The thought of reviewing Calvin Harris’ new album didn’t exactly fill me with joy. It cannot be denied however that the Scotsman has firmly cemented himself as one of the most popular DJs within popular music culture. Prejudices aside, the review must go on, so I sat myself down, gritted my teeth and prepared to subject myself to the delights of an entire album of Harris.
The album begins with a track entitled ‘Green Valley’. It’s 1.49 minutes of complete and utter nonsense. Perhaps I’m missing something here but I really did not get it. A woman repeatedly sings ‘Oh’ over various uninteresting synth sequences. As an opening to an album it did not give me much hope for what was to follow. However, he somewhat recovers himself with the next track ‘Bounce’ featuring Kelis. I challenge you to find anyone who has not heard this song at least once, as it dominated the summer club scene back in 2011. Despite the success of this track, I can’t help but feel now it just seems a little bit tired. The same can be said for the equally well-known tracks, ‘Feel So Close’ and the summer hit ‘We Found Love’. I find it strange that he has included so many seemingly old tracks onto this album. But of course, this is the time period behind the album name, and its purpose is to act as more of a compilation of tracks over the past year and a half.
Calvin Harris certainly is not short of friends, as he collaborates with several famous names on this album, including Rihanna, Example, Florence Welch (from Florence and the Machine) and Tinie Tempah to name but a few. All of these tracks have enjoyed success over the past year within the popular music culture. Calvin Harris enjoyed a number one hit with his remix of Florence and the Machine’s ‘Spectrum’, and although this track doesn’t feature on the album he was clearly hoping that their next collaboration of ‘Sweet Nothing’ would share the same success. He is doing something right with this collaboration as this single also reached number one. The quality of Florence’s voice on this track is undeniable but I can’t help but feel disappointed, if not a little hurt that she has decided to collaborate with Harris again as it is so far removed from her own music. The track doesn’t really give Florence the justice or in fact credibility that she deserves as an artist in her own right.
Personally for me the stand out track of the album is ‘I Need Your Love’ featuring Ellie Goulding. I can certainly see this track enjoying the same success as the likes of ‘Bounce’ and ‘Feel So Close’. This track also compliments Ellie Goulding as an artist as it reflects her recent move into more electronically and synth based music. Technically this song sounds the most polished.
‘Drinking From the Bottle’ featuring Tinie Tempah is another track that easily lends itself to mass popularity within the clubs over the country. The message of the track? Utterly benign. Here we have yet another song that glamourizes binge drinking culture, meaningless hedonism, living for the moment and forgetting about all the misdemeanours of the night before tomorrow. Will I be dancing and singing along in weeks to come? Unfortunately despite my best efforts inevitably the answer is yes.
The problem with this album is it seems all too formulaic. After hearing a few tracks and getting to know Calvin Harris’ style you can predict exactly what’s going to happen. Nothing becomes unexpected or surprising, generating a sense of anti-climax. The album doesn’t seem to have a unified sense of purpose. There is no logical sense of chronology; rather it just feels very much like a load of tracks shoved together in a random order. I am confused as to why there are so many old tracks on here too. The tracks Calvin Harris does on his own are instantly forgettable and add little to the album as a whole. Whilst I am confident that there are a number of tracks on here that will inevitably take centre stage in the clubs this album as a whole is a somewhat poor offering to the music industry. Yet perhaps the whole point is it’s not meant to have an overall sense of meaning as it were but is just focussed around dancing and having a good time. If this is the case then the album is a success and I should stop being so pretentious and surrender myself over to the power of the banal beats.