If ever an artist’s Twitter account reflected their musical output, it’s Calvin Harris’. When he arrived on the scene in 2007 as a slightly awkward but intriguing pop star, he was prone to posting amusing stream-of-consciousness tweets that were in keeping with his oddball dance-pop sound. Five years later and his feed is full of banal promotional messages and complimentary retweets that suggest all the personality has been sapped out of him, a theory backed up by the utter mediocrity of his third album, 18 Months.
Indeed, it’s hard to equate the man who once invaded Jedward’s performance on The X-Factor with a pineapple on his head with the superstar DJ, perhaps second only to David Guetta in terms of ubiquity, that’s largely responsible for the dominance of the EDM movement. Having scored an incredible six Top 2 UK singles over the duration of its title, his decision to pander to the masses is obviously reaping its rewards. Harris himself has admitted that 18 Months is more akin to a Now That’s What I Call Music! compilation than a solo artist’s studio effort.
But by aiming straight for the jugular, Harris has also smoothed over all of the previously charming eccentricities that made him such an interesting prospect. “Iron,” “Mansion” and “Awooga,” the latter two of which are entirely instrumental, are joyless one-note attempts to placate the fratboy crowd. The Tinie Tempah-fronted “Drinking From The Bottle” is a generic retread of the “Pass Out” star’s trance-led efforts with Swedish House Mafia, and despite the best efforts of Ayah Marar, the formulaic synth-pop of “Thinking About You” sounds exactly like the JLS cast-off that it surprisingly is.
Elsewhere, Ellie Goulding is wasted on the anaemic techno of “I Need Your Love,” likewise Example on “We’ll Be Coming Back,” a hugely forgettable electro-by-numbers affair which sounds like it was probably knocked up in about half an hour. Additionally, “Here 2 China” fails to provide the same spark as Harris’ previous Dizzee Rascal collaborations, “Dance Wiv Me” and “Holiday.”
The album certainly isn’t without its five-star moments, but unfortunately, every single one of them has already been in the public’s consciousness for the best part of a year. “We Found Love” virtually justifies Harris’ career alone, its hugely addictive synth-stabs, euphoric ravey build-up and Rihanna’s contrastingly bleak delivery producing one of the defining singles of the decade so far. Florence Welch adopts a similarly devastating approach on the impassioned squiggly electro of “Sweet Nothing,” while “Feel So Close,” one of the few tracks which doesn’t sound like it was conceived on a factory production line, suggests Harris should utilise his own melancholic tones more often.
18 Months will undoubtedly consolidate Harris’ world-conquering status, but by opting to focus solely on chasing hits, he’s robbed the record of any kind of identity whatsoever.