Calvin Harris: Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 2 Album Review

In the five years between Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 and its sequel, Calvin Harris, once a vegan, began eating liver and bone marrow. “I lost the fuck-you juice for a couple years,” he said in a recent interview. “It all came rushing back as soon as I had those bones and got those amazing fats in my body.” Of his new album Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 2, he added: “This is the product of that.”

Since 2017, Harris has had UK top 10 hits with Rag’n’Bone Man and Tom Grennan, remixed SZA and Halsey, and starred in a Vegas residency reportedly worth some $1.3 million per night. In 2020 he started a side project under the alias Love Regenerator, which spans ravey techno to this year’s “Lonely,” an irresistible ’90s piano house homage led by a gorgeous vocal from Sananda Maitreya, aka Terence Trent D’Arby. It would be the best track on Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 2, had it been included.

The throwback funk sound that Harris mines on Vol. 2 is all over the charts recently, with fresh perspectives from Beyoncé and Steve Lacy, as well as faithful era-reviving from Silk Sonic and Lizzo. Unfortunately no amount of beef offal can bring Harris to the level of his peers. When he borrows from disco, electro-soul, boogie, and ’80s R&B, the music is so wispy and unobtrusive it has the staying power of vape smoke at Coachella.

In the early ’10s, Harris productions like “We Found Love” and “Bounce” brightened the sound of radio pop. Here, he dulls it. Synths glide frictionlessly; vivid colors become pastel-toned playlist fodder. Lead single “Potion,” the weakest of Dua Lipa’s underwhelming postFuture Nostalgia singles, underserves her and Young Thug on a beat that feels like a yacht rock keyboard preset; Pharrell’s cloying ode to friendship on “Day One” has the complexity of a unicorn pool float. Harris cribs DNCE’s profoundly irritating disco pastiche “Cake by the Ocean” for a 6LACK and Donae’o collaboration called, ahem, “Nothing More to Say.”

“Lean on Me,” led by Swae Lee, shoots for the swooniness of “Sunflower” but lands at bland bedroom pop. The “Uptown Funk” type beat of “Stay With Me” would have felt dated a half-decade ago and despite the best efforts of co-features from Pharrell and Justin Timberlake, the song is just about saved by a seductive Halsey hook. “Hey, it’s a mess out there,” they sing, our hero swooping in to save the day.

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