Sunday, March 10, 2019

Weekend Diversion: Calvin Harris

Watching New Zealand's pop music video channel, as I do, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid seeing videos of songs by Scottish-born DJ, produce, singer, and songwriter, Calvin Harris. As it happens, a performance of his most recent song (above) was also on a TV show I watch on a “regular” channel. And, well, some sharing became inevitable.

The song above is “Giant” which features Harris and English singer-songwriter Rag’n’Bone Man (real name Rory Graham), who also co-wrote the song. I’ll admit it took me a little while to warm up to the song, but once I did, I really liked it. Released in January of this year, the song hit 24 in Australia (Gold), 31 in Canada, 21 in New Zealand, 2 in the UK (Silver), and 2 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart.

The two performed the song live on The Graham Norton Show a few weeks ago [WATCH on YouTube], and that show aired here in New Zealand this past Friday.

Harris does a lot of collaboration songs, and another song I liked a lot was released in August of last year, “Promises”, a song with Sam Smith, who co-wrote it:

This video was released in September of last year, and it may have helped promote sales. The song hit Number 4 in Australia (3x Platinum), 15 in Canada (Gold), 7 in New Zealand (Platinum), 1 in the UK (on both the Singles and Dance charts, and it went Platinum), and 65 on the Billboard Hot 100 as well as 1 on their Dance Clubs Songs chart (Gold).

I featured Sam Smith, who has done a lot of collaborations, too, back in December 2014 and again the following February. His look has changed a bit since then.

The next song is also one I’ve seen on the music video channel a lot, “One Kiss” from May of last year, a collaboration with Dua Lipa who, once again, co-wrote the song:

This song was also successful: It reached Number 3 in Australia (4x Platinum), 6 in Canada (3x Platinum), 6 in New Zealand (Platinum), 1 in the UK (on both the Singles and Dance charts, as well as reaching 2X Platinum), and 26 on the Billboard Hot 100 (as well as 1 on the Dance Clubs Songs chart, and achieving Platinum status).

I could feature more such songs, and most of them have been quite successful. But Calvin Harris is also a successful DJ, for several years the highest-earning DJ in the world, making many tens of millions of dollars a year from that alone. Needless to say, perhaps, he’s a millionaire.

Featuring a DJ/producer can be a bit difficult—what best shows their work? What’s representative? Normally, I just pick songs I like when I’ve included the work of DJs/producers in the past. In my mind, it was similar when I included one of Harris’ songs before in a Weekend Diversion post about John Newman in July of last year (third video).

But Calvin Harris is more than a DJ/producer, he’s one of the few I pay attention to who also sings. I could have picked any number of videos to demonstrate that, but I decided to go way back, all the way to his debut single, “Acceptable in the 80s”, which was released in March of 2007:

Being a debut single, perhaps, it wasn’t as successful as his later songs. It reached Number 97 in Australia (Gold), 10 in the UK and 2 on the UK Dance chart (Silver). It didn’t chart in Canada, New Zealand, or the USA. Still, it’s kind of catchy in a way that reminds me of both “novelty songs” and also some of the self-consciously ironic songs of, well, the 1980s. This video also captures some of the feel of many videos from that decade. Even so, it’s not exactly my favourite by him.

No matter what videos I’d picked, it would only be a bare hint of the stuff he’s done over the past dozen years, so it’s really worth checking out the videos on his YouTube Channel. I have a feeling that in the future we’ll be talking about Calvin Harris as having been behind a lot of our favourite pop and dance songs from this era, and that’s something I don’t believe I’ve said, or thought, about any of the other current people doing the sort of work he’s doing. Still, this decade isn’t over quite yet, so there’s still time to add to the list. To me, though, this is a good start.

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