18 Months by Calvin Harris

18 Months by Calvin Harris

 

Did you ever wonder what would happen if you opened a Pandora’s box of formulaic disco jockeys armed with robotic beats and endless repetitive synths, willing to do anything to get big names on their front covers? Well, your quest ends here. Already quite successful in the U.K., Scottish producer Adam Wiles aka Calvin Harris became the latest brand-name DJ last year, when several of his tracks hogged the top ten, led by the No. 1 hit with Caribbean megastar Rihanna, We Found Love.

 

While I Created Disco (2007) and Ready For The Weekend (2009) were moderate successes in the U.K. despite the lack of well-known features, 18 Months chronicles Harris’s rise to worldwide superstardom, aided by the musical equivalent of international pop’s All-Star team. Just one look at the tracklist, and you already know battle lines are being drawn, territory is being staked out, and fans added to Twitter feeds and Facebook pages at breakneck pace. Welcome to serious competition, Mr. Guetta.

 

TRACKLIST:
#1. Green Valley 1:49
#2. Bounce (feat. Kelis) 3:42
#3. Feel So Close 3:26
#4. We Found Love (feat. Rihanna) 3:35
#5. We’ll Be Coming Back (feat. Example) 3:54
#6. Mansion 2:07
#7. Iron (feat. Nicky Romero) 3:39
#8. I Need Your Love (feat. Ellie Goulding) 3:54
#9. Drinking From The Bottle (feat. Tinie Tempah) 4:00
#10. Sweet Nothing (feat. Florence Welch) 3:32
#11. School 1:47
#12. Here 2 China (feat. Dillon Francis & Dizzee Rascal) 2:32
#13. Let’s Go (feat. Ne-Yo) 3:52
#14. Awooga 3:51
#15. Thinking About You (feat. Ayah Marar) 4:07

 

PERSONNEL:
Adam Richard “Calvin Harris” Wiles: Instrumentation, Mixing, Vocals

 

PRODUCER:
Calvin Harris
Nicky Romero
Dillon Francis

 

DATE OF RELEASE:
26th October, 2012

 

SINGLES:
Bounce
Feel So Close
Let’s Go
We’ll Be Coming Back
Sweet Nothing

 

But this is no work of timeless art. Calvin Harris does just enough to keep the tracks somewhat interesting, and ultimately comes up short on variety and durability. Consider Green Valley: a mid-tempo, meandering opening jam that simply repeats toneless and emotionless “oh”‘s over some hastily cobbled instruments. It quickly transitions to lead single Bounce, which is only marginally better, with Kelis doing her best to get us excited over what is clearly a Deadmau5 ripoff. Quite disingenuous.

 

Harris does a rare appearance as the lead vocalist on Feel So Close, and it’s immediately clear why there are so many guest singers. It’s not that bad though, especially since he almost never uses it again, but the generic robo-beats backing the lazy piano chords and electro riffs is where this second single ultimately fails. Respite, in the form of We Found Love storms in immediately after, and represents the undisputed high point of this record. Even an overplayed radio single featuring one of the most ubiquitous stars around never gets old, because the melancholy/beautiful theme is so refreshing in a pop landscape dominated by fake feel-good party anthems.

 

A couple of fillers later, on dubstep-y Iron, we get a glimpse of Harris as something more than a mindless club jockey. Not to be outdone by the up-and-coming Nicky Romero, Ms. Goulding – England’s newest starlet – turns in a distinctive vocal performance on I Need Your Love. Both are smartly restrained features, keeping the focus on the production whiz while drawing our attention away from the hopelessly bland writing. “I feel so high / I come alive / I need to be free with you tonight / I need your love”. Seriously, Ellie?

 

For all its artistic failings, 18 Months is a solid, if repetitive, album that should mark Harris’s One Love moment. Give the man some credit for asking Tinie Tempah – one of the most underrated rappers out there – along with Florence Welch (of Florence & The Machine fame) to step out of their comfort zones and tailor their vocals to suit something appropriately intended for the club. (Even if those would go much smoother without the purposeless interludes of School and Awooga.)

 

At its worst, 18 Months (surely it didn’t take that long to make?) serves up another reminder that E.D.M. specialists are getting lazy, buoyed by their 15 minutes of fame and formulaic chart-busters. Harris attempts to preempt this trap somewhat with some superficial modifications, especially towards the end: Let’s Go and Thinking About You hearken back to the early 90s, when dance music first broke into the charts. But that’s not the solution to his endemic blandness.

 

 

 

 

Responses (2)

  1. Yuli Cruz says:

    calvin for the truth is a good dj ', shame that there are people who can not appreciate his music.

  2. Completely disagree with this review. I absolutely love this guys music. I for one don't mind his vocals and his melodies and beats always turn a party out. Big name commercial artist or not, these are some of the best feel-good dance singles in years.

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