The Chainsmokers: Wanted for Murder

By Mike Wang


This week for spring fair we’ve been blessed with the Chainsmokers, an EDM group reliably found a couple rows down almost every festival lineup.

One can bet that the moment Spring Fair released their names, thousands of JHU students flocked to their laptops and pumped their ears full of the Chainsmokers in an effort to appear hip and relevant. Admit it, you were one of them, and that’s a damn shame. You could have used that brain space for something more important, like ancient Japanese joinery.

Essentially, what you’re looking at is corporate America, hustling you of $30 with two trained monkeys.

But who are the Chainsmokers? Why are they famous? And did they really murder someone? At face value, they’re two guys from the heart of New York who loved EDM and rose to fame thanks to the internet, much along the vein of Skrillex or Fetty Wap. And they didn’t murder someone, but something: the soul of EDM.

The offending duo began as J.Crew East Coast prepsters who grafted a sample from another song, using it to manufacture their ascent. The founder of their group, Adam Alpert, is a marketing graduate from UPenn who specialized in mass media. Strangely enough, you won’t see his name anywhere in the Chainsmokers’ bio because that would hint at their disgustingly manufactured and corporatized ascent. Essentially, what you’re looking at is corporate America, hustling you of $30 with two trained monkeys.

Their rise to fame as well as the precedent they’ve established in EDM has poisoned the industry. But let’s not give them too much credit. They’re merely an indicator species, like the tomato frog.

The Chainsmokers

To put it bluntly, what the Chainsmokers represent is a further decline in modern music. They’re like EDM’s Zika virus – both are tied to their own form of microcephaly. There is no better example of their peabrained approach to music than their most popular song, #SELFIE. It’s the sort of song that is so bizarre that you get goosebumps – the really bad kind.

It starts like every Chainsmoker song, with the same repeating kick drum, a 2 bar melody, which cuts into a generic vocal sample 16 bars in. What sets this track apart is a basic female voice complaining about dudes and selfies at a club. Run that for 8 bars. Then comes the drop, which is oddly reminiscent of TJR’s “Ode to Oi,” which was released a full year earlier.

At this point, we should recommend that Spring Fair step up their game, but we won’t.

Play them side by side. Note how Chainsmokers very ingeniously put a nice echo on theirs to conceal the fact that they stole TJR’s signature sound.

So that’s why the Chainsmokers are bad people. Actually, just kidding, there’s a lot more. Ever go on youtube, or soundbutt, or hype machine, scroll through the list of songs, only to find that every song sounds the same? EDM these days is half house, half trap, all terrible.

The Chainsmokers pioneered these low production value remixes. In their specific case, they took the vocals of indie tracks, added four on the floor beats, and a preset synthesizer. Voila! A Chainsmokers hit is born.

At this point, we should recommend that Spring Fair step up their game, but we won’t. They’ve always prided themselves on the stranglehold they have on everything for our oh-so-special week, so god forbid we shatter their fragile egos. Recent Hopkins history has suffered a good deal of disappointing concerts, whether it was Ke$ha, Krewella (after they kicked out the main guy), or Chainsmokers.

J. Cole was a special case, but that year I confused him with a similarly-named R. Kelly, the high-flying pedophile (and multi-platinum R&B singer).

Given, here at Catalyst we do have fans of the Chainsmokers. I’ve personally tracked their success on for many years and downloaded many of their tracks.

Well, we all have things we’re ashamed of – the things our teen selves have done that evoke a uniquely acute sense of shame. For me, the Chainsmokers is one of those things. Whenever I recall the countless times I, as a pimply 16 year-old, head-bobbed to “Medicine” or “Julian,” the thought of self-harm crosses my mind. Then I remember that listening to the Chainsmokers is essentially the same thing.

Here at Hopkins we pride ourselves at being smart, cultured, and ahead of the curve. We’d like to think we understand the good things in life, and we use hard work, brains, and daddy’s money to get it. Realize then that the Chainsmokers are an antithesis to that very Hopkins ethos.

If you wanted the McDonalds of EDM music you can stick with the internet. There you’ll find the full junkyard of EDM remixes, brought to you by any musical neckbeard with a laptop and pirated software. Instead, Spring Fair has committed a major fuckup. They’ve brought the arch-neckbeards here.

So congratulations, you know the backstory. You’re now an informed consumer, and what should you have learned? You’ve learned that you’re better than the Chainsmokers, and if you’re willing to graft and sell out the way they did, you’ll probably be more famous too. Also, don’t go to the concert. You’re wasting your precious time.

This is an opinion piece, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Catalyst Magazine