Calvin Harris. The summer God of music himself. The man, for whatever he doth touch become instant summer banger, is back again, although he takes a backseat vocally for the brilliantly named Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1. His brave new approach is not without fault, nor however should it go without praise.
Piano introduction of the Gods is supplied with Slide, with yet more Frank Ocean vocal pitch experimentation, that works well less than it should. However, an intriguing look at his approach to a commercial feature after a long absence away, and one that has clearly worked (though I suspect that might be down to the superior Migos verses) seeing as I’ve heard this song a billion fucking times since it came out earlier this year.
Christ on a bike though, I just get hotter listening to Cash Out. I think my body must subconsciously move a few inches closer to the nearest sunny beach as soon as it comes on. Kudos for letting ScHoolboy Q perform in the way he does, which is hopefully a realistic view into his next album, due later this year. Partynextdoor and D.R.A.M. also achieve good things on an 80s beat that is so definitively not their usual style.
The albums second major single, and best of the bunch is up next in Heatstroke. All of the collaborators impress, and Young Thug improves his bid for versatility in 2017 with an extremely solid pop verse that sounds as natural as it can next to an Ariana Grande. Hats must be tipped in Harris direction for being this brave with the production when other DJs (coughKhaledcough) easily let the artists phone it in.
Even Future has his place in an album such as this, with Rollin being a solid if unspectacular effort that slips more into the background than most others on this record, but still has enjoyment levels attached to it. If anything it’s the Khalid vocals that feel more out of place than anything else here.
An artist who quite notably does not fit on an album which a vibe such as this is Travis Scott, whose feature spreads over the entire song of Prayers Up, which feels like a waste and a missed opportunity, especially as I’ve been impressed with the majority of his feature work in 2017. The vocals add nothing to what is a fairly lacklustre beat and add up to what is one of the more skippable tracks on the album.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a credible heavily-featured album without Snoop Dogg rearing his verse-for-rent head, and his boring introduction is immediately followed by one of the most banal choruses I have ever heard from anyone in John Legend on Holiday. Even the added reverb and Autotune cannot add any life to this corpse of a performance, saved only in part by a rare and impressive performanace from the 3rd member of Migos in Takeoff.
Nicki Minaj, like Snoop before her, is another one of your go-to artists if you want somebody to provide a solid five out of ten verse or two. She bats slightly above average on Skrt on Me, though the songs incredibly repetitive structure means it doesn’t hold up to repeat listens. You can have “bring in the blunt/Emily Blunt” as one of the worst lines of the year for free as well.
One man perhaps in the shadow of others this year, although he’d most likely never admit it, is Big Sean, who, if you think really, really hard, is that guy who released an album early this year. I wouldn’t blame you if you were still struggling, due to the averageness of I Decided. I doubt he had any intentions of being left in the wake of bloody Katy Perry anytime soon though, which is precisely what happens on the albums 3rd major single, Feels. Not down to any excellence on Perry’s part, but due to the flaccid and empty performance Sean provides.
Artists with a little bit more to prove, such as Kehlani, oft perform well on albums such as these and this is no different here with Faking It. A beat that adds a bit more explosiveness that the album sorely lacked in its middle stages is a platform for the 22-year-old to give one of the best vocal performances on Calvin Harris’s album. It’s a shame that Lil Yachty had to turn up in the middle where he wasn’t particularly needed. Though, when is he?
If this album is so intrinsically summer, we must therefore begin our descent into autumn with the final track, and it is with that fairly awful Segway that we arrive at the albums closer, Hard To Love with a song fitting that kind of vibe, should it even exist in the first place. The weird Rag N Bone Man-like warbles aside, this is a sold yet unspectacular finish to what is overall a solid yet unspectacular album.
The expectations for this weren’t particularly high going in, I felt the singles provided were enough of an insight to detect what would be good and what would not on Funk Wav Bounces. While this is a more enjoyable project than others of a similar vein, plus having a form of longevity that playlist productions rarely have, it falls where it falls due to a lack of imagination where things go bad and a lack of desire it seems from some artists to eke out as much talent as they could. For some, it seems summer was a step too far.
I’m sure we’ll see if Harris can turn it round on Vol 2.