So, what makes "Closer" so special?
More than anything, "Closer" feels like the culmination of the Chainsmokers' careful, market-savvy beta-testing. The duo's biggest hits combine vaguely house-like dance-music textures with proven pop structure, mining Grey's Anatomy-style pathos from lyrics about tentative hotel-bar flirtations, fumbled hookups, and wounded feelings. They're designed to be recognizable. (In fact, "Closer" sounded so much like The Fray's "Over My Head (Cable Car)" that the Denver rock band was retroactively given a songwriting credit.)
Because of its verse-trading male-female vocal parts and tone of delicate despair, "Closer" reminded me of Gotye and Kimbra's "Somebody That I Used to Know" and Peter Bjorn & John's "Young Folks" when I first heard it. Depending on when you spent the largest portion of your life in a shopping mall, your reference points may vary.
Of the Chainsmokers' mainstream hits, "Closer" is the most emotionally palpable banger. With lyrics about cities like Boulder and Tucson, the softly murmured words have a specific sense of place that helps them rise above the din of your friend's generic tropical-house Spotify playlist. In the second verse, Halsey name-checks Blink-182, which should hit the nostalgia sweet spot for "I just bought a Chemex" millennials pining for their pop-punk youth. Plus, Taggart's delivery of "Baby, pull me closer in the backseat of your Rover" might be the most conspicuous SUV shout-out since Nelly's "Ride Wit Me." Unlike the drop-obsessed euphoria of first-wave pop-dubstep pioneers, the song's default mode is both carnal and crestfallen.
Even if you're a dance-music novice who doesn't know Tiësto from Diplo, it's easy to get pulled into the blandly chill orbit of "Closer." While writing this story, I listened to the song dozens of times on repeat, and I still bob my head when it hits that chintzy, wordless chorus. The video, with its steamy but tasteful Undressed-core visuals, recalls Justin Bieber's "What Do You Mean?" minus its action-movie beats, skateboarding interlude, and John Leguizamo cameo. As a song, it's as unobtrusive as a screensaver. As a marker of where pop music might be headed in the next few years, it's a mildly unnerving bellwether.