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.