Calvin Harris - Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 (2017)
Signed up the 06/06/2017Funk Wav Bounces Volume 1, an album by Calvin Harris
In the wake of bigroom EDM’s fall from the pinnacle of popularity, one of its most successful propagators Adam Richard Wiles (known to you and me as Calvin Harris) found himself at a crossroads which would determine the fate of his career; either steer the ship he was on, which was almost certainly headed for the Ocean of Obscurity, or abandon ship in search of the calmer seas of relevance and good vibes. He chose the latter, and the result is Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1, an album that eschews the crests and troughs of bigroom house and embraces the funk and disco aesthetics of the ‘70s and ‘80s, to good effect.
The album title is refreshingly self-explanatory: It’s heavily funk-influenced, the sounds inspire images of sunsets over the waves of the Atlantic in Cape Town and you can definitely bounce to the rhythms laid out by Harris. One thing that should be established from the get go is that Harris is much more Nick Fury than Tony Stark. He plays the role of a traditional producer and paints backdrops with orange and yellow hues as he assembles the Avengers of urban music and, just like the movie, the features are the real stars of the show. Credit must be given to Harris for his ear for vocal compatibility and textures. Not too many would pair Frank Ocean with Migos like he does on Slide, or Future with Khalid on Rollin but Harris is able to find sounds that complement each other with relative ease.
It is the lead single and album opener Slide that sets the tone for the album. Frank Ocean glides over the song gracefully, flexing the pen game that got him writing for acts like Justin Bieber whilst maintaining quirks like high pitched vocals that he uses so well whilst the Migos show off their pop credentials. Quavo stands out in particular, delivering an outstanding verse that shows a new side to him whilst staying in character vocally. The deeper you delve into the album, however, the more Funk Wav makes its apparent ‘flaw’ known. Harris lays a funky and enjoyable, albeit simple backdrop and the featured artists take turns stamping their trademarks over funky beats, with some songs doing better than others. Harris does his best to vary energy levels and it would be remiss to suggest a song like Hard To Love is the same as a song like Feels, but this almost “rinse and repeat” approach to the album opens the door to the suggestion that Funk Wav Bounces is just Slide times 10. And while such a suggestion wouldn’t be without merit, it would be harsh and not totally correct.
Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 isn’t an album that attempts to push the envelope or shift the paradigm of contemporary dance music. It is a feel good album. It brings to the foreground a genre that has been overlooked for the better part of 20 years and imagines our current faves strutting their stuff in a way that they would otherwise never attempt. Schoolboy Q, PARTYNEXTDOOR and D.R.A.M. all stand out on banger, Cash Out with D.R.A.M. proving especially potent on his verse-cum-outro. Travis $cott delivers on Prayers Up, and between hearing classic $cott adlibs over a funky beat and lines like “Take a molly like communion”, you cannot help but vibe out to the song. Pharrell puts his G I R L face on as he is joined by Katy Perry and Big Sean on Feels, and shows why funk is his pocket just as much as the groovy Neptunes beats of yesteryear. Even Lil Yachty shows up on Faking It, as he and Kehlani reminisce over a lost one. The flow is sharp, his cadences are on point, and it is in my humble opinion, his best verse.
Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 won’t be remembered for its innovation or its contribution to the future of music but if there’s one thing I learned listening to this album, it is that you don’t always need to reinvent the wheel. One album isn’t necessarily better than another just because it tries to be revolutionary and at the end of the day, music, like any other art, is about feeling and Funk Wav Bounces, despite some of its shortcomings, makes me feel damn good.
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