If you find yourself riding in your car with the windows down on a nice summer day, the Calvin Harris’ new album Funk Wav Bounces Vol.1 should be one of your go-to party playlists to put on the radio. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Harris was greatly ambitious on this project, however I will say that he has re-invented his sound to the point where I became quite interested with how this album was going to play out. On top of that, the inclusion of mainly rappers (with the exception of Pharrell Williams, Ariana Grande, and Katy Perry as far as big names go) caught my eye even more, and created some surprising anticipation.
Unlike DJ Khaled’s new album, Harris creates a more tight and consistent sound on Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1. Just from the name of the title you can kind of get an idea of what Calvin is shooting for, and to be honest, he takes some risks on this record. The thought of fusing old school funk with trap rappers would definitely be a challenge for the popular producer.
While there are some glaring lyrical flaws on some of these tracks, specifically with the song “Skrt on Me” with Nicki Minaj (which is the one song I’d stay away from), Harris still stays true to himself and hits on all levels with his unconventional funk sound. Harris never sounds repetitive either which is important because sometimes producers will start to create stale music on a full length project if they aren’t keeping things interesting. Calvin does the exact opposite, as each single brings a sense of uniqueness to it. Although it’s an old school design, the formulation of each track has a fresh and modern spice to it.
I was especially optimistic when he released the lead single, “Slide” with Frank Ocean and Migos. All of them bring their own flavor to the song while adapting to the beat tremendously. Quavo has this summer vibe in his voice, and Offset incorporates his usual punchlines which are catchy as hell.
While on paper, a track with Schoolboy Q, PARTNEXTDOOR, and D.RA.M. may seem troublesome (although that seems to be the case initially with most tracks on this project), each musician delivers in their own way. Q sounds like he’s just transported from the 1980s while PARTYNEXTDOOR integrates a chorus that forces you to sing along too. Although DR.A.M.’S feature is minimal, he doesn’t drop the ball with his tiny verse.
It’s always difficult to combine so many different artists together who each have their own strengths and weaknesses on one album. Rarely is it done effectively as we’ve seen with DJ Khaled’s new project, where I felt like a lot of the musicians brought an awkward tone, especially with so many inconsistent sounds. Harris is rarely scatter-brained and he makes sure that rappers like Young Thug and Travis Scott stay above water on these beats. Thugger pushes his limits big time on “Heatstroke” with Pharrell Williams and Katy Perry, and the risk pays off. Williams wears his colorfulness and happiness on his sleeve, while Young Thug takes you on a roller coaster ride of upbeat emotions.
The production is so catchy that you kind of forget how shallow some of the lyrics are. While guys like Travis Scott, Future, and Young Thug aren’t considered wordsmiths, they accommodate Harris’s rhythms in a delightful manner. Snoop Dogg is for sure in his element on the song “Holiday” where John Legend and Takeoff are also featured. Despite the fact that Snoop has lost his touch somewhat, he doesn’t totally annoy me with his feeble lyricism, as he brings a lot more swagger than he has on his recent projects.
Pharell delivers again on “Feels” with Katy Perry and Big Sean, (which again may seem unconventional) and the beat is just as infectious as Pharell’s jubilation.
My favorite ballad from this album has to be “Rollin’.” New up-and-coming R&B singer Khalid actually conducts the best chorus and hook on the entire project. It’s impossible to not sing too, especially over the lively summery beat. Future flourishes with his usual charm and party flavor as well. Khalid is the one who really stands out though on here.
In spite of some tacky wordplay, the production is on point and quite contagious. On paper, this album should be complete mayhem, but instead Harris is more artful than most of his contemporaries in the electronic/dance genre. He makes his message clear with his fans and with the musicians that he’s able to pull together. The final product is something that most music lovers should be jamming too no matter where they are this summer.