On "We Found Love," Calvin Harris found his voice, but now he wants to quit singing
Before he and Rihanna found love in a hopeless place, few people in the States knew who Calvin Harris was -- even though the Scottish producer had released two albums of game-changing electro-pop across the pond. The Timbaland of electro, Harris has a distinctively auteuristic quality to his production. Every knob he touches becomes an earworm, and, in the past six months or so, every song becomes a hit -- an unmistakable Calvin Harris hit, whether he receives the proper credit for it or not. For a guy with such a gleaming future as a solo fixture, it's ponderous to hear that he no longer wants to sing lead on his tracks or be the face of his own music.
"I want each track to be as good as it can possibly be, and that usually means me not singing on it," Harris told Billboard last week. "I thought I'd exhausted every avenue [on my albums], and it takes a long time to make me sound good, which is why I stopped singing live as well."
Harris needs to sack up. Just because his songs didn't chart as well when he was singing them doesn't mean he should give up. U.S. pop and dance fans weren't ready for "Ready For The Weekend" at the time -- that's why it only sold 16,000 copies. He shouldn't read into it too much.
If the guy's not feeling confident about his voice, maybe he should take a vocal class or two. No one's asking him to sing "Yellow diamonds, in the light/Now we're standing side by side" as some torch-song anthem, but he needs to believe in himself. The United States world of pop is a fickle place, and it was even fickler three years ago when his abroad hit, "I'm Not Alone" didn't take off over here. So what?
The danger is not that songs featuring Calvin Harris won't be great, it is that Harris won't receive the proper recognition he deserves as a featured player and, since the man's best work is based on his level of confidence, subsequently the quality of his work could depreciate. Would people like Calvin or only the flavor-of-the-week singing his tunes? It's no coincidence that the only other song Harris has done for Rihanna, "Where Have You Been," which is going to be the next single from her album, Talk That Talk, takes on new meaning within this context. Where has Mr. Calvin Harris himself been? Resting on his laurels, hiding from the microphone, not challenging himself.
While there's no doubt that publishing songs like "We Found Love" as Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris is a smart business venture and piggybacks on Rihanna's successes, the fact that Harris wrote and produced the track himself, and it could have been him alone that spent ten weeks atop the charts, is unshakable.
Harris may genuinely not want to sing anymore -- and if that's the case, fine, so be it. But if he's quitting because he's scared of commercial failure, that fear may trickle down and tarnish his productions. In the long run, a Calvin Harris who produces out of fear is a Calvin Harris that, ironically, won't be commercially successful or, worse, get all the girls.
Only The Producers: Harris' most recent production, "Only The Horses" by the Scissor Sisters -- a collaboration with Boys Noize -- hit radio last week. The song, with its pulsing bass drum, sounds Harris-ian in nature, especially led by that feel-good hook reminiscent of his "Ready For The Weekend" days. It also may be the first in a series of new productions Harris has worked on since his sudden success. Are we excited by it? Only slightly -- we feel a little let down by Harris and Jake Shears who, together, have served up songwriting magic for the likes of Kylie Minogue.
Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music
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