In the dance music world, nobody pays attention to their audience quite like The Chainsmokers.
On December 30, while closing out a huge and crazy year with a show at the Los Angeles Convention Center, the New York duo brought a very unconventional guest act to the stage—the Backstreet Boys.
You can get the full effect thanks to YouTube. A girl shrieks when the boy band appears, and you have to wonder if she’s even old enough to know the words to 1999’s “I Want It That Way.” BSB also cranked out “Larger Than Life” and “Backstreet’s Back” before jumping on the DJ booth with their humble hosts—Alex Pall, 31, and Andrew Taggart, 27—to bounce to a short clip from The Chainsmokers’ smash “Roses.”
The 720,000-square-foot LACC would qualify as The Chainsmokers biggest show ever, but every big new show is their biggest show ever. The second time Taggart ever sang live for an audience—“Closer” with Halsey—he did so at September’s MTV Video Music Awards.
Neither event was a spontaneous musical moment, and that magic touch isn’t accidental. Just as Pall and Taggart knew that girl would lose her mind if they brought Backstreet back, The Chainsmokers have quickly become one of the top pop acts in the world—and the most in-demand nightclub act in Las Vegas—by understanding their fans.
On Tuesday, Wynn Nightlife announced that The Chainsmokers have signed on to an exclusive three-year residency at XS Nightclub and Encore Beach Club, a thoughtful move every bit as considered as their music.
“We know every metric about our music. About our shows. We read every tweet. Every comment on Instagram and Facebook. We see everything,” Taggart told Billboard in September, explaining The Chainsmokers’ swift rise to the top of the dance charts and impressive mainstream-pop crossover. They were bigger than Calvin Harris last year; only Drake and Justin Bieber notched more Top 10 hits.
How do they do it? Their songs are upbeat but midtempo, familiar yet hard to classify in the dance world. Lyrics are sentimental and autobiographical, elements you hear more from indie rock bands than in club genres like EDM and hip-hop. They work on songs, not albums, and they work at their own pace, often previewing sounds on social media so they can adjust to their fans’ reactions. Their hits feature distinct female vocals from up-and-coming artists. Fun fact: Both Daya (“Don’t Let Me Down”) and Rozes (“Roses”) performed at Wynn’s Intrigue this year. The newest club on the Strip kept finding ways for Chainsmokers tracks to be performed live without The Chainsmokers. Not a problem anymore.
Live, Pall and Taggart are good-time guys, kinda like the frat bros you know from college, only famous. It’s obvious how much they enjoy what they’re doing, reminiscent of a set by Steve Aoki, who released the wacky 2013 single “#Selfie” that put The Chainsmokers on the map via his label, Dim Mak. DJs don’t come more approachable, and no DJ has more big hits right now.
But The Chainsmokers aren’t really DJs. Songwriters and producers, absolutely. Pop stars? They have a different kind of talent than that label suggests. But if they’re more than DJs, maybe they should be considered for the trendy title of “Vegas resident performers,” just like their buddies in Backstreet.