If you’re a fan of Calvin Harris’ and you’re not worried about his music starting to stagnate, you probably should be. Ever since Calvin hit it really, really big with his Rihanna collaboration “We Found Love”—a collab which, not incidentally, coincided with his decision to stop singing on his own records—his ensuing productions have started skewing towards the predictable and ordinary.
Which isn’t to say that all of his records since have been bad, as the couple team-ups with Florence (of & The Machine) have been of high quality, and it’s not to say that innovation was ever his calling card in the first place, because it wasn’t. But when it gets to the point that you can see a listed song titled and collaborator and pretty much guess where the entire song goes from there, that’s a problem. And that’s basically where we’re at with Calvin Harris now, as evidenced by his new Ellie Goulding-featuring “I Need Your Love.”
While danceable and slightly catchy the way all Calvin Harris productions are, even at their very worst, “Need Your Love” is woefully lacking in inspiration. The lyrics seem purposefully innocuous—”I need your love, I need your time / When everything’s wrong, you make it right / I feel so high, I come alive / I need to be free with you tonight”—and the three-note piano hook that compliments it on the chorus comes off as lazy at best. There’s some fun synth noodling to be had, but there’s no real lift in the song, no takeoff whatsoever—the song doesn’t even build and release the way most other Harris productions of late have done.
Ellie Goulding is a game collaborator, but her talents are a poor fit with Harris’ production. While Calvin’s instrumentals tend to go straight for the pop pressure points, Ellie’s voice is too small and intimate to handle the disco-diva load—even on “Lights,” her big crossover hit, Goulding’s voice sounded a little shy and embarrassed, like she was letting you in on a secret she wasn’t even sure she wanted to share. Calvin’s productions need a bigger, brassier female vocalist to carry them, which is why his two Florence collabs were elevated beyond pure formula, but also why “I Need Your Love” falls flat.
While he’s amassed enough hits over the last 18 months that his upcoming album (titled, appropriately, 18 Months) will probably sell regardless, Harris appears getting to be getting to a dangerous point in his recording career, where he relies on the names co-billed on the marquee to sell his product, and invests minimally in the productions themselves. The considerable amount of good will he built up with the likes of “We Found Love,” “Bounce” and “Feel So Close” is quickly running out, and soon we won’t be able to avoid putting him on the same level with—gasp!—David Guetta.