2016 No. 1s: The Chainsmokers on Their 'Not Typical Pop Voice' Topping the Charts

Steve Schofield
Joel Klaiman [executive vp/GM, ­Columbia], Alex Pall, Drew Taggert, Adam Alpert [manager; CEO, Disruptor] photographed on Nov. 21 at 1 OAK  in West Hollywood.

“Closer” -- Billboard Hot 100 (12 weeks), Hot Dance/Electronic Songs (13 weeks)


The Chainsmokers, Billboard’s top dance/electronic artists of 2016, and Grammy nominees, pride themselves on being one step ahead. For duo Alex Pall, 31, and Drew Taggart, 26, that meant thinking beyond the kitsch of 2014’s “#Selfie” and “Kanye,” two hits that threatened to make them a novelty act, and changing course in 2015 toward more pop-inflected EDM. It yielded immediate returns: “Roses” (featuring Rozes) and “Don’t Let Me Down” (featuring Daya) became top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 -- the product of a see-what-sticks approach. But even those paled in comparison to the inescapable “Closer” (featuring Halsey), which shot to No. 1 on the Hot 100, where it stayed for 12 straight weeks, just four short of Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s record-holding “One Sweet Day.” “We were over making 128 BPM dance music,” says Taggart. “It felt stale to us. It wasn’t fun anymore.”

ADAM ALPERT (manager; CEO, Disruptor):
We put out a song every month to see which one reacted more than others. “Roses” raised its hand, and all our friends at Sony and Columbia shared in that excitement.

JOEL KLAIMAN (executive vp/GM, ­Columbia​):
We just knew there was something special about [“Closer”]. The one thing that stands out, from the Columbia perspective, is the instinct that Drew and Alex have, and Adam as well. That instinct, combined with our global scale. Total world domination.

PALL:
We were toying with the idea of [“Closer”] as a duet. Drew initially had sung the whole song, and it sounded awesome. But with a duet, it becomes more of a conversation than a confession.

TAGGART:
I’m not really a singer. I guess I am now. My voice is, I’m a dude just talking to you. I’m not a typical pop voice. We decided to roll with it, and it worked.

PALL:
[When it stayed at No. 1], we couldn’t believe it. We had talked about how high we were going to get and we had never had a Hot 100 No. 1, and then it was boom, you’re No. 1. Whoa.

The Chainsmokers share the story of making the "Closer" beat "in the back of a tour bus at 3 a.m." Klaiman and Alpert recall their initial reactions to the song. 

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 17 issue of Billboard. 

Billboard Year in Music 2016

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