Is Paris (by The Chainsmokers) really the pinnacle of modern pop music? Okay, that’s a little grandiose of a claim. First of all, what do I mean by “pop music”? In recent years, with the polarization of culture, pop music has fractured and branched out in multiple directions. Paris heads up a newer branch that I call “minimalist soft pop” because of its distinctive soft tones, muted vocals, and stripped-down instrumentals. The duo only uses a keyboard, a guitar, and a collection of synthesizers to make their music.
Minimalist soft pop is a new phenomenon that evolved from a melding of two genres: indie rock/pop and EDM. Before their recent hits such as Paris and Closer, The Chainsmokers were responsible for such offbeat, electropop as 2014’s #Selfie (which I personally cannot stand). However, their style has evolved. Paris builds on the success and techniques of such songs as Love Yourself by Justin Bieber and Royals by Lorde, taking the genre to new heights.
So, what makes Paris so special? The melody is haunting, but it isn’t that different from other recent hits. The secret is in the lyrical storytelling. Paris opens with a bold statement: We were staying in Paris. However, as the song goes on, you slowly get the realization that “Paris” isn’t an actual place; it’s really a state of mind, an escape from everyday life. The lyrics tell the story of a young couple desperate to escape from their parents and from the world. The delightfully addictive hook begins with the lyric, If we go down, then we go down together. Songwriter Emily Warren joins in the chorus, providing a counterpoint to Drew Taggart’s deeper voice.
The lyrics, combined with the symmetry of the two unison voices on the chorus, becomes an extremely singable hit that is currently #16 on the charts. (Fun fact: another Chainsmokers song, Something Just Like This, is #1.) But what I believe to be the key to the success of Paris is how it holds back. It’s full of emotion, yet the vocals aren’t overstated. The chorus is so catchy, yet you only get to hear it a couple of times throughout the song. All these elements come together in a perfect storm that is bingeworthy and surprisingly deep.