Review: The Chainsmokers’ ‘Memories… Do Not Open’

By Madyson McGill

Admittedly, when I think about not opening memories, the first thing that comes to mind is not the new Chainsmokers album, Memories Do Not Open. However, the title does make one ponder what memories they don’t want to open back up. In my personal experience, I can think of a few. I won’t bore you with by sharing these, because this isn’t about you reading about my pain. However, this album is about a person on the outside reviewing someone else’s memories.

The Chainsmokers open their memories, or let’s at least assume they are their own. I wouldn’t know; I don’t know them personally, but from what I’ve heard, it sounds personal. The first song, “The One,” paints a dreamy, picturesque scene kind of like the one featured on the cover of the album. The traditional piano, the sound of rain, and the static from a record or stereo set the scene. The steady beat lines up rhythmically with Drew Taggart’s voice as he reflects back on a strained relationship. What really sets this song apart is the realness in Taggart’s voice as he says that he’s sorry. It’s like he’s really apologizing, and maybe he is. This track is vulnerable and wholesome and travels along with me as I reflect on my own experiences and compare. We all have those songs we connect with on a personal level that triggers memories we’d rather forget. For me, this is one of those songs.

They do a complete 180 with the next song, “Break Up Every Night.” Here I am in my serenity coming down from the first track and then WHAM! Like getting hit by a truck, I’m thrown into the next track and jolted away. The song is upbeat and fast paced. Although I like this song, nothing really stands out about it to me; it seems like a standard catchy Chainsmokers song. However, its catchy beat and singable lyrics do make me want to dance along in my seat as I forget about my worries.

Next, we’re back to a more stripped down song with “Bloodstream.” It starts up slow with a simple piano building into their usual, machine-generated sound. However, the instruments don’t much matter as much as the message of acceptance does. What I love about this song are the lyrics: “I meant it, I really f***ing meant it.” How many times have you meant what you said? Sometimes what you said may have been outrageous, a bit out there, or maybe a bit cliched, but you meant it. Raise your hand, because I know have. It’s not just that part of the song that resonates with me though. It is also here:

I gave up three times this week
Went through those feelings
Like I wasn’t worth nothing
I thought I can shake this off
No, I can’t be this soft
I’m f***ed up, I’m faded
I’m so complicated
Those things that I said
They were so overrated

At some point in my life, I’ve thought every single one of these things, and it’s comforting to know that I’m not alone. It might be too much to say that the Chainsmokers have nailed acceptance in general on the head, but I mean it when I say it: this track is a must listen.

Now I must say I’m surprised we have made it through the first three songs without a cover, but come on, it’s the Chainsmokers, so there’s going to be a cover in there somewhere. On this album, it’s “Don’t Say” featuring Emily Warren. I don’t have much to say on this track. It’s a solid Chainsmokers composition much like “Paris” and “Closer,” however this track doesn’t feature Drew’s vocals directly. Also, while the other tracks so far show a musical diversity compared to most Chainsmokers material, this once comes back to the sounds people associate the group with.

Next comes one of the hits from the radio, “Something Just Like This,” which features one of my favorite bands, Coldplay. I don’t mean to brag, but I can still play “Viva La Vida” on the flute… well, sort of. While I’m happy this song is on the album, and I absolutely love jamming out to it at stop lights like nobody is watching, it feels like a Coldplay song. I have a hard time associating it at all with the Chainsmokers besides when the beat drops. In fact, before I listened to the album, I thought it was a Coldplay song featuring the Chainsmokers. While I’m impressed that they got Coldplay on their album, the guest band kind of steals their thunder. Maybe Coldplay is only there as a buffer between Emily Warren tracks.

“My Type” is the song you hoist above your head with a boom box and play outside your crush’s window. It’s mellow and groovy in all the right places. The track stays classic and piano driven, building into the chorus. Emily Warren’s indie vocals express the lyrics of an addictive attraction in the best modern day 80’s movie way.

“It Won’t Kill Ya” has another piano based build from the beginning, and guest Louane has a familiar vocal presence. However, her vocals have more of a whimsical sound, as her voice builds in urgency and quickens in pace as she approaches the crescendo and the chorus. Once again, here’s a song about a relationship and wanting someone to stay. The subtleties are what really capture me: the slight French accent in Louane’s voice and click of the drumsticks sell the feeling of the song. It’s the mystery and intoxication of an attraction that doesn’t want to be let go. It’s kind of like how I didn’t want to let go of the female vocalists I discovered on this album.

However, Drew has to resurface eventually, and it is with “Paris,” which has rapidly replaced “Closer” as the Chainsmokers’ main hold on the radio hit chart. While I’ll never be able to fathom how the people in these songs are able to afford Rovers and spontaneous trips to Paris to get away from their parents, I still fall prey to cranking up the volume knob and singing horrifically to the radio with my windows down. Let’s be real, the Chainsmokers’ singles are undeniably catchy no matter how sick of them we get after a while.

I’m just being honest, much like the next track, “Honest.” In my opinion, all good tracks should begin with an inspiring quote; it sets up the track so perfectly. Drew Taggart is once again going solo, tying an emotional track to his personal life and relationship: “I don’t want to let you down/ What am I supposed to do?” The doubt here is relatable: it’s the feeling of being lost and stuck, but not wanting to break someone’s pride and faith in you. If only we were all this honest about how we felt.

The subject of “Wake Up Alone” could’ve taken a page from “Honest.” The track itself deals with the superficial people who only care about what a person owns instead of who the person is. While I’m not a big fan of the track myself, I understand that much. It has a nice unexpected breakdown at the end, but other than that I find the track to be rather annoying, with Jhene Aiko’s vocals and the repetitive musicality.

“Young” is much more my style, with a stripped down acoustic beginning that, yes, eventually builds into the Chainsmokers sound. It is a reminiscence on the past; they go making me drudge it up and think of past memories as they recite their own.  However, instead of making me focus on the bad, this makes me reflect on the good. I even feel a secret smile sneak its way onto my lips. For me, the track embodies the feeling of being young and invincible: you have the world at your feet. Life at that time is all about making memories instead of looking back on them. I call this track one of my favorites on the album, but stay with me because there’s still one more, which features a surprising appearance of country duo Florida Georgia Line.

Were you as surprised to see that band name as I was? While I would prefer Florida Georgia Line to stay in their country roots, “Last Day Alive” isn’t a terrible track. The track itself is also upbeat and catchy and celebrates a good day to be alive. Although there’s an underlying country twang in the vocals that I’m pleased didn’t get auto-tuned away, my only complaint is that the auto-tune is so obvious for much of the rest of the song. However, I can’t complain too much because I did thoroughly enjoy this trip down memory lane. It made me reflect, took my by surprise, even got a smile out of me, and makes for a fittingly good finish to the highly recommended Memories Do Not Open.

Rating: 4/5