The goal of an album is to engage the human desire for a compelling story accompanied by a unique sound. Musical groups and bands may work for years to achieve a magnum opus that reaches this goal. Others, on sheer talent alone, may get lucky with a debut album that becomes platinum. “Memories… Do Not Open,” by the Chainsmokers falls flat. Not only is this music repetitive, but their freshman album features an almost infantile musical structure with a, simplistic rhythm and a flat sound.
Prior to “Memories… Do Not Open,” only a couple of other Chainsmokers’ songs were easily identifiable radio hits; club-thumping, simplified songs like “Don’t Let Me Down” featuring Daya and “Closer” with Halsey unfortunately had already painted a rather lackluster picture of the musical group long before their debut album released. Their reputation was solidified by their first hit, “#Selfie,” which seemed to be more of an attempt at a gag rather than an actual song. Even at a first listen, it was clear that the structure of the songs would stay monotonously consistent. In fact, listen to basically any Chainsmokers song, and anyone could hear the trademark boom or climax of the bass preceded by a buildup of vocals and followed by a synth instrumental. Perhaps on one song it might not be bad. However, this extremely rudimentary formula for musical production has infected everything Chainsmokers has put out. “Rozes” featuring Roses, for example, was assembled in this way — and too many of the songs on “Memories… Do Not Open” are replicates of that formula. Not to mention the “millennial whoop” that pops up every few seconds or so; a “millennial whoop” is a common feature of pop songs that repeats the fifth and third notes of a major scale, making songs easy to recognize but rarely original or inventive in nature. In a way, it’s akin to a commercial jingle.
Although one might’ve thought the Chainsmokers could redeem their faults with the sound of at least one good theme for their album, but there was nothing of the sort. Knowing that the image of the Chainsmokers was built on their reputation with fraternity club culture as many of the lyrics in their past songs have featured drugs and college hookup themes, commentary was limited to discussion about those kinds of shallow endeavors. Lyrics like “she wants to break up every night, then tries to f*** me back to life,” from the “Break Up Every Night” are borderline pathetic, and almost the entire song hinges on this cringey chorus. While it is true that angst and dejection stemming from love does produce great music, the Chainsmokers approach the topic in an contrived manner. The subject matter of “Break Up Every Night”obviously alludes to an unhealthy relationship.
Regardless of theme, the Chainsmokers already seem like a one-hit-wonder pop group that’s likely to stay around for at least a few more months — maybe a year — before fading into obscurity. “Memories… Do Not Open” seemed like an album that would likely be better marketed for the summertime, when more people are out enjoying the hot weather and likely to be willing to listen to these tunes to drown out the heat. Even then, it still wouldn’t really help to extend the group’s already niche popularity. In essence, the can of worms that remains in the Chainsmokers’ “Memories… Do Not Open” should really, perhaps, never be opened at all.