TRACK REVIEW: Rollin by Calvin Harris (feat. Future, Khalid)

By Fraser McGovern (@FraserMcGovern)

It feels like we’re a long way away from the ‘party party in the club’ era of radio hits; the curtains have just about closed on the era of David Guetta, Pitbull and will.i.am enthusiastically spouting their spiel about never wanting the night to end. Unfortunately for them, it looks like it finally has. Calvin Harris, though, is demonstrating with his latest singles his ability to adapt in the face of change.

The latest of these is Rollin, a low-key jam that rolls along just as the title implies. Rather than piling upon the listener big drops or catchy electronic hooks (see all Harris singles circa 2010-2015), this track creates a subtle vibe and sticks it out until the end. Squelchy 80s synths and muted piano chords play over a slow, pulsing bassline. The funk-infused instrumentation is nothing too flashy, but the restraint on display from the hitmaker is something to be admired.

The featured artists take the forefront here: 19-year-old Khalid leads with a chilled chorus and echoey backing vocals while Atlanta rapper Future takes us through braggadocious verses about owning expensive clothes and taking drugs. Some habits die hard in pop music it seems, but it’s undeniable that Future’s flow is a natural fit for this cruising anthem. So too is Khalid, who sings about an introspective drive: “I’ve got anger on my chest / I’ve got millions on my mind / And you didn’t fit the picture / So I guess you weren’t the vibe”

The two contributors bring contrasting subject matter and flavour to the track, giving a refreshing impression of conflicted feelings. The simple bassline is always present providing a sense of momentum along with the synths, although some more variety in structure would have made the single more interesting and less one-note. You may be listening out for some sort of musical buildup but the song’s end jumps up abruptly before any is found.

Rollin is not risky by any means (not even by chart standards), but it’s encouraging to see that the Dumfries DJ is shifting back towards a more compelling kind of dance music. This is a man who at one point manufactured all his singles in the same time signature (128bpm in case anyone’s curious), so any development in artistic and musical style is encouraging. The world of pop music is survival of the fittest, and I don’t know if you noticed but Calvin Harris is pretty fit these days.

7/10


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TRACK REVIEW: Slide by Calvin Harris (feat. Frank Ocean & Migos)

Written by Andrew Barr (@weeandreww)

One of the world’s biggest DJ’s and collaborators, a reclusive R&B crooner and a rapidly-ascending hip-hop trio slide together on a pop song hand-crafted for summer, about Pablo Picasso.

When Slide opens with a piano melody and a pitch-shifted vocal, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’re listening to a track from Frank Ocean’s sophomore album Blonde, a record where he made this vocal effect yet another trait of his. “I might/empty my bank account/and buy that boy with a pipe”, the high-pitched vocal sings, a lyric that confused fans until Ocean himself posted on Genius lyrics, clarifying that boy with a pipe is a Picasso painting that sold for $104.2 million due to the fact it is a Picasso original, despite the fact it was not considered a masterpiece, introducing a theme of materialism, another trait of Ocean’s.

After the piano-led intro, an electro-beat typical of Calvin Harris takes over, which seems to have been engineered for driving to in summer with the windows down. However, the background beat and the slick production is the only real sign that this is Harris’ track, as he takes more of a back seat and allows Ocean and Migos to shine. Ocean’s natural voice is present for the first time in the chorus, punctuated by a pitch shifted “I might”. The first Ocean verse falls somewhere between rapping and singing, where he uses his trademark storytelling lyrical style to develop the theme of materialism

This is followed by two verses from two-thirds of Migos, firstly Quavo who delivers a short, auto-tuned verse which leads into a verse from Offset who name-drops Picasso over a much brighter backdrop than the trap beats Migos are famed for rapping over.

Another Ocean chorus then fades back into the pitch-shifted outro which closes one of the most subtle bangers of Harris’ career, which may just rival that new Daft Punk single for the “Sound of the Summer” accolade.