Calvin Harris Sets All of the Moods For Summer
Richard Gabrintina | Staff Writer
Even though summer technically begins on the summer solstice, this year it officially began with Calvin Harris’ release of “Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1” on June 30. Not new to producing summer anthems, Harris shifts gears on his fifth album, taking listeners on a sonic journey over tropical horizons and underneath disco embellishments.
Nearly 10 years ago, Harris debuted with the release of “I Created Disco.” That version of the Scottish superstar, overall, seems virtually unidentifiable with the current model—in 2015, Harris actually became the face for Armani’s Spring 2015 campaign.
Harris went through a transformation both in sound and style within the span of a decade, transitioning from singing over electro house to puppeteering fist pumps with his brand of EDM. Racking up awards and nominations, the internationally-acclaimed DJ quickly dominated dancefloors, charts and radio waves.
In the past, he’s collaborated with forces like Ellie Goulding, Florence Welch and Rihanna. Harris enlists a superstar ensemble, whom he referred to on Twitter as “the greatest artists of our generation,” on his latest entry. “Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1” recruits the likes of Migos, Future, Travis Scott, Pharrell Williams, Ariana Grande, Kehlani and many more.
“Slide” opens up the album as smoothly as the title suggests. After piano keys sway in the introduction, the listener is instantly transported to an island paradise complete with clear waters, white sands and palm trees. The first single off the album, Frank Ocean croons a catchy chorus and Migos rides the wave of its polished production. The song’s feeling is best encapsulated by Offset: “Good gracious/Starin’ at my diamonds while I’m hoppin’ out a spaceship.”
Following the album’s theme of luxury, “Cash Out” is a roller disco jam led by ScHoolboy Q, D.R.A.M. and PARTYNEXTDOOR. “Heatstroke” scorches the feelings of relentless infatuation and is fueled by Young Thug, Williams and Grande. Harris ingeniously combines the efforts of Future and 19-year-old Khalid to create “Rollin,” a synth-tinged track produced for pensive, highway drives.
Introduced by the beckons of a guitar, “Prayers Up” is a sunset celebration from Travis Scott: “Purple drank in my prayer cup/Whole squad sending prayers up/My God, I know what a blessing is/Thank God, I know what a blessing is.” Co-produced by A-Trak, the song is a slow-tempo groove.
“Holiday” continues to unwind the mood of the album. Laced with G-Funk and layered with the talent of Snoop Dogg, John Legend and Migos’ Takeoff, “Holiday” sensually invites the song’s subject to romantic escapades.
Nicki Minaj sings about issues of love on the dancehall-inspired “Skrt on Me.” Minaj sings throughout the track, with only one rap verse, making a Shakira reference in the chorus: “But if you with it, wine up on me/’Cause the the hips don’t lie, baby.”
“Feels,” the last single released off of “Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1,” joins Williams, Katy Perry and Big Sean in a lovestruck summer jam. The music video’s color palette matches the vibrancy of the production as Perry sings, “Don’t be afraid to catch feels/Ride drop top and chase thrills” in the chorus. In Big Sean’s verse, the instrumental switches up and highlights his staccato-punch delivery.
Kehlani and Lil Yachty ponder over the presence of an ex-lover and examine their own feelings in “Faking It.” The chorus exemplifies the theme of the song: “Why you, why you, why you checking if you’re over it/Why you, why you say ‘Let go’ if you’re still holding it?/Just a little bit better at faking it than me, baby.”
Soft guitar strums start up “Hard to Love” until the percussion kicks in and claps. Canadian singer-songwriter Jessie Reyez offers vulnerable vocals: “Baby, I’d rather be hard to love/Than easy to leave, you should believe me.”
At around 40 minutes, the 10-track album serves as a soundtrack for the summer. Masterfully produced and accompanied by all-star artists, “Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1” stands strong from beginning to end. Harris emphasizes euphoria, both sonically and lyrically, departs from digital sounds to more organic grooves and colors in a summer mood spectrum.