Calvin Harris has pulled out all the stops on his fifth album Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1, collaborating with, in his own words, “the greatest artists of our generation.”
Frank Ocean and Migos complement each other well on the opener Slide, which has the distinctive vibe of 90’s-era Will Smith. Harsh house piano chords, bright, summery synth lines over a smattering of handclap rhythms, while providing a groovy bass line.
Harris increases the funk on party song Cash Out, which has a similar style, but with an extra-squelchy bass, and the choral “yeahs” giving a soulful tinge.
Pharrell Williams and Ariana Grande provide a sweet duet in Heartstroke, a slightly more mellow track, but stylistically similar to the openers. Unfortunately, it is overshadowed by Young Thug’s intrusive auto-tune contributions, such as the painfully awkward intro “Won’t you please slow it down? I’m trying to talk to you darling”. (Keep up, and keep talking?)
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Unfortunately, this isn’t the only song to be thwarted by auto-tune. With Prayers Up, though funky and melodic as the others, it's impossible to escape every single vocal warble smacking you square in the face. Nicki Minaj offers the same in the Caribbean-infused Skrt On Me.
Holiday is a standout track, with Snoop Dogg at the top of his game, and an infectious chorus hook “What you wanna do? Want to do with you” by John Legend.
Feels, featuring Katy Perry, Pharrell and Big Sean, sees a welcome return to the 90s party funk, but Faking It sounds out of place with its generic electro beats, and closer Hard to Love is quite hard to stick with.
For the most part, Harris has orchestrated some great guest contributions that work well together. In classic Harris fashion, it’s a refreshing mix that channels a sound ahead of the mainstream curve. It just runs out of gas by the end.