Calvin Harris Releases Hip-Hop Heavy ‘Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1’

In 1905 Picasso painted “Garçon à la Pipe,” a modest rendition of a boy with an indifferent expression clutching a smoking-pipe in his left hand. Ninety-nine years later, in 2004, the painting sold for $104.2 million making it the highest price ever paid for a painting at the time. This story would later become the concept for the first single from Scottish producer Calvin Harris‘ fifth studio album “Funk Wav Bounces Vol 1.”

With “Slide” being the first pre-released single, Harris felt it only fitting to bring on the most popular names in R&B, hip-hop and trap. Frank Ocean takes the lead as he sings with modulation “I might, empty my bank account/And buy that boy with a pipe,” setting up the story of what a modern-day art enthusiast may do just to feel a part of something bigger than himself. Quavo and Offset of the Georgia trap-trio Migos come in later in the track, though it’s unclear if they’re perpetuating the concept set forth by Ocean or if they’re simply waxing poetic on being wealthy rappers surrounded by beautiful women. Sonically, “Slide” was tailor-built by Harris from the ground up. As a multi-instrumentalist, he plays everything from keyboard to bass to guitar to drum kit here, and on every song thereafter, creating a tropical, deep house, pop vibe that couldn’t be more perfect for a late-June release.

Given Harris is no vocalist, he enlists the help of about every household name in pop, rap and R&B he could muster, all the while keeping with a happy-go-lucky, tropical-dance atmosphere throughout. Features include everyone from John Legend to Nicki Minaj to Pharrell Williams, the latter of whom comes in on “Feels” alongside Katy Perry and Big Sean. While Harris has worked previously with both Williams (“Heatstroke”) and Big Sean (“Open Wide”), this is his first time collaborating with Katy Perry. The song’s video rotates through neon-drenched beach scenes with Harris slapping bass in the tall grass, Pharrell singing emphatically on a dingy, Perry laying seductively in flowers and Big Sean sitting amongst colorful parrots. Again, if you couldn’t tell, this album was made with summer in mind.

Rollin,” another single, sees the young Texas crooner Khalid taking lead alongside Harris’ superbly produced deep-disco sound. The title of this album perfectly embodies each and every track. The word “bounce,” in particular, stands out as Harris has this uncanny ability to force a listener’s body into motion– think Pharrell circa, well, basically his entire catalogue. Future also joins the fun here, but that’s to be expected, as he’s everywhere these days.

Alongside Khalid, Harris gives voice to other young up-and-comers in Kehlani and Lil Yachty on “Faking It.” This old-school R&B tune is charmingly written by both lyricists. Kehlani sings, “I don’t need no shoulders, I’m good crying by myself/Moving on to chokers, you know I still adore ya/An unrequited love is just a lover’s hell.” This verse endearingly leads into  Yachty’s “Remember that time/I put pepperonis on your face, made you a creature/Now I think about you/Every time I eat pizza, oh.” Nicki Minaj is only one of two artists getting a song (“Skrt on Me”) all to themselves on an album stacked with multi-collaborative tracks. She’s also in rare form using auto-tune backed by a dancehall beat. While this seems custom-made for Rihanna (who worked previously with Harris on “We Found Love”), Minaj holds her own during the daintiness of the first couple verses, which feel quite out-of-character for the hardcore rapper from Queens. Snoop Dogg, John Legend and Takeoff (Migos) drop in on “Holiday,” a Funkadelic-esque tune with wobbly bass and retro synths.

The honor of closing down “Funk Wav” goes to yet another emerging artist in Jessie Reyez. She blew everyone away with her own single, “Figures,” and “Hard to Love” is no different.  She’s at the same time blasé and articulate, sexy and modest, all the while with a sense of confidence that she can close out this celebrity-ridden party with aplomb. Hopefully this isn’t’ the last time we hear these two together, and with any luck, “Funk Wav Bounce Vol. 2” may just deliver.

Funk Wav Bounce Vol. 1” is available on Apple Music June 30