The first thing you may notice about the Chainsmokers’ full-length Memories…Do Not Open is how instantly familiar it already seems. That’s a striking quality for a debut album. Of course, the lead singles “Paris” and “Something Just Like This,” featuring Coldplay, have been all over radio the past few months, and so have the NYC duo’s previous monster smashes like “Closer” and “Don’t Let Me Down.” Even if you don’t know the difference between trap, future bass, and other micro-genres, you’ve surely heard the pair’s phenomenally successful combination of those styles: The Chainsmokers’ smoothed-out, mid-tempo, nearly easy-listening formula has over the last three years become as inescapable as advertising.
But Memories does one better by actually sounding as if you’re playing the radio instead of one solitary album. Andrew Taggart has made some vocal progress since last year’s “Closer,” but not even the album’s simple sing-song melodies and plush production can hide the fact that he’s still one of pop’s shakiest, least substantial singers. So even though he vocally dominates half the album, enough guest vocalists, like Emily Warren – who sings lead on “Don’t Say” and “My Type,” co-writes four songs, and contributes background as well – regularly replace his conversational flow to yield pleasant enough results that are aural wallpaper.
Beneath their bro-pop persona, Taggart and his DJ partner Alex Pall are too professional for anything less: The album’s only true zinger is Warren’s “My Type,” which repeats the song’s title 25 times but feels like 50. Nearly everything picks up where “Closer” left off, and that means a lot of moderation, as the plodding tempos, middling intensity levels, and sandblasted arrangements so rarely vary that it’s barely noticeable when their bro-country kin in Florida Georgia Line front the final track, “Last Day Alive.” Only the electronically processed harmonies and curtain-dropping drama set that track apart.
The musically superior cut is also the most lyrically obnoxious. “Break Up Every Night,” a canny collaboration with fellow hitmakers Captain Cuts, brings the same conflict between desire and contempt that shaped “Closer.” Taggart argues, “I cannot help it If I like the way she makes me feel it,” yet asserts, “She’s got seven personalities / Every one’s a tragedy.” But there’s an exuberance here that’s missing from much of the rest. This one’s an actual dance cut. The other cuts are basically ballads with beats — modernized Moby without the soul-searching or gospel samples.
“Something Just Like This”
As much a Coldplay record as it is a Chainsmokers jam, this genetically engineered hybrid that’s now ruling radio balances the former’s rock romanticism with the latter’s EDM pragmatism. It also doesn’t hurt that Taggart lets Chris Martin do the singing.
“It Won’t Kill Ya”
The only deviation here from the Chainsmokers’ proven sound is Louane, the album’s strongest voice and a star singer-actress back in France. But that’s enough for another hit in the making.