Calvin Harris’ ‘Motion’: Album Review

Robbie Daw | November 4, 2014 5:30 am
When Calvin Harris released his very first album I Created Disco in 2007, what stood out about it was the then 23-year-old’s penchant for retro-funk mixed with a cool blending of synth-organ flourishes that sounded like they were lifted from a 1950s B horror movie and Atari game squelches ripped from the ’80s. Nothing about the record set music ahead, but it was unique enough to herald the coming of a new player on the pop scene.

Fast forward five years, to 2012, and Harris’ third album 18 Months might as well have been a greatest hits package. It had all the singles that broke the Scottish musician through in America (including “We Found Love” with Rihanna“Sweet Nothing” with Florence Welch and “I Need Your Love” with Ellie Goulding, not to mention “Feel So Close,” which had Calvin himself on vocals), and it seemed to fit in nicely in the new era of Producer As Superstar With Album Featuring Big-Name Guests. In the UK especially, the LP was a cornucopia stuffed with never-ending smashes.

So consider it a major disappointment, then, that Harris’ fourth LP Motion (out today,

Perhaps what’s to blame are all those globe-spanning DJ gigs. A lot of Motion, which clocks in with 15 tracks, just feels too weighted down by woefully dated EDM gloss. The big culprits: “It Was You,” “Overdrive,” “Burnin” and “Dollar Signs,” all of which sound like standard fare heard at your local Electric Daisy Carnival gig. (It’s a shame, as Tinashe‘s appearance on the latter track comes off like squandered opportunity.)

There are some decent-to-pretty-good moments on Motion, of course. Top 10 single “Summer” still sounds as fresh as it did upon its springtime arrival. Haim collaboration “Pray To God,” while, yes, a retread of Stevie Nicks‘ “Edge Of Seventeen,” is a welcome break from the album’s more robotic fodder. Ellie Goulding pair-up “Outside” is up there with the best from the Calvin canon, and “Together,” though not the glorious, mind-blowing experience we’d expect from a Gwen Stefani appearance, is still pleasant enough to warrant a mention — and the same goes for Motion‘s opening track “Faith,” i.e. the other one with Harris on vocals.

As for the rest of it, you can file current single “Blame” under “just okay,” and expect to skip past “Love Now” and “Ecstasy,” two by-the-numbers cuts that feature All About She and Hurts, respectively. And then there’s “Open Wide,” a borderline misogynistic rap rant by Big Sean that feels oddly out of place here.

Ultimately, Motion plays like a misguided effort cobbled together without much focus or ambition to push the envelope forward even the slightest smidge. For the first time, Calvin Harris seems strangely out of touch with the dancefloor, especially when this album is stacked against the current wave of far more exciting house music coming from the DJ/producer’s native UK.

Idolator Score: 2/5

Robbie Daw

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