If you don’t know who Calvin Harris is by now, then you’ve managed to live your life under a very large rock or you’ve never been anywhere near a radio, the internet or popular culture as a whole in the last eight years. If you have been in hiding for the past eight years and having been living your life as a hermit on the Tibetan planes, then I welcome you back to society and hope you don’t find us too grotesque and terrifying. To put it in simple terms: Harris is quite possibly the most popular DJ in the world. This is a fact that is well-supported by the fact that he is also the top-earning DJ in the world. This pretty much implies that he is pulling in the most album sales and headlining the biggest festival; he is a main stage staple of the likes of Tomorroworld and Ultra.
Like most successful DJs, Harris sticks awfully close to the code of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, and why wouldn’t he? His brand of progressive house has consistently bought him success on all the major charts and at all the major festivals. However, whenever a DJ sticks to a particular sound, they get labelled as being generic and repetitive. This is rather unfair considering that pop musicians like Justin Bieber and One Direction are allowed to get away with it all time, so why should EDM receive all the flak for being repetitive in nature?
If anything, Harris has created a signature sound that is always well-received and he just happens to build on it with each album. 18 Months was an album that was practically based on pop hits with tracks like “Feel So Close”, “Sweet Nothing” and “We Found Love” dominating charts. With Motion, he decides to cut back on creating soaring pop anthems and start focusing on the actual structure of his music. The detrimental part of 18 Months was his inability to create songs on his own that were strong enough to compete with the various collaborations that were present on the album. On Motion, this is not a problem. Tracks like “Faith” and the infectious “Summer” show him delivering a combination of melody, hooks, drops and raspy vocals. This is especially the case with the aptly named “Summer”, seeing as this was the summer EDM anthem for the Northern Hemisphere and is bound to be the same for the Southern Hemisphere.
Harris also experiments with individual sounds on Motion. “Slow Acid” sees him playing around with a combination of electro funk and deep house which would have fit in perfectly with some casual mix he was creating, but like his collaboration with Big Sean, the track serves as anti-climatic in what was shaping up to be a tremendous collection of catchy and massive EDM tracks.
Harris does manage to save himself with the various collaborations that feature on the album. “Blame”, his collaboration with John Newman, sees electro funk influences creeping into the song as Newman’s voice soars above the gradual build-up to a drop that has one purpose: to get a crowd dancing. Electronic drums beats, soaring synth lines, and pulsating bass lines are a feature piece of a song that is already made brilliant by Newman’s talent for making his vocals fit EDM tracks (see his work with drum-‘n-bass outfit Rudimental). “Outside” is yet another catchy collaboration with electro-pop queen Ellie Goulding. “Ecstasy” sees Harris showing off his softer side while teaming up with Hurts to create a haunting track based on a simple piano melody and synthetically manipulated acoustic guitar chords.
Motion is nothing short of being mainstream dance music, but it is still remarkably brilliant. You will not be able to resist the temptation to dance along to these tracks and screech the choruses at the top of your lungs. Calvin Harris just goes through the motions on this album, and manages to create yet another album that will fuel his already successful career.