Album Review: “Motion” by Calvin Harris

By Nic Damasio
The realm of EDM has faced a lot of adversity, criticism, and celebration. Since its origins, which many argue to be in south-side Chicago thanks to the emergence of house music, EDM has blown up the music world. It has dominated the charts, music festivals, and Spotify users’ playlists everywhere. It has become so hugely popular that new artists emerge every day from their Soundcloud accounts. However, it seems that only those who truly understand the universe of EDM are the ones who make it. Adam Richard Wiles of Scotland is one of those artists.

He is better known by the stage name Calvin Harris and is a true master of his EDM subgenre. His fourth album, Motion, on Sony Music Entertainment U.K., sticks with the technique that has made him not only one of the most popular artists in the game, but the highest paid Dj (low-key raking in $66 million this year) in the U.K. In classic Harris fashion, Motion strikes the balance between pop and dance.

The album has an impressive line up of big-name vocalists from Gwen Stefani, Ellie Goulding, and John Newman, sure to satisfy the ear of any pop-music lover. A few curveballs are thrown in our direction, however, when you listen to “Pray to God” and realize you are listening to the vocals of the dexterous group Haim. Big Sean makes an unforgettable appearance in “Open Wide” with some suggestive vocals coupled with an intense and heavy bass line sure to get the kids going. “Dollar Signs” features singer-songwriter, actress, dancer, and former model Tinashé in a unique pop-R&B and almost tribal, club track. And of course it features the hugely popular single single “Summer” featuring Harris’ own vocals.

On the production end of things, Calvin Harris brings some well known talent from the electronic scene. Alesso joins Harris along with vocals from Hurts for the first single released from the album “Under Control”. Released over a year ago, it debuted number one on the UK charts. Big names like Firebeatz, Ummet Ozcan, and R3hab also collaborated with Harris for this album. Each one bringing their individual EDM sub-genre to the forefront of their respective tracks and combining them surprisingly well with Harris’.

Calvin Harris is no stranger to the industry and knows how to work it. When you finish listening to this album, you think exactly that at the end. Motion is undoubtedly Harris. For fans of his work such as myself, this is good thing. You get the pop EDM crossover that has been dominating the airwaves and for which Harris is known for. It leaves you wondering however, is he sticking to this almost formulaic structure because it is all he knows or because he knows it will help him keep his post as the highest paid Dj.

One track off the album seems to suggest neither of the two. “Slow Acid” is a retro and deep track that will make any fans of 90’s acid house rejoice. It shows that Harris is capable of straying outside the pop-EDM plane and making it back alive. We as his fans know he likes to function inside his successful pop structure but also know as his fans that he is fully capable of functioning outside of it and giving us something new to be excited about.

At the end of the day music is about expressing your abilities, talents, and emotions; but often times the needs of the music industry and devoted fans can skew that idea. Artists need to find the balance between what they know their fans will like while also putting out what they want, and what they wish to express. Harris is one of many artists that is caught in this paradigm of trying to satisfy both sides. Motion is no doubt a beautiful piece of art that is clearly and distinctly Harris. The safe and structured aspects of the album are appealing and satisfying to fans such as myself, eventually however, I think fans will start to crave something more from Harris.

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