When the Chainsmokers’ Halsey duet “Closer” was at the height of its popularity in 2016, the electronic music duo of Drew Taggart and Alex Pall asked their Twitter followers whom they they should collaborate with next. Fans threw out a few ideas — Justin Bieber! Fifth Harmony! Troye Sivan! — but one response made the rounds in particular: “A vocal coach,” in reference to Taggart’s lead vocal debut on the song and his self-described “sh—“ performance at last year’s MTV Video Music Awards. The takeaway of that sick burn? For all their Top 40 dominance, maybe the Chainsmokers worked best when its members stayed behind-the-scenes and let their guest vocalists do the heavy lifting.
The Chainsmokers evidently didn’t get the memo, because their new single, “Paris,” makes Taggart the focus more than ever. He’s joined by a female guest vocalist, “Don’t Let Me Down” songwriter Emily Warren, but she’s uncredited on the song and relatively inconsequential to it anyway—a way of preserving what’s worked in previous Chainsmokers singles while making the band the sole star. The track itself makes similar alterations to the band’s sound without straying too far from the formula: You’ll find the familiar chilled-out keyboards of “Closer,” a guitar loop like the one in “Don’t Let Me Down,” and more lyrics about nostalgia and youth and living wild and free, but there’s no real drop, and the synths that kick in at the end are relatively subtle. On paper, that all sounds like a bid to showcase some stripped-down musicianship, and the Chainsmokers have certainly earned the right to do so: anyone who thinks they’re just DJs who twist knobs just hasn’t been paying attention. But in the end, “Paris” feels like the demo of a song that wants to take more risks than it actually does. B