The evolution of Scottish DJ/producer Calvin Harris has been quite an epic one. Rewind to his emergence on to the scene, when he was a geeky looking guy singing about how amazing the eighties were. It’s always been his production skills that have trumped his limited vocal abilities, and he capitalised on this on his third album, when he turned to more established vocalists such as Rihanna and Kelis to front his songs. Since then he has become a tour de force on the dance music scene, with pretty much anyone who is anyone wanting to work with him. Acts as diverse as Florence Welsh, Ellie Goulding and Tinie Temperature have all since had the Harris treatment.
As well as producing those big Ibiza anthems, Harris has also become the most in demand club DJ in the world. The geek chic has gone, replaced by today’s more buff model. So I guess it only makes sense after conquering one scene, that he should change direction again. His fifth studio album Funk Wav Bounces Volume 1 takes things down a notch. Instead of the big club anthems we’re used to, the new album would feel more in places at a beach bar. The first single ‘Slide’ with Frank Ocean was a shock on first hearing, being a song you’d expect more to hear on Ocean’s album rather than Harris’. It was a grower though. Despite the fact than Ocean can’t really put a foot wrong anyway, the production is definitely chilled out and great for summer.
Whilst Harris has made his career featuring a host of guest vocalists, that seems to be the downfall of this album. There are some strong players here, but it’s almost like too much has been packed into one eleven track album. Too many cooks spoil the broth syndrome. On recent single ‘Heatstroke’, woman of the moment Ariana Grande is little more than a glorified backing vocalist as she shares the vocal duties with Pharrell and Young Thug. The usually awesome Nicki Minaj is auto-tuned beyond recognition on ‘Skrt on Me’ with only the rap section in the middle rescuing it. It seems such a huge shame getting such an amazing pool of talent involved, not to use them to the best of their abilities.
There’s definitely some good stuff amongst the rest of the album. Pharrel makes another guest appearance along with Katy Perry and Big Sean on the chart friendly ‘Feels’. And then of course it’s always good to get a guest appearance from the hip-hop legend that is Snoop Dogg. There’s nothing on the album even remotely offensive, or that I could say has been done badly. The production is as always clean well put together. But there is something missing from the album. It lacks all the qualities that made us fall in love with the Calvin Harris sound over the last few years. In many ways it sounds more like a side project, put together in the interim between ‘Motion’ and his next album of club bangers. But slam it on in the background of your next summer party or barbecue, and it will no doubt fit in perfectly.