Earlier this 12 months, it was revealed that Calvin Harris had purchased an natural farm in Ibiza. For a second, it seemed as if the 38-year-old, Dumfries-born DJ was giving up his crown as king of EDM in favour of a quieter life. He shared selfies with sheep on Instagram and took delight within the measurement of his watermelons, captioning images with phrases akin to “nature’s generosity”.
After all Harris hadn’t retired and, on condition that he earns a reported $400,000 (£330,000) each time steps as much as the decks for a DJ set, he could be a idiot to take action – and he’s at present in the midst of a DJ residency in Ibiza. Nonetheless there was a way that, as occurred to a variety of us over the previous few years, the priorities of the world’s highest incomes DJ had shifted, and the previous noise service provider was in search of a quiet life.
It wasn’t the primary time he had pivoted. Whereas early hit Acceptable in the 80s marked him as one thing of novelty act, he discovered his footing through the EDM explosion of the early 2010s. His 2011 album 18 months scored him 9 Prime 10 hits, together with the No 1 hit Candy Nothing, a surprisingly emo banger that includes Florence Welch. He helped Rihanna safe a career-defining hit with We Discovered Love, gave Cheryl her greatest track with Name My Title, and proved his pop prowess with Rita Ora’s I Will By no means Let You Down.
Then, in 2017, he pressed pause on the rave synths and body-quivering drops for Funk Wav Bounces Vol 1. That includes a few of the world’s largest pop and hip-hop stars – Frank Ocean, Pharrell Williams, Migos and Ariana Grande – it was a breezy, BBQ-ready slice of post-disco sunshine that flirted with 80s boogie and a light-weight smattering of Parliament-Funkadelic.
It was a blended bag, although, its poolside sliders-and-sunglasses vibe typically so relaxed it pushed into boredom. Nonetheless, the prospect of a followup quantity piqued folks’s curiosity. Even when the primary quantity was satisfying however uninteresting, Harris’s capability to draft in A-list expertise was thrilling. And Funk Wav Bounces Vol 2 delivers on that entrance. There’s a blinding quantity of star energy on show: Justin Timberlake, Halsey, 21 Savage, Dua Lipa, Normani, Pusha T and Busta Rhymes. Sadly, it has little or no else to supply.
Harris is enjoying in an identical retro sonic sandpit as on Vol 1, and it sounds lush: shimmering manufacturing and seductive guitars lace New Cash, which options 21 Savage and the absurd lyric “Gucci clothes / Kush odor like armpits”. Lady of the 12 months, a collaboration with Stefflon Don, Chlöe and Coi Leray, is a therapeutic massage of a track, with the low bubble of an organ and the heart beat of clavinet cushioning funk guitars and lightweight percussion. New to You, which finds Tinashe, Normani and Offset battling for airtime, is a slinky blur of disco and boogie, the romantic crush of strings after the refrain offering a frisson of pleasure.
The problem is that not one of the songs that every one this attractive manufacturing whirls round are literally any good. The largest offender is nearer Day One. After a gap paying homage to probably the most innocuous of Ibiza chillout soundscapes, replete with electrical pianos and wah-wah results, Pharrell seems to sing on what must be one of many worst songs of his profession. The manufacturing is so sleepy that all the pieces sounds off beat, whereas the melody is so limp and the vocal supply so lifeless that you just ponder whether Pharrell nonetheless had a pulse by the tip.
Equally insipid is Keep With Me, which is one other Pharrell collaboration though this time Justin Timberlake and Halsey are additionally clawing on your consideration. With an echo of the sugary delights of Earth, Wind and Fireplace’s Let’s Groove, it ought to be a excessive level, but the singers’ designated sections by no means fairly slot collectively naturally, creating one thing sticky and awkward. As Halsey places it on the under-baked refrain: “It’s a multitude out right here.”
Harris nonetheless has the capability to interact. The neon-lit Someone Else, with its swell of 80s guitars, provides an excellent little bit of late-night desperation, Jorja Smith and Lil Durk’s verses every aching with damage and longing. Busta Rhymes gives probably the most animated visitor look on Prepared or Not, a beast of a G-Funk sundowner that, because of its dissonant synth chords, bongo drums, an excellent lashing of tambourine and Rhymes’s spitfire rapping, is vibrant and alive.
However a few invigorating moments don’t absolve the album of its largest sin: how uninteresting it’s. Funk Wav Bounces Vol 2 could typically sound luxurious however there’s barely any substance. In contrast to the spoils of his farming, Harris has crafted one thing that’s missing in flavour.