By conventional measures, “Selfie” by the DJ duo The Chainsmokers is a clichéd, threadbare, and annoying piece of music. But if you can endure it, it’s also a fascinating bit of meta-commentary on the rituals of nightlife and club culture circa 2014.
The song enacts its stance through copious use of voice samples of a fictional female clubgoer voiced by Alexis Campisi, a real world friend of the DJs. Campisi doesn’t sing, but just sort of rants on about whatever she’s thinking about at the moment. Her character articulates the drunken musings of a generic clubgoer contemplating the exigencies of the moment. (“Is that guy sleeping over there? Yeah, the one next to the girl with no shoes on…” Etc.) On the one hand, the whole thing–the music, Campisi’s spoken word–is ridiculous and easy to make fun of. On the other hand, it’s such a direct way to voice a song. Why waste time with melody when you can just enumerate the issues that listeners in the song’s intended performance space are consumed with? Maybe this song is not about the music at all–maybe the music is just a generic supporting character in the Selfie woman’s unfolding drama? And this drama, strangely enough, is somewhat compelling because Campisi’s voice is so expressive and exaggerated in all the right (and annoying) ways. To my ear it sounds like the last word of every one of her phrases is audibly italicized.
All this to say that “Selfie” raises questions. Is the song making fun of club culture? (Probably, yes.) Is it a kind of faux ethnographic dance music made with the intent of cashing in? (Probably, yes: after all, the song made the charts around the world and has been watched on YouTube, oh, 90 million times.) Alternately, is the song for real? (Again, probably yes!)
Listen at your own risk. Here is a YouTube video of the song that displays the lyrics only: