So Calvin Harris reminds me of a little boy. For some reason, that small smirk that lives on his face always makes him seem like a kid about to cause some mischief, and I can never really take him seriously. Whether I am watching him describe and perform outlandish steps to create his "fly eyes," or dissect beautiful women to recreate his favorite teddy bear, the man comes across as a big goof. Until you hear his music.
The Scrawny Scottish kid gets his start
In 2007 Calvin Harris made his mark on the world in a few ways, beginning with his debut album I Created Disco. The album title was clearly false (the proof is in the pudding, Harris was born in 1984) but shows a sense of cojones that it put a smile to my face. I Created Disco spun out a pair of UK top 10 singles, "Acceptable in the 80s" and "The Girls." "The Girls" was covered, tongue-in-cheek style, by Dragonette ("The Boys"), who referred to Harris as a "scrawny Scottish into pop music but not like sorta like pop dance electro music" guy. 2007 also marked the beginning of Harris’ commercial remixing career. While his catalog of remixes isn’t large, his style is distinct. Lastly, the same year opened up production avenues for him, which he took immediate advantage of. Harris has since produced tracks for Roisin Murphy, Kylie Minogue, Dizzee Rascal, and Sophie Ellis-Bextor. The problem with having all this success at the beginning of one’s career is it begs the question: Can he top it?
Are you Ready For The Weekend? The singles
2009 marks the release of Calvin Harris’ new material. Starting fresh in January, he released the trance-pop masterpiece "I’m Not Alone" (the teddy bear video I mentioned earlier), which debuted on the UK Singles chart at #1. "I’m Not Alone" showed a stylistic departure from the music Harris had introduced on I Created Disco
, the track being far more energized than previous works. The track stars slow and features Calvin on vocals before heavy trance synths bring in the pulsating beat. The second single is also the title for his sophomore album. "Ready for the Weekend" is labeled by Harris as the most commercial-sounding track on the album. Funky bass and cutesy piano support Harris' vocals during the chorus, before descending into the frantic chorus where a full voiced woman sings "Oooh! I'm gonna buy shoes and I'm ready for the weekend!" His use of vocalist Mary Pearce was intended as a nod to classic dance music, the age of divas. The video is Harris and yet another slew of beautiful woman, shifting scenes through the use of freeze-frames and vinyl. The track is a pure house party track.
Preceding even "I'm Not Alone," single-wise though, is the collaboration between Harris, Dizzee Rascal, and Chrome called "Dance Wiv Me." The track opens with a Marvin Gaye "What's Going On?" feel before dropping into a bouncy urban-styled electro jam. In the context of Ready For The Weekend
, I found "Dance Wiv Me" a lot better than as a single offering (as was released earlier this year on Ministry of Sound US - although I still love and listen to the DJ Rap remix), the flow really jives well with the rest of Harris' album.
Are you Ready For The Weekend? The rest
"Flashback" is reported to be the follow-up release to "Ready For The Weekend," and it is definitely a strong choice. The track features both male and female vocals, an atypical beat structure and a very big sound. As Harris stated that Ready For The Weekend would be a stadium album, "Flashback" definitely delivers. "Why can't I realize I'm fighting for my life?" the male vocalist asks. However, "Flashback" wouldn't be my choice for the next single. I would choose "Stars Come Out." Slap bass and synths swirl around in a real body-swerving way, totally entrancing me.
British singer Ayah Marar provides additional
vocals for "Stars Come Out," as well as the hugely infectious "Limits"
which bops around like a bunny with too much energy. Izza Kizza adds
his voice on the backbreaking, hectic, and insanely quirky "Worst
Day." Quirky is the order for the day with Harris, though, whose
music has always had that goofball charm that I find so appealing,
like on "Yeah Yeah Yeah La La La" or the swing beat of "Blue."
Ready For The Weekend does supply some downtime, as every good weekend
should have. I'm not sure who "Burns Night" is for but I can tell you
I'm not a big fan of the short, instrumental track that really feels
as if it is drunkenly moseying down a street at 6am. "5iliconeator"
ends the album slowly and ponderously, and most importantly, it ends
it on an instrumental note. A real relaxing (read: boring) track, but
if Weekend were a concept album, this could be when everyone crashes
from too much partying.
Some of the album feels like filler ("You Used to Hold Me,"
"Relax") but overall this is a decent album. I would have liked a lot
more of the stadium sound Harris promised as I believe that is a good
direction for him. "I'm Not Alone," "Ready For the Weekend," and
"Stars Come Out" are highlights.
Released October 2009 on Ultra Records