Archives For The Chainsmokers

On Sunday I covered my fifth consecutive Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas. I also acted as the on-stage warm-up act, hyping and prompting the crowd before the show and during commercial breaks, for my fourth year. Here are some news and notes from my perspective both on the Magenta Carpet and backstage.

– Any artist that actually stopped and did media on the carpet should get some type of award. The temperatures outside T-Mobile Arena were near triple digits. It was so hot outside that inside they actually blasted the air conditioning during rehearsals. Perhaps it was a nice way to test how cold the venue can become ahead of it receiving an NHL franchise?

– I brought a change of dress shirts to account for the weather. Almost everything I wore in both outfits came from my favorite designer, John Varvatos. The tuxedo pants were H&M and my flower and pocket square were both from TheTieBar.com.

– I’d hate to say I called it but… I called it. Celine Dion stole the show at the BBMAs. I had chills listening to 18,000 inside T-Mobile Arena sing-a-long to “My heart Will Go On.” Celine is beloved as an icon, her voice is still impeccable, the movie is adored and the song as of late has gained new life as a meme of sorts. It was one my second-favorite moment from Sunday night.

– Great running in to Dan Kanter backstage. I first met Dan in 2009 inside The Mall at Steamtown in Scranton; at the time he was playing guitar for this new artist… maybe you’ve heard of him… Justin Bieber? Kanter is Bieber’s musical director and assumed similar duties for Julia Michaels’ performance of “Issues” – which I was a big fan of.

– That Rachel Platten “La La Land” adlib was just that – it was not in the teleprompter. I got a kick out of it.

– Something I really loved about this year’s show is that the stars really seemed to be enjoying themselves. You had Young Money – Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Drake – front and center both literally and figuratively for the entire show. Instead of acting too cool for the room they decided to simply join in on the party. With Drake setting the new single-night record for awards, they had plenty to celebrate.

– One of my favorite backstage moments came when BK and Tyler from Florida Georgia Line walked off stage after accepting the BBMA for “Top Country Song.” The duo embraced, let out a Ric Flair-like “Woo!” and said to each other, “Man that never gets old!” Nice to see a genuine moment of gratitude between the two.

– Another cool backstage interaction involved Diddy, who was about to pay tribute to The Notorious B.I.G. and reveal the trailer for the new Bad Boy movie “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop.” The Chainsmokers were walking off the stage after accepting another award and Puff gave them a standing O before chatting with Alex and Drew for a few minutes. That’d be a fun collaboration right?

– Give credit to Vanessa Hudgens for holding her own on national TV and to Ludacris for once again making the whole hosting gig appear way easier than it actually is.

– Some other familiar faces that said hello backstage: Chris Daughtry, Miss America Savvy Shields, Mark Cuban and Hailee Steinfeld.

– I mentioned my second-favorite moment but not the one that tops the list. That honor belongs to my Mom. She was in the crowd cheering on her son while putting the video camera on her new-er iPhone to good use. I am thankful I was able to share the night with her.

She started her career by teaming up with Semi Precious Weapons lead singer Justin Tranter and writing big hits for Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and Hailee Steinfeld to name a few. But since deciding to keep the song “Issues” for herself and become an artist, Julia Michaels has gotten to experience a whole new side of the music industry.

On Monday morning, she had the chance to check another box off the list: live TV. Michaels’ first time in front of the camera without the safety net of a pre-tape came on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” She and Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz revealed nominations for the 2017 Billboard Music Awards.

“A little nerve-wracking, I’m not going to lie,” Michaels told me of the experience backstage at GMA’s Times Square studios. “I have really bad performance anxiety. Apparently I can’t even talk without getting nervous!”

Michaels was thankful to have Wentz there though, a seasoned-pro at these things, to help her along. Despite Tranter penning FOB’s “Centuries,” it was the first time the two artists had met.

“He’s really calm,” she noted. “Super nice guy!”

Speaking of the nominations, The Chainsmokers and Drake took home the most, ever. Both acts tied the single-show nod record at 22 apiece. Twenty One Pilots checked in next on the list with 17, followed by Rihanna’s 14.

As for the aforementioned Bieber, he grabbed 7 – an impressive number considering the “Purpose” album cycle is finished. Michaels contributed to that LP; most notably co-writing “Sorry.”

“It was awesome,” Michaels said of her experience working on the album. “Actually, one of my favorite songs that I’ve written is a song called ‘The Feeling.’

“I wrote that after a break-up and I was talking to one of my friends, and I was just hysterically crying. And he was like, ‘OK, were you actually in love with him or were you in love with the feeling of being in love with him?’”

Immediately, the light bulb went off for Michaels. The song was co-produced by Skrillex and features singer Halsey, who coincidentally also scored 7 BBMA nods.

As for Michaels’ solo project, the singer is still pretty happy she made the decision to release the super-personal song “Issues” with her own voice. Michaels recently released the music video for the single and tells me that while originally thinking it would be followed by an EP, she may now opt for a full-length album because of the amount of writing she has done.

And yes, she’ll be at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards, which air Sunday night, May 21 at 8 pm live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Harry Styles just dropped his new single, a throwback that recalls British artists of yesteryear entitled “Sign Of The Times.” He’ll perform it next weekend on “Saturday Night Live.”

I jokingly asked Michael Che, the SNL star who co-anchors the “Weekend Update” desk, if he is receiving any extra ticket requests due to the One Directioner’s forthcoming appearance.

“Well I’ll be honest with you, most of my family are African-American, so they’re not huge Harry Styles fans believe it or not,” the comedian quipped back. “There might be some!

“Nobody’s hit me up yet. It’s not like Drake!”

Che walked the red carpet at The Garden Of Laughs comedy show benefiting Madison Square Garden’s Garden Of Dreams Foundation. He thought it was important to support ‘SNL’ cast-mate Leslie Jones along with some of his other friends, like Chris Rock and Tracy Morgan.

“Typically on a Tuesday we would be in the middle of writing and we wouldn’t come up for air until Wednesday, sometime in the daytime,” Che explained of the typical schedule during a show week. “SNL” had last week off; it returns this weekend with host Louis C.K. and musical guests The Chainsmokers. Jimmy Fallon takes over hosting duties next Saturday, when Styles is set to perform.

As for Che, he will tour behind his Netflix special “Michael Che Matters” this June, with the trek’s first stop in Boston. Some New Englanders weren’t exactly thrilled earlier this year when during a “Weekend Tonight” segment about the Super Bowl, the comedian referred to Boston as “the most racist city I’ve ever been to.”

“You know what’s so funny? I have so much fun in Boston as far as performing shows,” Che told me. “I love performing in Boston.”

Just two weeks ago he headlined a show at Boston University and according to the Boston Globe, refused to apologize for his remarks because, “I’m just trying to be more presidential.”

Ironically, you could call that a sign of the times too.

It is impossible to look back on pop music in 2016 and not talk about The Chainsmokers. Alex Pall and Drew Taggart created two of the year’s biggest hits: the infectious “Don’t Let Me Down” that features 18 year-old Daya and “Closer,” an inescapable duet that Halsey assists on. “Don’t Let Me Down” was the most spun track on pop radio this year and using that particular metric, also the song of the summer. “Closer” spent 12 weeks atop both the Billboard Hot 100 and pop radio airplay charts. Combined with “Roses,” a song that they enlisted an artist named Rozes to sing, the duo sold 10 million singles in the U.S. alone.

Those songs helped The Chainsmokers score an American Music Award in 2016 and three GRAMMY nominations for the award show this February, including Best New Artist.

But as improbable as the DJs success may be (even Pall and Taggart admit they wouldn’t have settled on “The Chainsmokers” had they realized their staying power), what is crazier is that the group’s first two singles are all-but-forgotten about: the novelty track’s “#SELFIE” and “Kanye.”

“’Closer’ wasn’t their first hit,” is the response I received from Jake Miller, a friend of Pall and Taggart’s, recently when I brought up how impressed I was that they were able to shift from tongue-in-cheek records to the highly-coveted lane of radio-friendly pop music. I reminded him that “#SELFIE” was guys’ first single.

“It’s funny you say that because I don’t even think of them for that song,” Miller continued – a sentiment that many probably share and that certainly speaks to how massive the subsequent singles have been. “I honestly completely forgot they did that song.”

For The Chainsmokers, that might be a good thing. Nonetheless, the guys still don’t seem to be taking themselves too seriously.

“We go in with like, low expectations… very low expectations,” Taggart told me before the artists performed “Closer” and won “Favorite Electronic/Dance Music Artist” at the AMAs. “But regardless to be a part of the pop community now and have our work recognized is awesome.”

And the DJs aren’t slowing down anytime soon. Pall and Taggart just dropped a music video for “Setting Fires” off of their EP “Collage.” The duo is also back in the studio creating new music.

“I think the stuff we’re working on now we’re most excited about,” Pall said. “I don’t know if that’s because it’s newest, but it just feels different and exciting. We’re pumped about it.”

The Chainsmokers recently posted on Snapchat a clip of them in the studio with Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin, an experience that Taggart characterized as “crazy” because the guys grew up listening to his band.

“I think a lot of the music that’s already been out from us is heavily-inspired by Coldplay, especially the emotion that Coldplay has; that melancholy, bitter-sweet emotion that they get in all their songs,” he explained.

Taggart explained that his first goal was to “be cool” and attempt to catch a vibe with the lead singer. Neither man would reveal if they were working on a Chainsmokers project or something for Coldplay’s future (the band recently revealed that an EP was on the way after 2017), but Pall promised that whatever they’re working on, it’s “dope.”

Given the duo’s track record, I’ll take their word for it.

For our second and final day inside Westwood One’s Backstage at the 2016 American Music Awards, we chatted with a bunch of stars, including a few performers for Sunday night’s AMAs. John Legend reminisced about his time as a church choir director in Scranton and revealed his Thanksgiving plans, The Chainsmokers talked about working in the studio with Coldplay’s Chris Martin and former “Glee” star Jane Lynch popped by to explain why she released a Christmas album. More photos, videos and audio interviews below.





Just 11 months ago, Daya’s parents were pushing her to apply to college, just in-case this whole singing career didn’t pan out.

Fast forward to October 2016, just a few weeks shy of her 18th birthday, and suffice to say the artist will be deferring.

“I did apply last year,” Daya, nee Grace Tandon, told me last weekend after opening for Fergie inside Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Arena. “It was just kind of a back-up and my parents wanted me to, blah-blah-blah.”

Daya’s older sister attends Brown University in Rhode Island. And the “Hide Away” songstress doesn’t rule out an eventual return to the classroom, but at the moment that certainly isn’t necessary. In less than a year, the Pittsburgh-born singer has scored two top 10 hits at pop radio as a title artist.
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But without question her biggest song to-date is the contribution she made to The Chainsmokers’ “Don’t Let Me Down,” a song that grabbed Daya her first ever American Music Award nomination for “Best Collaboration.” “Don’t Let Me Down” also ended up accumulating the most spins of any single this past summer at pop radio.

“That’s crazy! That’s just so wild!” a clearly excited Daya replied when I informed her of that fact. “I didn’t know that it would be that big. I mean, I knew that it was a great song and I was so happy to collaborate with them on it because they’re awesome but you never know with radio.”

Daya is certainly becoming more familiar with the airwaves though. Her latest hit is the title track from her debut album, “Sit Still, Look Pretty.”

“(The song) was always special to me,” she said. “It just kind of felt natural for me to name the album ‘Sit Still, Look Pretty,’ and I think that’s kind of what I want my brand to be as young female artist in this industry; don’t let people limit you in what you can do.”

After all, it’s not like Daya was born in Los Angeles or New York. She grew up in Pittsburgh and the man who executive produced her album, Gino Barletta, is from Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

“This is our baby together that we just created over this past year and a weight feels lifted off of all of our shoulders,” she noted. “We’ve all just helped each other out. We all work hard and are passionate and good things are happening.”

And if they keep that up, who knows what the next 11 months could have in store.

By Ralphie Aversa


Charlie Puth confirmed to me that the “Nine Track Mind” album cycle is finished but he stopped short of saying that he wouldn’t be a part of any other new music before year’s end.

“We filmed a video for ‘Dangerously’ just as like a fan thank you,” he revealed. “Yunno, thanks for this amazing life-changing year; here’s a really cool video for a very popular song on the album.”

“Life-changing” is an apt way to describe Puth’s world since the release of “See You Again.” The Wiz Khalifa-fronted song, which served as the main single from the “Furious 7” soundtrack, went on to accumulate GRAMMY and Golden Globe nods while also racking up a billion plays on YouTube.
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Then you factor in Puth as a solo artist: three hit singles off a Gold-certified debut album with two U.S. tours in support of it.

“Kind of like a whirlwind,” is how Puth characterized the past year-and-a-half. “I went from literally having nobody know me to, yunno having five security guards around me when I walk around Times Square.”

The Rumson, New Jersey-native seems to enjoy the ride. Just a few nights prior to our chat, he played to a sold-out Beacon Theatre on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

“We shut down two streets!” he exclaimed, before chastising me over a tweet I sent about thankfully not grocery shopping that night. The venue is across from my neighborhood store, a Fairway.

“Saw your tweet; you were like, ‘I’m glad I didn’t go shopping!’” Puth repeated, while clearly amused before adding, “Don’t get it twisted. I read your tweets!”

The one consistent since I started interviewing Puth a year-ago is his demeanor: he takes his art seriously but certainly enjoys lightening up a bit too. Apparently, that doesn’t just occur during interviews either.

“I joke around with my boys The Chainsmokers all the time like, ‘When are we going to make a song where we can like, turn up to in Vegas with everybody and make a big party out of it?’” he told me. “I’ve written records with a lot of amazing, legendary artists, new and old, even in these past couple of months.

“So… that’s all I’m going to say.”