Release Date: Oct 30, 2012
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): Pop, Electronic, Pop/Rock, Dance-Pop, Club/Dance, EDM
While not traditionally an album-selling artist (at least in this country), the star-studded lineup featured on his new long-player, 18 Months, might change Calvin Harris’ trajectory in that regard. Or, he may just sell a gazillion more singles. A number of tracks from 18 Months have already been released and are influenced in large part by the bold-faced names associated with them: Ne-Yo, Kelis, Rihanna.
While Calvin Harris had a pretty good career going already as a dance-pop singer and producer with two albums and a fair number of hits under his belt, his 2011 collaboration with Rihanna on “We Found Love” gave his profile a stratospheric boost. On 18 Months, so titled because that’s how long it took to be made, Harris steps away from the microphone for the most part in favor of a cast of famous friends and acquaintances to create an album that plays like 50 minutes of mainstream radio pop. The basic template of the album’s sound can be found in “We Found Love,” with its melancholy and romantic lyrics, impassioned vocal build-ups, and pounding techno beats all coated with layers of shiny synths.
The title of Calvin Harris’ third album seems like a pre-emptive strike – as in, “No, honestly, it’s only been 18 months since the lead single came out”. And it does seem longer that we’ve been living and loving with ‘Bounce’, his laser-targeted, slinky collab with Kelis. Along with the similarly long-in-the-tooth ‘Feel So Close’ and ‘We Found Love’, it adds a sense of familiarity and ubiquity that’s both the defining feature of this record and an inevitable symptom of Harris’ quite ridiculous success.
Given the number of hit singles that have already leaked out of it – six, including the current UK No 1 – the release of Calvin Harris's third album feels almost like a formality. Nothing else on 18 Months matches up to the blockbusting collaborations with Kelis, Florence Welch and Rihanna (although his reconciliation with Dizzee Rascal, Here 2 China, is a lot of fun). What's striking is how the Dumfries DJ's sound has both grown – the guitar loop on Feel So Close is built with arena-sized spaces in mind – and reduced: Harris's production has become increasingly homogenised and, despite the array of vocalists, everything here risks sounding the same.
You might remember Calvin Harris as the official DJ of this year’s VMAs, spinning records inside what looked like a giant Illuminati triangle. The Scottish dance-music titan earned that perch by producing some of the year’s biggest hits, including Rihanna’s electro-Caribbean smash ”We Found Love” and his own exhilarating rave-up ”Feel So Close,” and by establishing himself as the go-to guy for pop stars who want to ride EDM’s wub-wub-wub all the way to the Las Vegas superclubs. Now that he’s collaborated with Ke$ha, Ne-Yo, and LMFAO, he could basically land a Top 40 hit by looping a thumping synth hook on repeat while he plays an extra-long game of The Settlers of Catan.
All it took was three very simple words: “featuring Calvin Harris”. Certainly, a few people were perplexed when they saw that affixed to the end of the song title “We Found Love”, because the closer people listened to that Rihanna track, the more they realized that there is no male backing vocals to speak of. This “featuring Calvin Harris” bit was, in a rather bold move, simply referencing the producer as if he was right up there with the lead artist, but Harris had paid his dues, having released goofy, remarkably addictive pieces of dance pop on his own out in the U.K.
CALVIN HARRIS DJs at Uniun December 28. See listing. Rating: NN I saw Calvin Harris performing in 2008 at the Miami Winter Music Conference with a live disco rock band, and it was obvious that he had a real genius for a pop hook. He has since become one of the world's biggest top-40 producers and is now better known for Rihanna's megahit We Found Love than for his dance music roots.
In 18 months, Calvin Harris has undergone a transformation. Once the kind of fun-time top 10 botherer who would stick a pineapple on his head and gatecrash Jedward's stage, he has morphed into a serious producer, the man behind Rihanna's outstanding sad-disco megahit We Found Love (audaciously rebranded here as "Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna"). His third album is a sort of Smash Hits annual of current pop, with vocals from Tinie Tempah, Ellie Goulding, Kelis, Dizzee Rascal, Ne-Yo and Florence Welch, who helms Sweet Nothing, a recent No 1 and highlight of this album.
Calvin Harris likes to brag about getting all the girls, but the Scottish rising-star producer should instead boast about nailing down studio time with collaborative partners. Given his resume, he’d certainly have a good deal of notches on his bedpost (Lady Gaga’s exclusion aside). 18 Months features 11 vocal contributions from a wide array of artists, such as the chart-topping Rihanna, the catchy minimalistic Ne-Yo, and even the mighty Florence Welch sans the Machine.
The title of Harris's new LP, 18 Months, is celebratory, as the last year-and-a-half has been very kind to Calvin Harris. His mainstream appeal has been secured and his somewhat ubiquitous, poppy electronic sound has dominated the airwaves for what seems like, well, 18 months. There is a definitive air of jubilance on the LP that's hard to miss. The problem is that it feels like listening to a constant stream of commercials.
A collection almost exclusively in the key of triumph – how can it fail? Fraser McAlpine 2012 If ever there was an album (greatest hits excepted) that could claim to be a winner before a single copy was sold, it’s this one. Six singles released already, counting Rihanna’s We Found Love: six worldwide hits, any one of which you can hear by just by turning on a radio. That’s better than Thriller.