Ask any teenager on the street who the Chainsmokers are and their face will probably light up. Highly recognizable, with a distinct sound, the Chainsmokers are a modern music powerhouse. They sweep awards left right and center while simultaneously revolutionizing the music industry. They just released their latest content: not a song, but a movie. A documentary intended to show the flip side of fame, sharing the down sides to an otherwise glamorous life. And to that effect, they succeeded. For viewers who might be oblivious to the wear-and-tear of nonstop intercontinental air travel and time zone changes, I could see how "Memories" might be elucidating. But for those of us who are probably already fans, I wish they’d given us more.
The Chainsmokers' talent and marketability are undeniable. Some might say the songs are too formulaic, similar, and predictable. Though that may be true, even nonbelievers have to admit there is a reason that this duo has had such a massive amount of success. They weren't originally well-connected. They worked for years in obscurity before gaining recognition, and when they did, it was for soulful and deeply emotive songs that, albeit sometimes simplistic lyrically, resonate with the listener for hours afterward. Finding those melodies and creating them is a gift. And they do have that gift.
The main issue that plagued this documentary was relying too much on visual traps instead of focusing on the real point of it: the music. Photographers, cinematographers, and videographers are all the rage right now. This is for good reason: millennial and Gen Z shoppers are highly visual, and we respond to a lot of visual stimulus. But “Memories” took this knowledge to an extreme. Instead of longer shots that make the dialogue feel honest and raw, the viewer is assaulted with quick montages of extremely brief individual shots (overlaid with remastered versions of the Chainsmokers' hits), interspersed throughout the film with aggressive frequency. It seems that this technique is often used to over-exaggerate (or otherwise create) the illusion of hype and excitement where it doesn't exist or is lacking, in order to make an audience feel emotionally invested, entranced, intrigued. And this is strange, because the Chainsmokers’ lives are already exciting. So why are they trying so hard?
Upon learning of this documentary release, aspiring music industry aficionados may have been hoping - perhaps naively so - that they would learn some sage advice from some of the industry's most covetable members. Seeing a bunch of clips from their concerts, a perhaps interesting digression for those who are unfamiliar with their music, left me wanting more. Some of the on-camera interviews felt a bit guarded and forced, lacking the substance and detail necessary to ground it. If you want to make a movie for your fans to share your vision and story with them, then make a movie for the true fans, the people who want to know you and learn from you. Parts of “Memories” simply felt too similar to highlight reels we can already so easily access on Instagram.
None of the above commentary means I will stop listening, cheering, crying to these songs. These are the ballads that give me tingles and my skin goosebumps, that cause me to drift off thinking about all the millions of other people listening, dreaming alongside me. These songs make the world a little less small, as we are reminded of how we are all brought together by a shared love of these sounds and these people.
Towards the end, when questioned about plans for the future and next steps, Drew says, “We think anyone who thinks they’ve got us figured out is going to be very surprised.”
I hope he’s right.