Music: The Chainsmokers, MEMORIES…DO NOT OPEN

#1 album on the Billboard 200 chart, week of 4/29/17

What it is: The debut album from The Chainsmokers, a duo who make EDM-tinged pop music.

This may be an obvious point, but I’ve thought for a long time that the amount of respect artists get in their industry often depends as much on how they’re viewed as individuals as on the quality of their actual work. Take Weird Al Yankovic and Gallagher: Two comedians whose careers are built on goofy gimmicks, and yet one is widely revered and welcomed into comedy nerd projects like “Comedy Bang! Bang!” and Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, while the other is reviled as a practitioner of the lowest forms of humor. Is it because Yankovic’s pop song parodies are that much more sophisticated than Gallagher’s routine of smashing objects onstage? Or is it because Yankovic is reportedly an incredibly nice guy, while Gallagher is known for defending racist and homophobic jokes before storming out of an interview with Marc Maron?

I bring this up because The Chainsmokers seem to be one of the most hated musical artists currently working, and that seems to be to a great extent because of their reputation as douche-y bros, as captured most potently in this Billboard profile. And yes, they certainly come off as conceited jerks, dropping dick size innuendos on their website, bragging about how they “rage every night” and citing Ari Gold from Entourage as an inspiration. But I thought this album was a pretty decent collection of appealingly straightforward pop songs, despite its dubstep-ish flourishes. It’s simple and immature (a lot of lyrics about clashing with parents, hooking up at bars and making late-night booty calls), but that’s the case for a whole lot of good pop music.

I’m not saying Memories…Do Not Open is any kind of masterpiece. I’m sure that if I was a teenager right now I’d hate it, in part because I’m also sure that its singles are being overplayed on pop radio past the point at which even the best songs could stay tolerable. But I don’t know that there’s much benefit to dwelling on their personal dickishness. Most of us are never going to have to actually meet them, after all. And if Kanye and our current president are any indication, trying to ostracize public figures for their individual behavior can backfire by providing publicity, negative or otherwise, that only ends up raising their profile.

That doesn’t seem to be what’s happened with Gallagher, of course. Maybe that poor bigot was just ahead of his time.

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