When one of my best friends invited me to go see The Chainsmokers with her this weekend, I was more excited about getting to see my bestie, who lives two hours away from me, than anything else. I mean, I like “Closer” well enough and, I don’t care what anyone says, “#SELFIE” was a fun song. But The Chainsmokers seem to have a somewhat douchey reputation and their debut solo album, “Memories…Do Not Open,” received some pretty harsh reviews. Still, I can get really into some pretty cheesy stuff, so I had no doubt that I’d have a good time at the show.
I did not expect to be moved to tears.
This was my first EDM concert, so it was a new experience for me, and when the guys first took the stage, I was kind of thrown off. I’ve been to, like, pop/rock shows and, of course, I’ve been to major pop music concerts — and this was such a strange intersection of those styles. When I hear these epic, hyper-produced dance songs, I expect elaborate sets, costume changes, theatric elements, choreographed dance routines and other high production values I’ve come to associate with major pop acts.
But these guys were up there, in just t-shirts and jeans, singing and hopping around awkwardly on stage while the crowd was getting their life, dancing in the stands and cheering. Which was another strange thing — people would go crazy every time the beat dropped and I’d be thinking, Did I miss something? because there were seriously points where we were just staring at a giant screen while some generic dance beats played and I was like, I could be at a club right now and have the same experience.
Except as the show went on, I actually became seriously drawn to the visuals they used during their set. Like, the lasers and pyrotechnics and all that were really cool. But the images that were flashing on those screens were especially evocative to me. They made heavy use of nostalgia — clips from what looked like 90s cartoons — as well as elements from technology and social media — lyrics that appeared on screen as if being typed on a computer, graphics that resembled Facebook’s reaction emojis, and visual references to Tinder.
There was also an overabundance of crowd footage being projected onto the screens which, while may be typical for this type of show, paired with the other images in a way that almost seemed like a sort of commentary. Combined with some of their more sentimental songs, that have themes of nostalgia and heartbreak and longing, I experienced a weird sort of wistfulness that made me feel a premature nostalgia for the present (Is there a word for this?????).
Maybe I’m giving them too much credit. All I know is that when they were playing “Something Just Like This” and there were a billion heart emojis scrolling up the screen, I burst into tears. I’ve cried at one other concert before — seeing The Fray play “How to Save a Life” — but not like this. I was legit ugly crying and couldn’t stop, even after they switched back to higher-tempo songs. It’s lowkey embarrassing because, like, who cries at a Chainsmokers show!? But I’ve seriously never been moved so deeply by a musical performance.
And that’s the power of pop music. People are so quick to write off pop and dance music as mindless and meaningless, but some of my favorite music and the music I connect to most is pop music. Aside from the fact that a lot of pop music can have some of the same emotional themes as more widely-respected genres, is a song that’s high-energy and happy less emotional than a slow, sad song? Is happiness not an emotion? Not that there isn’t great slow, serious, emotional pop music out there — there is and it’s amazing, including some of The Chainsmokers’ own emotional midtempos — but that stuff can be just as good as other forms of pop music; just as good as other genres of music.
Even if you can criticize some of the technical elements of pop music — I mean, I stand by many of my criticisms of the shows production values — that doesn’t mean that it won’t connect with someone in a meaningful way. Because last night, I was so deeply moved by the music I heard — including/especially the happy songs — that I cried and prayed and felt in a way I hadn’t in a long time.
Although I’m a little annoyed they didn’t play “#SELFIE.”