At a posh L.A. mansion — one of those with giant-ass windows, tacky celebrity memorabilia, and a shit-load of fountains — Calvin Harris invited a posse of A-listers for a lazy weekend of weed and light beer. Mr. Harris chilled in his lavish studio for over 48 hours, making shimmering, summery beats while his party pals would pop into the studio bringing trays of shrimp and corn and Corona before throwing down some vocal tracks. There was a little polishing later, but most of what’s on Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 is the product of one #epic weekend of drugs and booze and sun.
Calvin seemed to have turned a corner into the indie-kids’ territory with the swanky single “Slide.” We know that track is fiiiine as hell, and it really should be the song of the summer, instead of that thing where Justin Bieber butchers a beautiful language. So this album was worth anticipating, and being a tidy 10 tracks — not a typically bloated “producer album” — it suggested this was going to be a no-nonsense hook factory going straight for the pleasure center.
And ever fear, Funk Wav has your summer-playlist essentials. “Heatstroke” is a hook monster featuring the perpetually capable Ariana Grande and Pharrell, while Young Thug tones down the weirdness for perhaps the album’s most delicious verse. “Cash Out” and “Prayers Up” (is that a SimLife sample at 0:09?) are lowrider-ready with their unmistakable West Coast influences, while Schoolboy Q and Travis Scott are just themselves, and it works.
But in a long weekend of getting scorched in the California heat, Calvin and his guests run out of the goods after the halfway point. Calvin’s shot at dancehall in “Skrt On Me” is admirable only in that it comes off better than Drake’s tepid attempts, but Nicki Minaj sounds strangely anonymous here and can’t come through with a reliable earworm. “Feels” has a festive, electro-reggae beat, but poor Katy Perry continues her disastrous 2017 with a verse that’s as flat as Big Sean’s verse is … Big Sean-y.
Regardless, this is still better than anything we ever expected from Mr. Harris when “Summer” and “How Deep Is Your Love” were inescapable on pop radio. The man has cranky old me cautiously looking forward to another volume, so … mission accomplished?