Calvin Harris - Funk Wav Bounces Vol.1 (Album Review)

    Summary

    "Funk Wav Bounces Vol.1" is the fifth music installment from Calvin Harris, following the nearly chart-topping 2014 album, "Motion." The title for this album couldn't be more fitting. This is album is nothing but back-to-back, groovy funk records. For those not familiar with the industry, a "bounce" is just an exported audio file. Wav is a lossless format, meaning the audio contains more information, and is typically the go-to for bouncing music tracks. 

    The Scottish DJ and record producer reached out to quite a few big names, including Ariana Grande, Lil Yachty, and even Snoop Dogg and John Legend. Calvin Harris' success has definitely given him some power in selecting his features. Throughout the album, he pulls artists from different genres together as if they were meant to be together. The continual genre-bending leaves the listener in a trance, wondering how the next track could possibly top the current one.

    Tracklist:

    1. Slide (feat. Feat. Frank Ocean & Migos)
    2. Cash Out (feat. ScHoolboy Q, PARTYNEXTDOOR & D.R.A.M.)
    3. Heatstroke (feat. Young Thug, Pharrell Williams & Ariana Grande)
    4. Rollin (feat. Future & Khalid)
    5. Prayers Up (feat. Travis Scott & A-Track)
    6. Holiday (feat. Snoop Dogg, John Legend & Takeoff)
    7. Skrt On Me (feat. Nocki Minaj)
    8. Feels (feat. Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry & Big Sean)
    9. Faking It (feat. Kehlani & Lil Yachty)
    10. Hard to Love (feat. Jessie Reyez)

    Album Breakdown:

    1. Slide (feat. Feat. Frank Ocean & Migos)

    If you listened to the radio today, you probably heard this song. It's been getting major play since it dropped. Slide is not only the first track on the album but the first single released as well. I first heard it on Spotify the day it came out. After I listened, I was geeked for a good week and a half. I'll admit it. Everything about this song had me hype. As I'm sure was the case for most people, what caught my attention the most was the fact that Frank Ocean and Migos were on the same track at all. I previously thought their sounds were so different, but after hearing "Slide" so many times I no longer even question the collab. Not to mention the fact that Quavo has been on a few crossover tracks since this song came up, including "I'm the One" by DJ Khaled with Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper, and Lil Wayne, which is quickly approaching half a billion views on YouTube.

    I knew this song would be a hit when I heard the high-pitched"empty my bank account." The old-school vibe also had me zoning. Needless to say, Frank killed the chorus. Migos did their thing on the verses. Their southern slang went perfectly with the beat. The fact that I've probably heard this song countless times and still haven't gotten tired of it is always a good thing.

    All-in-all, it's a solid track. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. Calvin Harris definitely set the bar high for the rest of the album. 

    2. Cash Out (feat. ScHoolboy Q, PARTYNEXTDOOR & D.R.A.M.)

    "You can rock. You can sock it. You can even put on your brand new jacket because I'm the man who can put you in the musical bracket."  This is the sample starting this record off. And then the beat drops with Q riding the beat in a smooth way that only Q could. Nothing too lyrical, instead the TDE rapper lets his delivery exaggerate the downbeat.

    PARTYNEXTDOOR comes in next on the hook. At first, I thought it was Travis Scott, who makes an appearance later in the album on "Prayers Up." I realized, however, it was in fact PND when I didn't hear any "straight up" or "it's lit" adlibs in the background (and simply reading the artist credits). The chorus is followed by yet another verse from Q, this time with a more animated delivery compared to the previous verse.  Then, back to the hook for a final time.

    There's a small bridge before you hear D.R.A.M. come in singing with a wonky bass accompanying his vocals. "Let's party like the seventies. Blowin' on hella trees. Broccoli and collard greens. It don't matter to me." D.R.A.M. repeats this throughout the bridge, concluding with a squeaky shrill that is pleasantly in key  and bringing the song to a gradual finish.

    Rating? 4 out of 5. Definitely another solid collab.

    3. Heatstroke (feat. Young Thug, Pharrell Williams & Ariana Grande)

    Thugger put an interesting twist on the intro and makes a good transition into his first verse, but it's Ariana that makes this track, following Pharrell on the chorus for a soft but soulful bridge. Her light, airy voice harmonized by Skateboard P makes for a sound that radiates the purest of vibes, especially after Thug's second verse.

    It's a timeless sound that Harris got right on the production. After Ariana brings the song to its climax, Pharrell carries the song out, as some chords with extra "wah" bringe the song to a final close. I really love this song. I gotta give it 5 stars. It's hard to critique this one. I have nothing bad to say about it.

    Oh, and congrats to Pharrell for completing his doctorate's degree!

    4. Rollin (feat. Future & Khalid)

    I love the vintage, brassy sound that plays throughout this track. I could listen to an instrumental version of this song all day. Fortunately, that's unnecessary because both artists take this song to another level Future brings a complex, rhytmic flow as well. Calvin Harris definitely knows how to bend genres.

    Khalid stands out the most to me on this track, probably because his vocals are dubbed subtedly in the background throughout, but also because his voice is distinctive and works really well with the beat on his intro, choruses, and outro.

    I have to give Future props for this track as well. People tend to have mixed feelings about him, but he pulls off a delivery that most rappers simply couldn't make work. Lyrically, there one particular line that shook me. "Gotta be on codeine to say the shit I say." Apparently, because I have no idea what this means, but it honesty doesn't matter. Let's assume Future knows what he means. May the dirty sprite treat him right

    Overall, I give this one 4 stars. 

    5. Prayers Up (feat. Travis Scott & A-Track)

    Calvin Harris makes really good transitions. This song is no exception, with Harris effortlessly dropping the intro abruptly into the verse after a slight pause in a way that just feels right when you hear it. The more I listened to this track, the more the intro reminded me of Passionfruit on More Life (that's Drake's latest album. I'll assume nothing if you somehow didn't know that), but once the verse began all nostalgia was removed.

    Travis Scott enters singing with an uplifting tune. I'm used to hearing him rap on heavier trap beats, so it was a different sound from him that I immediately enjoyed. The best part of this track is hands down at the end, though, when A-Track goes wild with the scratching. Another win for the album. 4.5/5.

    6. Holiday (feat. Snoop Dogg, John Legend & Takeoff)

    Snoop Dogg, John Legend & Takeoff. I don't know where to start. What's even crazier than the caliber of these artists working together is the fact that it's so damn good! It's my favorite track on the album. Snoop starting this track off is key. It takes you back to the G-Funk era. With John Legend on the chorus and Takeoff on the second verse, the song just feels complete bridging across generations and styles. 5 out of 5. 

    7. Skrt On Me (feat. Nocki Minaj)

    Nicki was in her element when she made this. Listening to this track, you discover a different side of Nicki. It's not like the majority of her recordings for her US audience. "Skrt On Me" is an full-fledged dancehall track that stays true to Nicki's Trinidadian roots (with one rap verse, for the culture)

    Being of West-African heritage, I have a natural love for afro beats, thanks to my Dad always playing it when I was younger. I personally think Nicki should experiment more with dancehall tracks. I've always been a fan of her as a rapper, but her R&B singing attempts haven't been anything incredible.

    With dancehall undoubtedly making a comeback in the States for the first time since the 90s, she could move in Drake's direction and begin to focus more on international markets (unlike Drake, she's genuinely a part of the culture, so that's always a plus), but I digress. Another solid 5/5. 

    8. Feels (feat. Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry & Big Sean)

    The second and final single before the release of the album, "Feels" is definitely another summer hit that will be sticking around for a while (i'm calling it now). When I first heard this song, I was indifferent about it. It may have had something to do with the music video. I was so into the visuals that I was hardly listening. 

    Hearing the song for a second time on the album, I was much more impressed with it. The song begins with another brilliant intro, this time with a majestic feel. Pharrell makes his second appearance with just as much funk as the first on "Heatstroke.". Katy Perry's vocals give the track a somewhat modern pop sheen without taking a way from the classics feel. The beat breaks down into a nice groove as Sean crafts his bars in typical, bigger-than-life fashion for the final verse.

    This track has a dangerously catchy rhythm. For that reason, I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

    9. Faking It (feat. Kehlani & Lil Yachty)

    The song leads with Kehlani's emotionally-distraught vocals over a puchy slap bass, but the--suddenly--that beat drops, taking the song in a totally different direction. From here on out, the song oscillates between heavy drum loops and mellow chords. 

    Yachty surprised me on this. He delivered an incredible verse. Not only was Lil Boat's delivery nice. The lyrics were super relevant to the chorus, something that doesn't always happen with rap verses, as they often take a more freestyle approach. Definitely found a new respect for Yachty after this track. He brought his A-game.

    So did Kehlani. Her falsetto in the end gives me chills. This track ties for 1st place with "Holiday" in my book. 5/5.

    10. Hard to Love (feat. Jessie Reyez)

    I wasn't familiar with Jessie before hearing this, but she has definitely caught my attention. Her vocals are warm but not too comfortable. Distraught but purposeful. Her crisp vocals complement the bass and guitar, continuing to lead over the lively drums brought in leading into the chorus.

    Jessie Reyez is the only artist other than Nicki Minaj to get a solo track. That speaks for itself. The track is easy-going and riddled with subtle island vibes. I give it a 4.5 out of stars. I look forward to checking out more of her music once I finish this review.

    Final Thoughts

    I am glad to hear bigger artists taking the music back to funk.  I'm surprised Bruno Mars didn't make a feature (maybe on vol. 2?). The production on every track is phenomenal. This album definitely has chart-topping potential, but only the people can decide.

    That brings my review to an end. I'd love to know your thoughts below in the comments! You can stream "Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1" below on Spotify.