I had just turned on my hit list Pandora station, doing my monthly inventory of pop music before I dive back into my comfort zone of The Smiths and New Order, when I first heard it – an obnoxious, whiny female voice needlessly lamenting over social media, laid over an unremarkable trance track. #SELFIE by The Chainsmokers. I had actually stopped what I was doing so I could listen incredulously to the ridiculousness that was playing through my speakers. This couldn’t be serious, and yet, there it was on the radio. More disturbingly was that it was actually in the top 40 of the music charts. Upon further listening, as the song soon became unavoidable, I seriously began debating what the motivation for creating this song was. Are The Chainsmokers trying to make a comedic statement on the growing dependence on social media to maintain a platonic or romantic relationship? Or, the more terrifying alternative, are they simply relaying the actual usage of this technology?
Unfortunately, while I do see the song as largely satirical given the hyperbolic references to the club atmosphere, there is definitely some truth in the monologue of the song. On a recent trip to Necto nightclub in downtown Ann Arbor, I spotted a group of girls who seemed more interested in taking pictures than in actually dancing. And they weren’t alone; the majority of the flashing lights on the dance floor weren’t from the stage lighting, instead from the flashes of countless smartphones capturing a rather mundane moment of their owner’s life history. The references to slang like ‘ratchet’ and to the absurd importance of Instagram also reflect the current cultural norms. And since the song does capture such inflated significance, and since it rubbed me and probably others the wrong way, what does that say about our social media usage?
From a musical standpoint, completely removed from the social connotations, it is still hard to discern if this is a satirical statement. The music itself is dance-based, a thudding club anthem, much like what has taken over the charts as of late. But when coupled with these socially aware and slightly mocking lyrics, it becomes very difficult to remove the song from the potential satire. It is possible that The Chainsmokers are simply hopping onto a cultural bandwagon in order to voice a preoccupied and immature generation rather than making a social statement. However, the fact that the song exists and is doing so well does in fact make that statement. And I for one am not looking forward to being a part of a generation that this song represents.
Written by S. Elyse Schultz