You Guys, Calvin Harris Is a Serious Musician Who Makes Real Music™ Now
Did you know he can play instruments? Did you?
Adam Richard Wiles – the real name of Calvin Harris, I've now learned – used to be known for his terrible debut album I Created Disco. Like a cross-breed of every second year university student who took a course in production and thought they could better LCD Soundsystem's "Daft Punk Is Playing In My House", the record sounded like an off-kilter parody of groups like Justice and Simian Mobile Disco who had already perfected the genre's metallic tone.
On lead single "The Girls", he repeated the refrain: "I like them black girls, I like them white girls / I like them Asian girls, I like them mixed-raced girls… I get all the girls, I get all the girls, I get all the girls." Suffice to say Calvin Harris – whose name was changed because it "sounded more racially ambiguous" – did not get all the girls. Bad music aside, how could he, based on this outfit?
I mean, really? Look at that confused ensemble. This is a combined insult to men, women, fabric, jewellery, colour and technology. Anyway… I digress, because this year, with the release of both "Slide" and "Heatstroke", Calvin Harris would like you to know he's a serious musician. First off, his latest tracks feature big name artists – Frank Ocean and Migos on "Slide"; Young Thug, Pharrell Williams and Ariana Grande on "Heatstroke". Perhaps more importantly though, the now global popstar, ridiculously well-paid DJ and previous Coachella headliner wants you to know he is a creative individual who did not previously wear the above clothes or release the above music and is now an artist.
Beyond being a good soundtrack for those "couple go on holiday" videos you may have seen on Facebook – filmed on a GoPro; soundtracked by someone like Kygo; irreparably long and self-indulgent and useless – Harris' past work has more often than not lacked any semblance of emotional depth. Of course, he's worked with some globally successful acts and had some number one singles of his own. After all, he is the production prop publishing companies wheel out when they want a mammoth-sounding-single (like Rihanna's "We Found Love" or Dizzee Rascal's "Holiday"). But he's also always come across as having a lesser personality than Tiesto on a comedown; as being clean, precise, robotic, lifeless in his sound. These new tracks are an erasure of this.
Presenting: Calvin Harris, an artiste, who plays instruments, plays them so much in-fact, with so much life, they are deserving of their own credits and promotional pre-album videos. Here, remind yourself of how both "Slide" and "Heatstroke" have been presented. You've got the listing of instruments Harris has played, presented on Twitter like they're from the liner notes of a dusty 7-inch single. As a bonus, there's a little video of him in the studio – which is sort of like a Behind the Music short but also, clearly and obviously, used to give some austere foundation to his rebrand:
It would be unfair to suggest Calvin Harris is simply rebranding himself as a DJ Khaled who can play instruments (and doesn't have charisma), because both "Slide" and "Heatstroke" are objectively good songs that he has written. I can't play an instrument or write a song; chances are you people can't either. This is a skill which has come from years of hard work, disastrous pop singles, some very good pop singles, luck – and, I guess from the beginning, a very good and supportive management company.
Next time you press play on "Slide" think about the multi-tracked piano chords, added with some smooth reverb. When you play "Heatstroke" on the way to the party this week, think about his hands skipping with ease across the fretboard of an Ibanez 1200 bass. Think about the music, for it is the one thing we all live for. Or you could recall how Frank Ocean and Migos and Young Thug are the stars here and Harris is like Andy Murray playing in a five-a-side football team with some MVPs. IDK. Do what you want, really. I'm not the boss of you. Just remember: this man has talent. And this is the year when he's committed to letting everyone know about it.
You can find Ryan on Twitter.
Header image via Wikimedia. Second image taken from "Acceptable in the 80s" video.