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It is perhaps irrefutable that 2017 was the year of The Chainsmokers.
Alex Pall and Andrew Taggart kicked off their year with a Grammy win. Their debut album, Memories…Do Not Open, secured their status as household names soon thereafter.
The duo had additionally achieved a superstardom that transcended the DAWs and BPMs, scoring a deal with Tommy Hilfiger, as the brand’s newest ambassadors. By the end of the year, they became the third artists in history to have three singles in the Hot 100 chart. The “#SELFIE” days had been left far behind.
Recent news that Alex Pall’s now ex-girlfriend, Tori Woodward, had caught Pall cheating with another woman made its way to a number of major pop cultural news outlets dealing in celebrity affairs. The story appeared on People, E! Online, Maxim, and Cosmopolitan, among other websites.
Such an assortment of pop-inclined news sources that ran the story bore two clear implications: the first, The Chainsmokers no longer belonged merely to the music industry, but to that of pop culture. The second? EDM had produced two bonafide celebrities, personalities that despite their dabbling in pop crossovers, hailed from the electronic realm, and would continue to be associated with it.
Tabloids are routinely riddled with similar stories of infidelity among Hollywood stars. Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris‘ feud serves as an infamous example. Magazine covers strategically positioned in grocery store checkout lines across the world explored Swift’s accused adultery with Tom Hiddleston. Whether or not the cheating rumors were indeed true, the story certainly commanded mass attention.
Yet, the news of the singer’s alleged infidelity differed from that of Pall’s in a key manner: it was Swift at the center of the headlines, not her then beau, Calvin Harris. Despite his own iconic status as an artist and crossover king, Harris only found himself target to widespread scrutiny due to his relationship with a bigger “pop star.”
Pall’s appearance in gossip magazines is thus an indicator of The Chainsmokers’ hold on pop culture, and also points to Pall and Taggart’s evolution into celebrities of their own right — not just through their collective stage name. In turn, their newfound “celebrity status” also shows just how far EDM as one that officially carries mainstream credibility.
When the CCTV footage of Pall smooching the mystery woman broke, the outlets that obtained the news were eager to slap a “breaking news” classification on the story, and not unsurprisingly so: the footage was a damning, and incontestable piece of evidence of Pall’s affair. The procession of events that moved the footage from CCTV record to the foreground of the Internet as a ‘juicy’ click bait piece is standard in the landscape of pop cultural news stories, and is therefore unremarkable in its nature.
What is remarkable in contrast, is the designation applied to the Pall story — “news.” Pall’s affair surfaced as a bit of news that a series of publications scurried to include among their other news stories of the day. Beneath this sensationalized surface of the story’s coverage looms something deeper and more significant than the perfunctory publication of yet another affair. The avalanche of articles surrounding the story speaks to EDM’s peaking in the mainstream media. An EDM celebrity had erred, and that misstep apparently warranted acknowledgment from Goliaths like People and Cosmopolitan.
A case might be made that such an integration is unprecedented. Through both Pall and Taggart, but in this case, predominantly Pall, EDM has proven its capacity to breed authentic celebrities embraced by the mainstream media. Its current positioning in the spotlight begs the question of whether or not acts like The Chainsmokers have in some way paved a future path for budding EDM celebrities to walk along, or if the genre will continue to produce personalities of great public attraction.
At the center of the album cover of The Chainsmokers’ debut album, Memories: Do Not Open rests a cardboard box, a Sharpie message reiterative of the album’s titling scrawled on its front, “do not open.” The box is meticulously sealed with clear duct tape in what is presumably a defense against the owner’s own nostalgically-motivated impulses. The box depicted on the cover of the 2017 album is, in a way, metaphorical of the ongoings of Alex Pall and Andrew Taggart’s personal lives.
Two-years ago, Pall may very well have stored the cheating scandal in a figurative cardboard box, a sort of storage receptacle for the poignant memories that the album’s title alludes to. Pall might have sealed up that box after enclosing the memory of his affair. He might have shelved it, might have allowed it to collect dust—regardless, he likely would not have attracted much interest in doing so. But now, at the peak of their career, there is no sealing, no shelving for the constituents of The Chainsmokers. Pop cultural news sources all wield their own box cutters, and the world longs to look inside the gaping cardboard mouths once unsealed.
Photo credit: Ian West/Getty