Calvin Harris’ last album, 18 Months, helped transform the Scotsman from slightly geeky pasty-faced bedroom producer into a golden-tanned celebrity-dating superstar DJ able to command six-figure fees for just one night’s work. So you perhaps can’t blame the 30-year-old for sticking rigidly to his crowd-pleasing, star-studded formula for the follow-up, Motion.
Sadly, it’s a formula which begins to wear thin long before alt-R&B siren Tinashe attempts to make her voice heard above another generic wave of hands-in-the-air synths, bass drops and stomping beats on the aptly-titled closer “Dollar Signs.”
Indeed, whereas Calvin Harris once provided a sense of quirkiness which separated him from the rest of the EDM brigade, Motion suggests he’s now only interested in making big bucks for the least amount of creativity possible.
Without the impressive array of guest vocalists at his disposal, the majority of his fourth studio effort would be virtually interchangeable, with only the surprisingly minimal melodramatic balladry of the Hurts-assisted “Ecstasy” and the harmony-laden electro-pop of the Haim-fronted “Pray No Good” showing any signs that Harris has invested more than 18 minutes, let alone 18 months, in pursuing new ideas.
Needlessly smothered in AutoTune, Gwen Stefani’s charismatic vocals are entirely wasted on the lukewarm EDM-pop of “Together.” Big Sean fares little better on the “Drinking From The Bottle” retread “Open Wide,” and previous cohort Ellie Goulding struggles to strike gold twice as she’s lumbered with the banal “Outside,” while big room house instrumentals such as “Slow Acid” and “Overdrive” are so brainless they almost make Skrillex sound like the height of subtlety.
John Newman collaboration “Blame,” the third single from the album to have already hit the UK number one spot, proves that Calvin Harris can occasionally get the balance between the clubs and the charts spot on. But for the most part, Motion is a cynical, calculated and soulless affair from a man who appears to have let all the fame and fortune go to his head.