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Calvin Harris - Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 (Album Review)

Tuesday, 04 July 2017 Written by Jacob Brookman

Since Calvin Harris swaggered onto the scene with 2007’s ‘I Created Disco’, his eye-watering rise has managed to combine occasionally thrilling EDM hits with a seemingly endless supply of A-list pop stars willing to collaborate. Despite this success, he remains fairly uncelebrated in wider music criticism. ‘Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1’ demonstrates why.

Some of the problems come from the nature of the album’s inception. A roll call that includes Nicki Minaj, Frank Ocean, Ariana Grande and Snoop Dogg is inevitably subject to the frenetic professional schedules of those artists. As such, the light touch deployed in naming the record ‘Funk Wav Bounces Vol 1.’ is beneficial. It suggests that we’ve stumbled across a file of individual tracks on Harris’s computer, which is exactly what the album sounds like.

But even within this astute marketing consideration, the results are patchy. Slide and Heatstroke are warm, fresh cuts with memorable choruses and tasteful production. They make great play of retro flourishes and successfully broaden Harris’s mainstream sound - a wise move as EDM has almost certainly peaked.

Elsewhere, songs lack a character and no more so than on tentpole track Feels, which features the talents of Pharrell, Katy Perry and Big Sean. It is a reggae groover with the three lyricists combining to talk about loose summer romance: “Don't be afraid to catch feels / Ride drop top and chase thrills.”

But Big Sean’s bars take us in a different, more egotistical direction: “Fly in first-class through the air, Airbnb / I'm the best you had, you just be comparing me to me.” Lyrics are surely intended to be appreciated at face value, with different audiences vibing with the messaging they want. That’s a problem because you are no longer serving the song, you’re serving the market.

And this happens time and again on ‘Funk Wav Bounces Vol.1’. It’s discombobulating and occasionally alienating. Two examples from recent years demonstrate how to deliver multi-artist collaborations with distinction and they actually feature two of the musicians here: Pharrell on Get Lucky, with Daft Punk and Nile Rodgers, and Harris alongside Dizzee Rascal and Chrome on Dance Wiv Me.

This album will likely amount to a zillion streams regardless of the critical reception, but it might be forgotten sooner than you think.  

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