Everybody loves an Easter egg.
The latest single and video from the EDM/Electro Pop duo The Chainsmokers is called “You Owe Me,” and it has a surprise ending. Director Rory Kramer weaves a veiled narrative that takes a shocking turn in the end. The second time you press play, however, you start to piece together the clever foreshadowing that Alex Pall quietly layers in the background. The video was released to the public on February 16, 2018 and created quite the viral buzz thanks to its unusual plot.
A little slaughter never looked so playful and kitschy. You may want to just say no to any invitations to a Taggart and Pall party, however.
While Drew Taggart seems to play the main character of the video, the real intrigue lies in what Alex Pall is doing to leave us clues about the pivotal scene to come.
The Chainsmokers’ Genre Shifting
The Chainsmokers are heading in a new musical direction, as demonstrated by the release of “You Owe Me” and “Sick Boy.” Rather than relying on the usual EDM formula of heady beat drops, The Chainsmokers veer toward alternative, electro-pop, and even emo to the delight of some fans and the concern of others.
“Sick Boy” drew comparisons to Twenty One Pilots, while “You Owe Me” is reminiscent of “Island in the Sun” era Weezer and old-school Modest Mouse.
The plot of the “You Owe Me” video brings the song to life playfully. There is a certain darkness to the song, although simmering just below is a saccharine sweet layer. Like a gory crème brûlée, you’re in for a shock once you crack the candy shell.
Alex Pall Drops a Bloody Trail of Visual Clues
Spoiler alert: everyone dies to a poppy soundtrack in the end. The opening scene, however, couldn’t be more normal. Alex Pall and Drew Taggart are hanging around their palatial mansion with pastel polos and cheery pops of color in the decor belying what’s to come.
If you’re focused on Taggart’s vocal delivery you’re missing the real action because Alex Pall is doing some things in the background that definitely seem bizarre. By the end of the vid, you’ll understand why.
Let’s piece together the clues left by the director, Rory Kramer.
Taking Out the Trash
You do it, I do it, but what’s really in that nondescript white garbage bag Alex Pall drops at the curb in the opening scene of the video? It’s easy to believe the boys are just tidy, especially with the house beaming cheerily in the background.
The truth is more sinister than tuna cans and coffee grounds, but you won’t know that for several frames. Not only is that trash bag a bit suspicious, Alex Pall drops them onto already overflowing bins. The Chainsmokers must throw a lot of parties.
Out Damn Spot
On the way back into the house post bag drop, Pall pauses to stare at something on the tile in the entryway. Totally just tidy, right? Drew is vacuuming inside as well so these two are clearly just cleaning up their beautiful home.
Although there is that curious moment when Pall seems overly frustrated at the sight of whatever’s on those tiles, it’s easy to assume this is a bit of deliberate overacting. It seems normal or even a little neurotic, but not dastardly, when Pall enters the house to fetch the cleaner and returns to scrub away the offending mark.
Does that look like blood though? The droplet is only in frame for a couple of seconds and it’s easy to assume this is all pointless busy making.
Not so much.
Seconds later, Pall takes his domestic chores to the kitchen, putting away the cleaning spray and popping something into the oven. Then it’s Bloody Mary time and we see him mix one up behind Taggart who is emotionlessly singing to the camera.
They’re obviously not vampires or anything. Just look at all the garlic hanging in the kitchen.
Time for Laundry
Alex Pall pulls the “behind the scenes” trick yet again carrying a laundry basket while Taggart mops the floor. Such nice guys busting stereotypes and keeping their party palace sparkling. Moments later, Pall is ironing and appears to be getting ready for a party, partially dressed in formal wear.
It’s all so normal and yet there’s a sneaking suspicion that something’s not right. The smallest smirk washes over Pall’s face while he presses his pants.
Pall’s handiwork continues with him hopping up on a step stool to straighten out a painting that’s askew. Yet again, this is a seemingly mundane task. What happened to the painting to knock it sideways in the first place?
Oh, just a little bloody struggle for life, that’s all. Things escalate quickly from here!
Pulling It All Together
From this moment on, everything comes into focus. The guests arrive, sit down at the table, and quickly become the main course. Taggart’s eyes meet the camera and they’re huge, black bottomless pits floating above two sharp fangs emerging from his previously normal gums.
The two tidy guys leap onto the guests and the massacre begins.
Suddenly, the mysterious spot on the tiles, the laundry, the overflowing garbage, and even that Bloody Mary makes so much sense.
It’s also helpful to note the artwork for the single, which is a large, bloody heart-shaped steak on a plate. The Chainsmokers and their team really stuck to the vision with this song’s branding, video, and delivery.
The Kramer Connection
Rory Kramer is no stranger to darkness himself. The videographer is well known for speaking about his own battle with depression. At the same time, Kramer remains upbeat and positive and this dichotomy bleeds through the “You Owe Me” video concept.
Kramer’s work as a director and videographer includes documenting Kanye West and Justin Bieber, music videos for The Chainsmokers, Tori Kelly, and an innovative docuseries called Dare to Live on MTV. He previously directed The Chainsmokers’ video for “All We Know” in 2016.
The clever direction and plot of “You Owe Me” are helping the single rise up the charts. Initially after release, the song hovered in the mid 200s on the Billboard charts, but in the last week it hit #4 on the Bubbling Under chart. This list tracks songs on their way to the Hot 100.