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The Ups And Downs Of The Chainsmokers’ 'Closer'

Breaking down their inescapable hit song with Halsey

The Chainsmokers' VMA-nominated "Closer" arrived a bit late for Song of the Summer consideration in 2016, but if Song of the Autumn were a thing, it would surely win that honor. From September to November 2016, the electropop duet with Halsey reigned over Billboard's Hot 100 chart, making it the season's most popular hit.

As the track blew up, so did Drew Taggart and Alex Pall, the DJs behind the EDM duo. They hadn't even released their full-length record at the time, but their songs — "Don't Let Me Down" with Daya, "Roses" with Rozes — are impossible to miss, whether you're dancing at a club or listening to the radio.

But The Chainsmokers' rise to pop fame — with Halsey playing a starring role — has been bumpy. Success comes with strings attached: high-profile interviews, highly scrutinized public personas, and intimidating live performances. Let's dive into everything you could ever want to know about "Closer," which is nominated twice at the upcoming 2017 MTV Video Music Awards.

  • June 25, 2015: The Chainsmokers tease a Halsey collab

    UP: The "Closer" phenomenon starts in summer 2015, when The Chainsmokers share this snap with Halsey. "This one's gonna be big," they tease. Little do they know just how huge it becomes.

    At the time, Halsey is an up-and-coming artist riding the success of her breakout single, "Ghost," after gaining a solid Tumblr following. She releases her debut album, Badlands, a few months later and shaves off her signature blue hair.

    Meanwhile, The Chainsmokers are beginning to make a name for themselves with "#Selfie" and "Kanye." They haven't fully broken into mainstream music, but all of that changes in 2016.

  • June 10, 2016: They preview "Closer" at Bonnaroo

    UP: One year later, Halsey joins The Chainsmokers at Bonnaroo to preview their new song. Taggart has never sung lead vocals before, but "Closer" brings him out from behind the DJ booth.

  • July 29, 2016: "Closer" officially drops

    UP: The Chainsmokers release "Closer" with a swoon-worthy lyric video that makes anyone who's self-conscious about PDAs cringe. After all, the song's about reconnecting with an ex.

  • August 28, 2016: MTV Video Music Awards performance

    UP: Speaking of PDAs, Taggart and Halsey get THISCLOSE to making out halfway through their steamy VMA performance. It's their second time playing at Madison Square Garden, as The Chainsmokers made a surprise appearance during Halsey's sold-out Badlands tour at the stadium two weeks prior.

    "I was nervous," Taggart later confesses about singing live. "The curtain came up. Fuck. I forgot everything I practiced. I wasn't ready for it, but that's life. Life throws you into situations you aren't prepared for and you have to figure them out."

  • September 1, 2016: The Fray get a retroactive songwriting credit

    UP: Somewhere along the way, The Chainsmokers quietly add Joe King — The Fray's guitarist — to the tune's songwriting credits. The main notes in "Closer" mirror those in "Over My Head (Cable Car)," so presumably the addition is made to avoid a lawsuit. Props to them for giving credit where credit is due.

    "You deserve every bit of this success," King writes in a message to The Chainsmokers and Halsey. "Keep helping the world dance it out."

  • September 3, 2016: "Closer" hits No. 1

    UP: The first week of September, "Closer" leaps from No. 6 to No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, dethroning Sia's "Cheap Thrills" as the most popular song in the country. The song rules the chart for 12 weeks.

  • September 6, 2016: "Closer" gets a meme

    UP: You know you've made it when a rando posts a meme about you. Despite how overplayed "Closer" is, someone runs the calculations for this joke and discovers you wouldn't be able to afford a new Range Rover even if you listened to the song nonstop since its release. Perhaps a used model would be more affordable?

  • September 7, 2016: "Closer" goes platinum

    UP: The Chainsmokers snap Halsey's shocked reaction when they tell her they've gone platinum. "Shut the fuck up. Already?" Halsey cheers, giving Taggart a high-five. (It eventually goes 4x platinum. Casual.)

  • September 15, 2016: The Chainsmokers land a Billboard cover

    UP: The DJs keep it real in their Billboard cover story, which is an accomplishment alone. Fun fact: Taggart reveals that despite their name, he's never actually smoked a cigarette in real life. Who would've thought?

    DOWN: They may have kept it too real, however. "Even before success, pussy was number one," Pall tells Billboard. "Like, 'Why am I trying to make all this money?' I wanted to hook up with hotter girls. I had to date a model." Yikes.

    Understandably, this statement causes some controversy. The Chainsmokers respond by saying the quote was "misinterpreted" and "taken out of context."

  • September 19, 2016: Taggart reveals the Blink-182 songs referenced in "Closer"

    UP: Both The Chainsmokers and Halsey are longtime Blink fans, so it's no wonder they shout out the band in "Closer." Taggart initially says "Feeling This" is the song they "beat to death in Tucson," but it also might be "I Miss You."

    "Honestly I've listened to their self-titled album so many times the whole thing is pretty much beat," Taggart tweets.

  • October 11, 2016: The Chainsmokers criticize Lady Gaga

    DOWN: Continuing their streak of brutal honesty, The Chainsmokers hold nothing back in their Rolling Stone interview. When asked about Lady Gaga's "Perfect Illusion," Pall's response is short and not-so-sweet: "It sucks."

  • October 18, 2016: Taggart's Twitter is "hacked" after Halsey supports Gaga

    UP: When Lady Gaga releases her next Joanne track, "A-YO," she asks The Chainsmokers if they like this one better. They reply "RESPECT" with the hand praise emoji, a classy response to end this beef. The same day, Halsey — a Little Monster herself — gushes about Gaga in the tweet above. Everything is just peachy.

    DOWN: Then an eagle-eyed fan spots a way harsh tweet from Taggart. "Fuck you bald bitch," he replies to Halsey's glowing Gaga comments. The tweet is immediately deleted, but screenshots are forever.

    Taggart's explanation? "Guys calm down my account was hacked. I would NEVER tweet anything like that to one of my friends." Fans are livid, to put it mildly.

  • October 24, 2016: The "Closer" music video drops

    UP: The "Closer" music video, which stars Taggart and Halsey as exes who rekindle their flame, arrives months after the song's release. Despite the delay, at least this video includes all of the song's artists, unlike several VMA-nominated vids.

  • November 13, 2016: Sarah Hyland and Boyce Avenue cover "Closer"

    UP: Modern Family star Sarah Hyland teams up with Boyce Avenue for a "Closer" cover that would make the Dunphys proud.

    "She did better than me!" Halsey raves to TMZ about the clip. The Chainsmokers give it a thumbs-up, too.

  • November 14, 2016: "Closer" drops to No. 2

    DOWN: After 12 weeks atop the Hot 100, "Closer" finally falls to No. 2. Rae Sremmurd's "Black Beatles," the viral Mannequin Challenge anthem, edges into first place.

  • November 20, 2016: American Music Awards performance
    Jeff Kravitz/AMA2016/FilmMagic

    UP: At the end of their second awards-show gig, Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker surprises the audience with a show-stopping solo. The Chainsmokers also take home the AMA for Favorite EDM Artist, beating out Calvis Harris and Major Lazer.

    "Thank you for being a part of this night with us," The Chainsmokers tweet Barker after the show. "You're a legend and wouldn't even know where to begin how grateful we [are]."

  • November 20, 2016: Halsey loves her "dumb bald head"

    DOWN: Halsey Instagrams three AMA photos after her performance. The first two are red-carpet pics, one captioned, "I love my dumb bald head." The last is a photo of her and Lady Gaga hugging. Could this be Halsey's subtle way of shading The Chainsmokers for their alleged "fuck you bald bitch" comment?

    UP: Fans certainly thought so. After realizing her Instas could be interpreted as shots at Taggart, Halsey clears things up. "Drew got hacked. He's the homie and so respectful of me," she writes.

  • November 28, 2016: Trump (kind of) sings "Closer"

    DOWN: To The Chainsmokers and Halsey's horror, a YouTuber mashes up clips of President Donald Trump to the tune of "Closer." The result is hilarious yet really, really disturbing.

    "I don't think I wanna be alive anymore," Halsey tweets after seeing the viral video. "Oh gawd," Taggart agrees.

    They're equally appalled when rogue rumors surface about performing at Trump's inauguration. The Chainsmokers don't say much about the election publicly, but Halsey takes a social media break until she doesn't feel "terrified" anymore.

  • December 6, 2016: "Closer" gets a Grammy nomination
    Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

    UP: A glowing Grammy nom tops off The Chainsmokers and Halsey's insane 2016. "Closer" gets nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, alongside Rihanna and Drake's "Work," Sia and Sean Paul's "Cheap Thrills," Twenty One Pilots' "Stressed Out," and Lukas Graham's "7 Years." The Chainsmokers also vie for Best New Artist, and they end up taking home the Best Dance Recording award for "Don't Let Me Down."

  • March 4, 2017: Wiz Khalifa remixes "Closer"

    UP: Wiz Khalifa puts his own unique spin on "Closer," adding a hip-hop touch and 420-friendly lyrics to the song. Listen to his full remix on SoundCloud.

  • May 20, 2017: "Closer" hits a billion Spotify streams

    UP: Though Twenty One Pilots' "Stressed Out" ultimately beats "Closer" at the Grammys, The Chainsmokers and Halsey celebrate a different win in 2017. "Closer" racks up an impressive 1 billion — yes, billion — streams on Spotify. It's the second song, behind Drake's "One Dance," to achieve this feat.

  • June 28, 2017: Camila Cabello reveals she almost sang "Closer"

    UP: After a "Closer" demo featuring Camila Cabello's voice leaks, fans speculate that Halsey's part originally belonged to the "OMG" singer. In an interview with The Elvis Duran Morning Show, Cabello — who left Fifth Harmony in December 2016 — explains that she was offered the collab, but she turned it down due to 5H commitments.

  • July 25, 2017: "Closer" snags two VMA nominations

    UP: Following their 2016 VMA performance, The Chainsmokers and Halsey bring things full circle by earning two nominations at this year's big show. "Closer" is up for Best Collaboration and Best Editing. The competition is fierce, but whatever happens, nothing can change this cold, hard fact: Once "Closer" gets stuck in your head, it never leaves.

The 2017 VMAs touch down at the Forum in Inglewood, California, on Sunday, August 27 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. See the full list of nominees and vote for Best New Artist now!