Release Date: Jun 30, 2017
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): Electronic, Dance-Pop, Club/Dance
Calvin Harris managed to find a way to distill the sounds of summer into a near-perfect spirit on his fifth effort, Funk Wav Bounces, Vol. 1. Assembling an all-star roster of performers for an economic ten-track burst that doesn't overstay its welcome, the Scotsman made a surprising turn away from the EDM anthems that defined much of his output for the bulk of a decade.
Calvin Harris, the man born Adam Wiles in Dumfries in the mid-80s, is the very definition of a self-made star. Proving the power of plenty of gym time and Sun-In, he's morphed from floppy haired indie-disco dude into buff superstar DJ and EDM icon without looking back. His latest trick sees him surrounding himself with some of the world's biggest - and hippest - singers and rappers to produce the certified sound of summer 2017.
Try, if you can, to divorce your idea of Calvin Harris from the wave of tabloid gossip that drenched the unsuspecting Scotsman following his breakup with pop megastar Taylor Swift last summer. It's a hard thing to do. Images of the two lovebirds floating on inflatable swans (R.I.P. #swangoals) and building snowmen acted as Harris' de facto introduction to the glare of American pop culture, which he had previously avoided despite placing singles like 2011's Rihanna vehicle "We Found Love" and 2014's EDM fever dream "Summer" at or near the top of the Billboard Hot 100.
In January 2017, Calvin Harris declared that he was collaborating with the greatest artists of this generation while working on his new album Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1. The resulting album is thoroughly composed and very safe pop music that happens to feature some of the biggest artists in pop (Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, Pharrell) alongside some of its most innovative (Nicki Minaj, Frank Ocean, Future), and some that are currently breaking through to larger success (Lil Yachty, Khalid, Kehlani).
It's been a decade since Calvin Harris released his debut album, I Created Disco, establishing himself as the Scottish fish-'n'-chip-shop version of LCD Soundsystem--just the first of many guises in his highly lucrative career as a dance-party-starter. Highlights have included a Rihanna partnership, a DJ residency at Las Vegas' MGM Grand, where his visage covered several floors of the hotel, and a prime position atop a wave of all-conquering EDM while simultaneously modeling Armani Y-fronts. He became to the clubbing world what Jason Statham is to Hollywood blockbusters: chameleon enough to turn his hand to the latest franchise (in Harris' case, drop-laden rave anthems, sexy deep house numbers, etc.
Calvin Harris first came onto the scene at the height of the indie electronica wave of the late '00s, when Steve Aoki and Crookers reigned festivals and clubs. But during the current decade, he quickly catapulted into the mainstream and is now one of the most prolific producers on the charts. Whether working with stars like Rihanna on "This Is What You Came For" or lesser-known artists like Disciples for "How Deep Is Your Love," he can make EDM-pop gold with just about any vocalist.
I nterviewed in a recent issue of a men's lifestyle magazine, Calvin Harris exudes a quiet confidence, as indeed you might if your job netted you an alleged $300,000 a night. Once a prickly and difficult interviewee, he now gives out a Zen-like calm - uninterested in the thoughts of critics who suggest almost no one in musical history has made so little go such a long way. In the accompanying photographs, he emerges from the swimming pool at his Beverly Hills home, fully clothed and dripping wet, EDM's own Mr Darcy: Harris's transformation from gawky-looking dance music producer from Dumfries to ripped, tanned Giorgio Armani underwear model being the most visible manifestation of his astonishingly successful career overhaul.
Calvin Harris's metamorphosis from ungainly dance producer from Dumfries to EDM overlord to Serious Musician with an LA tan is now complete. Funk Wav Bounces Vol 1 (blimey) completely eschews the jackhammer dance-pop of recent years in favour of sun-kissed funk, laid-back R&B and a constant search for the perfect groove. Singles Slide and Feels are both immaculately produced barbecue jams, the Kehlani-assisted Faking It offers up some grit, while Heatstroke's low-slung bounce is roughed up by Young Thug rapping about baboon bottoms.
On 2014's joyless Motion, Calvin Harris appeared content to rest on his laurels, sticking to the EDM formula that made him into one of the world's most famous DJs. As recently as last year, the Scottish artist was even rumored to be finished making albums altogether in order to focus exclusively on dropping star-studded singles like 2016's clubby, Rihanna-featuring hit “This Is What You Came For.” But on his fifth album, Funk Wave Bounces Vol. 1, he veers away from the waning EDM genre and reinvigorates his music by shifting back toward the retro disco-funk production of his 2007 debut, while tempering that album's synth-driven edge with buoyant island rhythms.
The 10-year physical transformation of Calvin Harris from shaggy bedroom beatmaker to chiseled super-producer mirrors his own development as a musician. For one thing, he now realizes he is as much part of the product as the music he makes and seems happy to be taking a backseat to the performers he’s enlisted for his fifth studio album. At no point do Harris’ sandpapery vocals scrape against the beat; this time he lets his beats do the talking.