Over the course of the past 18 months, as he has appropriately titled his latest studio album, super producer Calvin Harris has been building a portfolio of work that would make any of his producer peers glow green with envy. Working with the cream of the hip-hop and pop crop has helped the musician become a household name not just in the UK but throughout the world.
With fellow production heavyweights like David Guetta and Martin Solveig doing the rounds and roping in the A-lister for guest spots on their albums, Harris has been hard at work doing a similar thing - building himself a reputation for being quite a hit provider for the stars.
‘The Ready For The Weekend’ hit maker seems to have really outdone himself here with 18 months, as we are offered a track listing bursting with powerful and engaging collaborations.
In his time Harris has worked alongside some of the biggest names in the business. He wrote Kylie Minogue’s top 10 hit ‘In Your Arms’ back in 2010 for her X release as well as lending his production talents to her 2011 record, Aphrodite. LMFAO, Dizzee Rascal and The Ting Tings have also benefited form the DJ’s talents over the years on some of the acts more successful releases.
Along with recording his latest album he has also somehow managed to fit in time to work with the Cheryl Cole, writing and producing her latest single ‘Call My Name’ and produce the most recent Scissor Sisters record, Magic Hour. He is a producer that gets around that’s for sure, but now it’s Harris’ turn in the spotlight with the release of 18 Months, an album that successfully showcases a producer in amongst it all and at his musical peak.
It is definitely a much more mature record for Harris who, in the past, has focused more on club oriented dancefloor fillers that the radio friendly pop chart toppers that this latest record plays host to. The odd thing about this album is its timing. Out of the 15 tracks making up 18 Months, six have already been released and have been hugely successful singles for either Harris or his collaborators. It does seem very strange that it has taken Harris so long to release this album. Now that we have it, however, it’s Harris’ time to shine.
With ‘Green Valley’ taking the opening honors we are thrown into euphoria with a down-tempo Euro-pop introduction acting as an extended dream sequence before US R ‘n’ B superstar, Kelis, is welcomed in on the momentous duet, ‘Bounce’. Synth heavy and with the distinctively low tones of Kelis guiding us through the hit, ‘Bounce’ provides the album with its lead single and one of the more mainstream additions of the Harris repertoire to date. The track is memorable and addictive and holding an early slot on 18 Months, reigniting our love affair with the Scottish DJ.
There are moments, as with some of his previous releases, where Harris is not content with handing over the reigns in their entirety to his collaborator and instead takes center stage, providing the tracks lead vocal. ‘Feels So Close’ is a remarkable example of that and the formulae of acclaimed producer and forefront singer obviously pays off from time to time as this track is testament to – providing Harris with his first US Billboard Hot 100 hit and selling an incredible two million copies stateside. A mix of addictive electro beats and Harris’ bluesy vocals shine on this hit to make it one of the notable tracks on 18 Months and will certainly help shift a few units in the US. Perhaps taking the limelight more often will be something Harris is open to in the future.
The obvious monster on this record is the Rihanna collaboration, ‘We Found Love’. The single was released by the US superstar as the lead single for her last album Talk That Talk and the track sold 6.3 million copies worldwide, joining the list of biggest selling singles of all time. Commercially hungry and pop fuelled the hit gave Harris his international breakthrough smash and threw him into the big league of worldwide super DJs. This is a single that will never grow old.
Another highlight is the recent number one single for the hit maker, ‘Sweet Nothing’, a progressive house hit that invites Florence and the Machine vocalist Florence Welch onto the track for an affair that combines Welch’s distinctive and remarkable vocals with a myriad of house infused electro qualities.
But it isn’t all about ‘the girls’ here. Some of hip-hops male heavyweights join the ranks on tracks like ‘We’ll Be Coming Back’, which throws Harris together with electro-rap maestro, Example. ‘Drinking From The Bottle’ with Tinie Tempah adds a smooth R ‘n’ B edge to a club floor nugget and offers a notable addition to the record while recent hip-hop absentee Dizzie Rascal returns to provide some slick rap rhyming’s to ‘Here 2 China’. One of the less successful pairings heard here, the track does sound like it would be more suited to Dizzee’s own record than Harris’, feeling out of place with its heavy grime coating.
‘Iron’ pairs Harris with Dutch DJ Nicki Romero and the track the pair deliver a meaty mash-up of dubstep and dancefloor. The track reminds me of the Chemical Brothers ‘Surrender’ years in terms of the tracks techno qualities and filling effects, but holds its place well, offering a track unlike any other on the record and therefore showing the diversity in Harris’ work.
As writer and producer behind some of the biggest selling singles in the world Harris has spoiled his collaborators with some powerful melodies to add their vocals, due to already containing so many singles and its plethora of guest spots, plays out more like a greatest hits for the star rather than a fresh album. The record should also allow Harris to hold the fort in terms of being a respected and sought after producer and a DJ for the A-listers to call on when they need their next chart contender.