Release Date: Nov 4, 2014
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): Pop, Electronic, R&B, Pop/Rock, Dance-Pop, Club/Dance, EDM
“We found love in a hopeless place”. Those lyrics are excerpted from a number one hit that Scottish producer/DJ Calvin Harris produced for Rihanna. “We Found Love” served as a clear breakthrough for Harris, no questions asked. Harris clearly seems to thrive when collaborating with female artists.
These days, Calvin Harris is not so much artist as record-smashing machine. He’s the highest-paid DJ in the world, the first musician to score nine Top 10 singles from one album (the 2012 LP 18 Months) and the only EDM act to feature in Heat magazine’s 101 Hottest Hunks poll. Consequently, his fourth album – which has already generated three No 1 singles, including the soulful, undeniable Blame – feels like a gleaming EDM monolith, piloted by an expressionless Mr Big.
Musicians have been puzzling for decades over how to follow a career-making, record-breaking LP. With Motion, the successor to 2012's 18 Months and its nine U.K. Top 10 singles, Calvin Harris offers a simple solution: Do it again. Sure, the grime cameos that gave the earlier album some unexpected muscle are gone, and there are some new synth textures – but even here, Harris is updating his EDM template rather than coming close to reimagining it.
Calvin Harris's transformation from '80s-cribbing electro-house phenom to mainstream EDM's most visible name-brand producer, with the tabloid ignominy to boot, is just another head-scratching tale from the post-millennial music landscape. Pop-radio listeners are undoubtedly familiar with the Calvin Harris formula: militaristic 4/4 bass drum, tawdry lyrics about vague longing, a syncopated synthesizer melody, and the inevitable snare buildup to either a whooshing silence or a super-charged version of the chorus. Like the guitar solos and crowd sing-alongs of hair metal, these EDM power moves can be pure dynamite when they work.
An architect as well as a beneficiary of the mainstream EDM boom, Calvin Harris has spent much of this year dominating music festivals around the world, including Coachella, where he dramatically outdrew higher-billed rock bands like Muse and Arcade Fire. So you can understand why the Scottish DJ’s fourth studio album is full of muscled electro-house anthems that seem designed to be blasted across crowded polo fields throughout 2015. (Spoiler alert: They will be.
Instead of following 2012’s erratic “18 Months” with music exploring new dimensions, superstar DJ Calvin Harris’s fourth record is mostly bereft of real invention. Harris has mainstreamed his sound so much that it barely maintains his fingerprints anymore. Collaborations with guest vocalists fail to maximize their talents or cast them in new light.