One of 2007′s surprise breakthroughs, Calvin Harris follows up his debut album I Created Disco with a second set of tunes. The title Ready For The Weekend gives the clue – this is intended as music to get moving to. With two singles already having topped the charts and a third flying high in their wake, there’s a certain amount of expectation on whether he can exploit the position in which he’s found himself. Can he up his game to the ‘stadium dance’ level he’s promised?
Those first two tracks, I’m Not Alone and the Dizzee Rascal collaboration Dance Wiv Me, demonstrated Harris’s mass appeal by marrying dancefloor beats with original playfulness. The album’s title track and latest single plotted a similar path, but they really stand out on the album as the best three examples of his work.
Harris is an anomaly amongst popstars in the current charts. He’s not a woman and he’s not ‘urban’; instead he occupies a no-man’s land somewhere between pop and dance. Which isn’t to say such land can’t be staked out successfully. But while he stands alone, the musical path he’s treading doesn’t bring his listeners anything new. While I Created Disco embraced a variety of styles and came injected with a refreshing dose of cynicism and humour, he now seems to have decided on conventional dancefloor anthems with melodies, instrumentation and inane lyrics that have all been heard before.
Stars Come Out and You Used To Hold Me, the latter of which sounds like it could have been a Vengaboys single, are the sort of tracks released by faceless producers with session singers. Simply adding a face doesn’t provide them with any personality. They may go down well on a dance floor when all you want is a beat, a bassline and a crescendo, but it’s disappointing that Harris didn’t prefer a more inventive route.
And as if to demonstrate the difficulty he has here, his stabs at more conventional songwriting on Blue and Worst Day, both of them dwelling on his broken heart, are not only weak but also interruptions on an album that’s otherwise designed for dancing. It ends up being neither one thing nor the other.
Yet it’s far from all bad. Flashback makes welcome use of some female diva-type vocals and Relax is one of the few tracks with a strong chorus. While they’re still a little dance music by numbers, they’re appealing, well put together and do exactly what’s asked of them. But, Dance Wiv Me aside, the end of the album tails off with boring instrumentals Burns Night and 5iliconeator and irritant Coca-Cola ad soundtrack Yeah Yeah Yeah La La La.
On the strength of his recent chart performances, Harris is currently riding a crest of a wave, so he’s clearly doing something right. But it feels like he’s sacrificed some of his creativity in favour of simplistic and unimaginative output. It may be the way in which an anomaly tries to find out just where it is he belongs, but it was probably Harris’s rare humour and originality that found him an audience in the first place.