We didn’t see this year coming, but we heard it from all sides. In Signal & Noise 2016, you’ll find the way we made sense out of all of that sound.
The Chainsmokers' "Closer" arrived a bit late for Song of the Summer consideration, 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 haven't even released a full-length record yet, 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 (n)ever wanted to know about "Closer," the good and the bad.
June 25, 2015: The Chainsmokers tease a Halsey collab
HIGH: 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
HIGH: 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: "Closer" officially drops
HIGH: 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 hooking up with an ex even though you know you'll regret it.
August 28: MTV Video Music Awards performance
HIGH: Speaking of PDAs, Taggart and Halsey get THISCLOSE to making out halfway through their steamy VMAs performance. It's their second time playing at Madison Square Garden, as The Chainsmokers make 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: The Fray get a retroactive songwriting credit
HIGH: 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: "Closer" hits No. 1
September 6: "Closer" gets a meme
HIGH: 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: "Closer" goes platinum
HIGH: 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: The Chainsmokers land Billboard's cover
HIGH: 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?
LOW: 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: Taggart reveals the Blink-182 songs in "Closer"
HIGH: 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: The Chainsmokers criticize Lady Gaga
October 18: Taggart's Twitter is "hacked" after Halsey supports Gaga
HIGH: 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.
LOW: 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: The "Closer" music video drops
November 13: Sarah Hyland and Boyce Avenue cover "Closer"
November 14: 'Closer' drops to No. 2
November 20: American Music Awards performance
HIGH: 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: Halsey loves her "dumb bald head"
LOW: 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?
November 25: Halsey defends Taggart
HIGH: 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: Trump (kind of) sings "Closer"
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: 'Closer' gets a Grammy nomination
HIGH: A glowing Grammy nom tops off The Chainsmokers and Halsey's insane 2016. "Closer" is up 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 are also vying for Best New Artist.
But whatever happens at the awards show in February, nothing can change this cold, hard fact: Once "Closer" gets stuck in your head, it never leaves.
Check out more from the year in music, culture, politics, and style in Signal & Noise 2016.