underdogs-rise-to-pop-greatness self-written-narrative. I don’t want anything to do with it. I want to be above The Chainsmokers, but I instead, I am I’m screaming up at them, scrabbling at the glass stage they walk on and wrenching highly-willing friends onto the dance floor when “Don’t Let Me Down” comes on. I want to scream at my musical pleasure receptors: “OH NO DON’T YOU DARE, DON’T BETRAY US, COME ON, WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS. WE DON’T PUT UP WITH THIS SHIT ANYMORE, WE’RE NOT A FRESHMAN, THIS IS WHY WE STOPPED GOING TO FRAT PARTIES.

I could be accused of being a bit of a moralist about musicians; insufferability usually taints music beyond repair for me. It’s why I can’t listen to Radiohead, Father John Misty or Lana Del Rey. That said, I don’t need to be told that the whole project of problematic faves and holding grudges against artists is futile and arbitrary (I still listen to The Smiths, Panic at the Disco, Kanye, the occasional Death Grips song, The Beatles and my sweet sweet girl, Azealia Banks, after all).

But I’m petty, and here we are and I don’t think I’ve ever loved a group so specifically problematic and insufferable based on my particular sensibilities, so much, so deeply against my will. The particular combination of humans I find sexually and politically repulsive, and the acute non-volitional physical affect their music has on me, makes for a particularly intense surge of of self-loathing and agony, every time I consider who is singing those stupid, beautiful words, (“Hey …. I was doing just fine before I met you…”) and spinning that stupid fucking delicious, thrilling beat. They’re kryptonite-scaled demons, all coiffed and smug and 500 Days of Summer-loving-but-sympathizing-with-Joseph-Gordon-Levitt, sent down from hell to undo me.

Of course, we don’t have to and shouldn’t hold people whose art we’re fans of to the moral standards we hold our friends and family, nor expect them to mesh with our politics and sensibilities. We don’t have to hang out with them or sleep with them or rely on them to text us back. Art debatably doesn’t need to be doing moral, political work; and in addition, the whole investigation is in error, because all we can ever know about the famous is squeezed and filtered through a thousand layers of media mediation.


But emotionally, it’s a bit trickier than that; and my bitter love of The Chainsmokers has yet to be explained away by a think piece, telling me to stop worrying about my problematic faves and to stop being so moralistic and boring.

Maybe it’s good to have a little sour with our sweet, and to be conscious of the bullshit the people making our favorite beats and weirdly specific references to mid-size South-Western cities, do and say. We can comfort ourselves knowing we haven’t bought it completely; that we know exactly what we’re getting. Listening to The Chainsmokers will always be a little bitter but so, so sweet for me. At least, they’ll never let me down.

Jael Goldfine is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]Objectivity Bites appears alternate Thursdays this semester.