Music

Calvin Harris’ ‘Motion’ finds the mega-DJ mining familiar moves

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One and a half stars

Calvin Harris Motion

If anyone can reroute the course of commercial EDM, it’s Calvin Harris. His peers may be more iconic and innovative (Deadmau5, Skrillex), but it’s the Scottish jack-of-all-pop-trade’s tuneful, recognizable discography that drives bodies both to clubs like Hakkasan and to his festival sets at Coachella and Electric Daisy Carnival.

However, on Motion, his fourth album, Harris seems to have no interest in creatively evolving, seemingly pivoting to the safety of the familiar and succumbing to the complacency that success often enables.

When he released 18 Months two years ago, he helped set the artistic templates now adopted by many of his contemporaries and made influential by his head-embedding, chart-topping hooks. Those melodies are in shorter supply on Motion, exceptions being the dayclub staple “Summer,” which Harris croaks out himself to wincing effect; “Outside,” his second confection with singer Ellie Goulding; and rising single “Blame,” smartly assigned to underrated British vocalist John Newman. Worse, Harris’ newer productions do nothing to distinguish themselves from other recent Beatport anthems, heavily incorporating the usual overzealous trance arpeggios, confetti-cueing buildups and dance-pop song structures—all heard in the Alesso-assisted “Under Control” alone. It doesn’t help that Harris partners with too many other producers here (R3hab, Firebeatz, Ummet Ozcan), diluting his musical identity with trendy novelty.

Two numbers eschew EDM retread, though they borrow from elsewhere: “Love Now,” Harris’ version of Disclosure’s en vogue R&B-flavored house, and “Pray to God,” his ’80s-flavored collab with alt-pop group Haim that all but apes Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen.” It is not motion that defines this collection, but stagnancy.

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