For Chromeo, Music Is A Masterclass On Love And Adulthood

With their latest album, “Adult Contemporary,” Chromeo wades into the world of adulthood, lasting relationships, and where the two collide.


On the corner of Avenue C and 2nd Street, David "Dave 1" Macklovitch and Patrick "P-Thugg" Gemayel whisper to each other in French. P’s grill catches Fenn Paider’s light, as Dave’s sunglasses block it. It’s not exactly yin and yang, but on the heels of the eclipse, their relationship is akin to the sun and the moon. They grasp the light the same way they conduct their sound — a complementary duo ebbing and flowing between synths, zipping between cheeky lyrics, and landing inside their very particular, illuminating strain of funk. Together, they form the wildly successful and incredibly sexy Chromeo.

The two met in middle school, approximately 30 years before this very moment. Between then and now, six albums, 30 singles, and approximately 6.5 hours of songs have roared through my Spotify as I shapeshifted into the human I am today. This is a story about growing up and learning to love. You’ll see.

But before they were Chromeo, they were just two guys in high school. “I was in a band, and Dave came and joined, and it just kept evolving. At some point, we became the nucleus,” P recalls. No matter how many times they switched projects, reiterated bands, or formed new ideas, P and Dave were always at the center. “Whether we were producing Hip Hop, performing with other bands, or whatever musician was around us, the nucleus was always me and Dave. That became Chromeo because we were like, well, we don't need anybody else. We've got drum machines and sequencers now, so let's work on this.”

And they do function as two halves of a whole, or as the aforementioned opposite fixtures of a solar system. Even their computer has two mice. “It's our invention; we should patent it,” Dave says proudly. One computer, two brains, two distinct visions, and, therefore, two computer mice. “So when we're both sitting there, we can each have a controller and control the cursor.” But ultimately, it’s one cursor. They have to take turns using it, being careful with its powers and taking note of each other. The same thing is true for the band. “Being in a band is like a business, and there are the roles that have naturally shifted to what we do best. And we've become complementary to each other. Dave is more on the creative side. I'm more on the logistical side of things when we tour. In terms of pure music, I'm usually more inclined to do harmonic content. In the music, Dave is more of a melodic person,” P explains, a fitting anecdote for the logic guy to share. If they tried to do each other’s tasks, the mouse would break.

“Being in a band is like a business, and there are the roles that have naturally shifted to what we do best. And we've become complementary to each other.”

My story with Chromeo begins long before the night of our shoot, during which a neighbor innocently interrupted and asked, “Why is Chromeo in our laundry room right now?” I didn’t answer immediately because, well, he was right. Why was Chromeo in our laundry room? After letting him snap a few pictures of the band (he asked politely) and ignoring whatever jokes he was making, I turned to him — “Sam,” finally learning his name, “This is a long story. This is a story about growing up and learning to love.” Okay, maybe I didn’t say that word for word, but the following day in the hallway, he would proclaim himself a Funkateer, to which I’d reveal that I’m, obviously, a Chromette.

Dave and I first met in 2022 when he was a judge for The Drunken Canal’s Battle Of The Bands. I was immediately impressed by how well he could talk about music and the thoroughness and care with which he approached our chaos. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the man behind some of the sexiest lyrics known to mankind was a Ph.D. candidate (from Columbia University, nonetheless) media expert who was one of the first editors of Vice and a professor while recording as Chromeo. This is all to say the story is never what you think it is.

Chromeo and I go way back to before I knew what adulting was, when I was a teenager swerving in my father's sports car blasting Fancy Footwork and White Women, singing about adult relationships I didn’t know existed. The recklessness of the Foothill Mountains below me as I howled “Jealous,” a forever favorite. “I get strung up from her loving / I wish she'd care to see / But she only cares when she's got the time.” What a thought to have before you’ve ever been heartbroken, before you’ve ever learned the addictions of love, when you had all the time in the world, before you became the one who stopped caring. In the beats of that song, I figured out what it means to be desired. And in the album’s lyrics, I learned to be hot.

By the time Head Over Heels came out, I was living in New York and deep in the throes of dating. This is a story about learning to love, after all. I had three situationships that all stopped short of a real relationship — a famous saxophone player, a man named Poppy, and a gardener who turned out to be an alcoholic. I reveled in my power trip with “Juice,” humming along as the duo’s voices stood as placeholders for the men I’d eventually leave. “Relationships ain't a democracy / I'm good if you just stay on top of me / It ain't no mystery who's in control (in control) / You're sittin' pretty, I'm replaceable.”

Ten years after my hillside jaunts and enough time dating to know what I want, Chromeo and I are both entering our adult era. Their latest album, Adult Contemporary, tackles “mature, adult relationships.” I’ve finally had my first ex-boyfriend, my first adult relationship, if you will — one that Dave would refer to as “striving to be less dramatic, more responsible, more communicative.”

At its core, Adult Contemporary is a story about the oft-maligned, incredibly annoying, but profoundly important Millennial; about the new parent, the recently married, the overworked, and the undersexed. It’s a celebration of the anxious, the tired, and the in love. It’s a story about celebrating nostalgia for the pre-internet era and navigating the challenges of adulthood in a digital age. Their love affair with the generation that straddles the turn of the millennium is as evident as it is ironic.

“Everybody talks about adulthood, but nobody ever really reaches it. No one walks around being like, ‘Yo, I'm an adult, motherfucker.’ It's always like, ‘Let's try to be more adult about this. Okay?’”

But what is being an adult, anyway? I’ve only ever felt like an adult twice, and that was the day I hired a lawyer and the day I got health insurance. To Dave and P, being an adult is much more of an enigma and, in some ways, indiscernible. “Everybody talks about adulthood, but nobody ever really reaches it. No one walks around being like, ‘Yo, I'm an adult, motherfucker.’ It's always like, ‘Let's try to be more adult about this. Okay?’” says Dave. Though I’d love to see him walking around saying, “Yo, I'm an adult, motherfucker.” The adulthood in Adult Contemporary is laden with these kinds of irony and anomalies. A striving toward something, or someone, or something with someone, that feels exhaustingly unattainable but oh so desirable.

Those desires strike us all at different points. “I look at my parents, who were quote-unquote adults, but they didn't have anything figured out. And here I am in my 40s, waiting to have kids until I'm a quote-unquote adult because I don't feel like I'm enough of an adult. There's this funny paradox about adulthood that, like, low-key, like, I don't think anyone ever gets there,” says Dave. I certainly haven’t.

As I continue to wander into adulthood, one lyric on “BTS” rings truer than most. “I need to confess / Sometimes rest can be better than sex.” Is that what being an adult is? Maybe that’s what love is. And maybe, eventually, they morph into the same thing.

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