With Motion, Calvin Harris delivers a pleasant album, not without flaws.
“We found love in a hopeless place”. Those lyrics are excerpted from a number one hit that Scottish producer/DJ Calvin Harris produced for Rihanna. “We Found Love” served as a clear breakthrough for Harris, no questions asked. Harris clearly seems to thrive when collaborating with female artists. That particular trend continues on Motion, an album where the best moments come by way of the ladies. As a whole, Motion is pleasant, but not without flaw.
The repetitive lyrics of opener “Faith” are simple, but convey the intended message of the song’s title. Although not a three-point jumper or a touchdown, “Faith” is slickly produced, notable for its prominent synths. Those bright, perky synths continue on “Under Control” featuring Hurt. Melodically-speaking it’s lovely, with the production work further accentuating the sound. Still, “Under Control’ may be a tad too controlled, where more oomph and distinction would’ve propelled it to the next level.
“Blame” features the coarse-voiced British pop/soul singer John Newman. Newman slaughters over Harris’ triumphant, optimistic backdrop, providing something of an oxymoron. A sound choice for a single, “Blame” ranks among the bright spots of Motion. “Love Now” proceeds, featuring British production trio All About She, led by vocalist Vanya Taylor. While Taylor’s pipes shine, one of the best touches of “Love Now” is the strings that appear during the instrumental break following the high-flying chorus.
Following the enigmatic, ‘acidic’ instrumental “Slow Acid”, “Outside”, one of Motion’s crème de la crème records, arrives in all its grandeur. Featuring Ellie Goulding, “Outside” latches from a first listen giving the set arguably its strongest pop hit. “It Was You” featuring Firebeatz has its interesting moments, letting the music speak, save for repetitive vocals, “It was you, got me babe / And it was you who changed my way”.
“Summer” represents the crowning achievement of Motion. It shines thanks to its distinctiveness; it possesses more personality than the multitude. The enthusiasm is nothing short of infectious – it’s makes a bad day feel like the ultimate blessing. “Overdrive”, featuring Ummet Ozcan, keeps things energetic, driven by malicious, edgy synths. A switch-up contrasts aggression during the middle of the song, but the bite returns to close out.
“Ecstacy”, which once more features Hurts, slows things down, giving Motion its first ballad (does such exist on an electronic album?). The slackening of tempo and relaxedness matches the song’s theme. Returning to more ‘faithful’ things, “Pray To God” brings HAIM aboard for one of Motion’s most sharp, thrilling experiences. “Pray To God” marks one of those top-notch moments, courtesy of a female collaborator.
After having one of those ‘moments’, the Big Sean feature “Open Wide” kills the vibe. Basically, Big Sean does Big Sean, which means there’s reference to sex. Look no further than when Sean spits, “Open that shit wide / let me see how big your mouth is.” Oh gawd! Gwen Stefani saves the day on “Together”, which is sexy without being raunchy or distasteful. The tone of Stefani’s voice is perfect for Harris’ production work.
Penultimate instrumental cut “Burnin’” arrives with the help of R3hab. Dynamic and hyper rhythmic, “Burnin’” features all the cues one expects from the instrumental electro record – build-up and most importantly, the drop. R&B newbie Tinashe is featured on closer “Dollar Signs”, an enjoyable cut, though not the second coming. Even if it doesn’t exemplify perfection, “Dollar Signs” features some fine moments.
Ultimately, Motion is somewhat of a scattered album with some shining moments. At shy of an hour in duration, Motion could’ve shed some minutes and been just as – if not more – effective. Still, Harris’ production is sound and the material is pleasant if nothing more. It’s not the biggest triumph of the year by any means, but Motion does whet the palate.