At first, it looked like a mirage. On the way to Coachella 2022, in the middle of the California desert, a sign appeared. No date, no details — just a billboard teasing that Scottish superstar producer and master collaborator Calvin Harris was on his way back.
On Friday (Aug. 5), the thirst that started that afternoon in the desert has been quenched. Six years after the first installment of Funk Wav Bounces — which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and spent 42 weeks on the chart — Harris is back with Funk Wav Bounces Vol 2.
In our singles-driven release cycle, Harris doesn’t need to make albums. He could surprise-drop funky, disco-inspired singles with A-list pop vocalists and still dominate every playlist and get radio play. In the years since his last full-length, he did exactly that, bringing us “One Kiss” with Dua Lipa, “Promises” with Sam Smith, and even a Benny Blanco collaboration (“I Found You”) that got Harris back on the mic doing vocals for the first time in years.
This year, Harris has stepped away from nonstop tour life, playing only select festivals, a few Ibiza residency dates, and one Vegas club night at XS coming Sept. 17. (To wit, after dominating Forbes’ highest-paid DJs list from 2013-18, he was finally bumped from No. 1 to 2 by The Chainsmokers, a duo clearly inspired by his vocal-driven, radio-friendly dance music.)
But Club Calvin and Record Calvin have been different strokes for different folks for quite some time. Much like Vol. 1, the tracks on Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 2 don’t fit in with bottle-service pyrotechnics the way his “Summer” anthem did in 2014, further widening the gap between producer Harris and performing Calvin.
On Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 2, Harris enlists a whopping 23 featured artists, from Busta Rhymes to Charlie Puth to Dua Lipa, across 14 songs. Presented as an album, the 43 minutes digest more like a summer soundtrack, with each song bleeding into the next, almost blurring into the background save a few standouts — but that isn’t bad. It’s perfect for lounging poolside and letting hot days turn into warm nights.
Unlike Vol. 1, where collaborators are listed as featured artists, here, Harris made the subtle shift of crediting vocalists as equals. This nuanced language shift may represent a maturity in Harris, who despite being as famous if not more than his collaborators, sees himself as one piece of the puzzle of pop. It’s humbling and appropriate as the world has shifted from being quick to worship DJs as the new rock stars. Listeners want to see who he brings to the table. It’s not just the Calvin Harris show.
A long way from his humble roots performing electro-disco songs and singing live on small stages in all-over-print T-shirts, Harris’ pop-crossover work is responsible for the shift toward dancier pop music in the United States over the last 10 years. 2011’s “We Found Love” with Rihanna cemented him as the poster child for the mainstream EDM explosion. But hitmaker Harris wants to remind us that he is more than just singles and that his music is not just fodder to solicit more million-dollar Vegas gigs.
Even as Drake and Beyoncé drop tracks that do as well on the radio as they do in a warehouse, Harris sticks to the same hazy, summer groove as on Vol. 1. This new album makes it clear that he’s done his time in the underground and has no plans to return to his roots. On Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 2, Harris balances expected favorites with last century’s legends and reunites collaborators. It’s uncertain what is the bigger milestone for a pop star: having a Harris-produced track on their own album or being included on his.
Here are five standout tracks that sound like summertime.
“Stay With Me” (with Justin Timberlake, Halsey & Pharrell)[embedded content]
This funky, star-studded jam doesn’t waste any time. From the first moment of the track, there’s Halsey’s breathy hook, giving room for a performance from Timberlake that channels him at his best — far from Man in the Woods and much closer to his career-defining collaborations with Pharrell from 20 years ago. There’s an argument that “Stay With Me,” the third single from the album, should have been the first. But maybe it would be misleading. Landing at a halfway point in the album, it provides some much-needed energy.
“Somebody Else” with Jorja Smith & Lil Durk[embedded content]
Sultry crooner Jorja Smith does what she does best over funky bass lines and rock guitars. Her lovelorn lyrics are contrasted with Lil Durk’s Auto-Tuned emotion: “The media treat me like I ain’t The Voice and I’m below the blogs/ Life’s too dangerous at 22, I can’t ignore her calls/ I called her a ‘bi—‘ the other day, she say she no one’s dog.” While Smith’s biggest songs are crossover dance hits with garage producer Preditah and collaborations with Nigerian singer Burna Boy, this collaboration is truer to the effortless, jazz-club style demonstrated in her solo tracks.
“Day One” with Pharrell & Pusha T[embedded content]
Whether it’s Jay-Z’s or Calvin Harris’ idea, we’re grateful when something brings Pharrell and Pusha T together. Fresh off their last collaboration, “Neck and Wrist,” Pusha’s single with Jay-Z from April, the last track on Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 2 continues the funky, wedding-friendly style of the entire project. When Pusha ends his verse by asking “Who you know chart No. 1 like Bruno [ Mars]?” the clear answer is his partners in crime on the track: Pharrell and Harris.
“Ready or Not” with Busta Rhymes[embedded content]
One of Vol. 2‘s most fun songs, “Ready or Not” breaks the one-note element of record. Busta Rhymes is one of only two artists on Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 2 to be the sole vocalist on a track — and he proves why immediately. This one wakes listeners up from a stoney haze and dares them to try to keep up. While Rhymes has been active in 2022, spitting feature verses on tracks with Diplo and Dominican rapper El Alfa, this is his first in a long time that gives him his well-deserved space.
“Obsessed” with Charlie Puth & Shenseea[embedded content]
Dancehall artist Sheensea brushes off Charlie Puth’s desperate pleas in this tropical summer anthem. The song even has its own visualizer, featuring dreamy images of flamingos and waves crashing. Fusing ’80s yacht-rock crooning with a hot-girl verse, the curation behind this unlikely duet is refreshing, upbeat and something Diplo probably wishes he did first.