EDM and the Selfie

The Chainsmokers’ “#Selfie”

Last year I thought selfie, the generous posting of one’s self-portrait on the Internet for all to admire, deserved to be word of the year. Thanks to a canceled flight, I now know I was wrong; 2013 was merely the prologue for the grander opening of selfie in 2014.

I learned this from a 24-year-old, Nathan Solow, a consultant driving to a flight back to Washington, who gave me a fast ride from SPI to ORD in his rental car when our flight was canceled. He was eager to get back to the nightlife in D.C., where his generation goes to clubs and dances to EDM like “#Selfie.”


As soon as I could, I looked at the links he provided, and now I can pretend to as much expertise on EDM and “#Selfie” as is possible for a member of a somewhat earlier generation.

EDM, it turns out, is Electronic dance music. It’s electronic, all right. And it’s made for dancing, with its fast, steady rhythm. But music?

Well, it doesn’t have musicians, or musical instruments, or singers. It’s produced not by live bands but by DJs, who mix rhythmic sounds to make something insistent to dance to. Not everyone calls it music, but it does get millennials dancing.

And its prime example is none other than the hit “#Selfie” (with the hashtag, of course), by two guys known as the Chainsmokers, first performed in January of this year.

“#Selfie” both celebrates and satirizes its subject. It’s a monologue spoken (not sung) to girlfriends at a club, by a girl who is concerned about what a potential boyfriend is doing. She sends selfies to get his attention, and she constantly seeks validation from her friends. The full effect requires the YouTube video, but the attitudes are clearly expressed in the lyrics:

“Let me take a selfie. … Can you guys help me pick a filter? … I wanna look tan.

“What should my caption be? I want it to be clever. How about ‘Livin’ with my bitches, #Liv.’

“I only got 10 likes in the last five minutes. Do you think I should take it down? Let me take another selfie.

“Wait, pause, Jason just liked my selfie. … Is that guy sleeping over there? Yeah, the one next to the girl with no shoes on. That’s so ratchet. …

“Oh my God, Jason just texted me. Should I go home with him? I guess I took a good selfie. Let me take a selfie.”

My new millennial friend explained that the text message “Livin’ with my bitches, #Liv” is actually kind of clever. “#Liv” refers to Club Liv, P. Diddy’s club in Miami, where the Chainsmokers were performing when they produced “#Selfie.”

In less than five months since then, “#Selfie” has had more than 100 million views on YouTube, with a preponderance of thumbs up. And not just coincidentally, this month the Chainsmokers signed a million-dollar publishing deal with Sony/ATV and a million-dollar record deal with Republic Records.

But wait—that’s just the beginning for selfie in 2014. It has caught the attention of network television and will be the title of a comedy series on ABC this fall. “Can a self-absorbed social-media diva learn how to live life offline?” asks ABC. “Follow Eliza Dooley on her quest to trade in digital relationships for real ones.”

Only a millennial would have that problem.

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