Calvin Harris –
Funk Wav Bounces
Former Future-Focused EDM Superstar goes back in time with a Summer album that is pleasantly forgettable.
Album Grade: C-
For his fifth album, Scottish DJ/Producer Calvin Harris significantly alters his sound on a trip to the late seventies for his new Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 release. Packed with a who’s who of superstar guest collaborators, Harris eschews his normal high-octane builds and dramatic drops to structure a brisk 38-minute collection of lightweight, easily forgettable grooves with few high points.
A gentle, descending Yamaha C7 piano riff opens the album on the lead-off track, “Slide,” before quickly jumping into a disco groove to provide a setting for Frank Ocean to begin his “wanting the good life” tale. Not only just superficial, it speaks of the desire to transcend one’s own economic status in order to simply “feel” affluent; as if a more luxurious life will somehow give the internal feelings of self-worth that nights of endless romantic hook-ups don’t. The faux disco groove is as shallow as the intentions of the song. A complete waste of Ocean’s prodigious talents, this lightweight song simply fails to ignite.
Melodies on Funk Wave Bounces Vol. 1 are catchy without being very memorable, grooves are pleasantly danceable but uninspired. They are the equivalent of swaying slowly in place while waiting for a moment that never comes. Lyrics are amusing, without being all that clever. Harris is wise to call the album Bounces, as it does just that. It just gently dribbles in place instead of spiking too high. Overall, this is a very average, lukewarm album that will exist agreeably in the background of a summer cookout, but at no time will cause any kind of raucous excitement that usually accompanies a true club banger or summer smash single.
Some of this may come from Harris’ desire to mix a vast roster of guest stars in potentially intriguing collaborations. This often works better in theory than in practice. “Feels” mixes Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry & Big Sean together on a summertime ska tune, but the track is so indistinct that the individual vocal personalities aren’t allowed to truly surface. Perry has a fairly distinct pop vocal fingerprint on her singles, but on “Feels” even a hardened fan would be unable to pick her out of the line-up. It is strange that Harris would bring so many different talents together only to have them serenely rendered indistinguishable over the course of the song. This is the downside of the “superstar collaboration.” Oftentimes, it works things down to the lowest common denominator in an effort to please everyone.
“Heatstroke” is a winner thanks to the expert, “summer celebration” raps delivered by Young Thug. Combined with the bright vocals by Pharrell Williams and Ariana Grande this track shimmies and bounces in the liquid fun that is perfect for a mid-Summer cookout at the beach. Grande, in particular, is in exceptional form and positively makes the song shine.
Another high point (literally) is Snoop Dogg’s fluid drawl on the mid-album track “Holiday.” Long Beach, California vibe drips from Dogg’s opening rap and choruses by John Legend make this old school funk track a rare moment of fun and delight.
Throughout Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1, Calvin Harris seems more interested in recreating an Al Green record instead of playing to his “future directed” natural instincts. For those looking for a good 70’s Summer Album, you are better off going with the original and picking up Green’s Greatest Hits album in the end.
Bottom Line: Neither dreadful nor explosive, Funk Wave Bounces Vol. 1 never threatens to bounce too high, but rather just dribbles in place..
By Daniel G. Moir
Daniel G. Moir has forgotten more about music than all the rest of us know combined. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org