Calvin Harris poisons the essence of funk on his highly-anticipated sequel; a boring, bland and redundant attempt at making lightning strike twice.
Harris has had quite the career run. The Scottish producer’s remained relevance for fifteen years straight, spanning his homegrown reach to an international audience by the early 2010s. He’s toyed with traditional EDM, dance-pop, electro-house while singing on his own tracks, before retiring his own vocals in favour of becoming a collaborative powerhouse. In 2017, Harris unlocked a new chapter with Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1, a ten-track funk-pop album featuring the likes of Frank Ocean, Ariana Grande and Pharrell Williams. Going off the first title, a sequel was premeditated and in high demand by fans of the original.
Five years on, the sequel is far off the mark as it snores through the same ideas track to track, making for the producer’s tamest work to date.
There comes a moment in many artists’ careers where the music begins to feel manufactured. Though overrated, Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 felt organic in its sound and collaborations. Vol. 2 sounds entirely processed, plucking together whatever it can to fulfil the promise Harris made himself when he chose to add “Vol. 1” to the 2017 album’s name. The success also meant that he had to do it again. But he forgets to add any pitch of innovation the second time round. This is the exact same album but worse, void of the infectious hooks and bubbling production that defined Vol. 1. Nearly every track feels like forced attempt, every element hooked to each other with two loose fingers.
Funk is a sound with limited capacity as it is. But that doesn’t warrant an entire album to use the same funky guitar or bass song to song. As you strain to get through the album, the one-man-band thing Calvin’s got going on proves it’s past its sell-by date. Some sort of external assistance was needed to make Vol. 2 tolerable, whether it’s some co-production or at least some advice. It is the laziest Calvin Harris has ever sounded, lost in total redundancy for the 44 minutes.
He goes even more big-budget than last time, enlisting Dua Lipa, 21 Savage, Justin Timberlake, Halsey, Chlöe, and bringing back names that worked out last time (Pharrell Williams, Young Thug, Offset). But there is no chemistry to be found. Charlie Puth and Shenseea on “Obsessed” couldn’t be on further ends if they tried (and why would you think it’s a good idea to pair Jorja Smith and Lil Durk together?). The closest the album comes to a bond is Chlöe, Stefflon Don and Coi Leray on “Woman of the Year”. Elsewhere, Vol. 2 is a meeting of total strangers awkwardly meandering through three-minute tracks.
You’d assume it couldn’t get worse, but it does. “Stay with Me” is forged to be the album’s “Feels”, enlisting Pharrell Williams, Justin Timberlake and Halsey to photocopy the track. The actual result is a burning pain of whitewashed funk. “Damn, look at those paints,” says the quirky Timberlake, who’s seen the worst creative fall-off in his lane and of his stature, perhaps ever. Swae Lee and Busta Rhymes are given the chance to deliver solo tracks, but even this can’t prevent a disconnect from the artist and the production.
Judging from the tame success of the singles, perhaps this will be the end for Harris’s funk chapter. Vol. 2 is lifeless pop filler, half-arsed from the hooks and writing down to the rotten production. Calvin Harris should wave goodbye to funk forever.
2 / 10
Best tracks: “Potion”, “Woman of the Year”