“But Nicole, this is an alternative music blog. I feel like you’re not getting the ~essence~ of consistent branding or how important it is that we keep guitars in music.”
I don’t care. I’m throwing the rules out on this one.
I’ll admit it: I love Calvin Harris. Not everything he does, but a lot of it. And it’s his birthday, so happy birthday, you Scottish genius.
It’s not the first time we’ve covered Harris on this blog (he created one of the greatest songs of all time, after all). So in honor of his 34th birthday, we’re going to break down his best tracks (in no particular order) that even the most EDM/house/funk-hating people can get into.
1.) ‘Faith’ – Motion
I’ve said it before: the best Harris songs are the ones he sings on. Enter: “Faith,” the first track off of his 4th LP, Motion.
“I need to feel my soul come alive/I need to feel the strength to get by/I need a little, I need a little faith/Is that too much to ask for?” I think we could all relate to these lyrics every once in a while. Life is tough. This is the kind of song you can belt out while in the car alone thinking to yourself, “It’s tough being a millennial in 2018.”
2.) ‘Flashback’ – Ready For The Weekend
There’s no room for debate: Ready For The Weekend is Harris’ strongest and most creative album to date. Ah, the days before the massive radio hits.
“Flashback” sounds just as the name implies. With dream-like synths throughout the chorus, you may find yourself reminiscing about a flashback of your own.
This is the story of a person who has come to the realization that if they keep along the path they’re going, it’s not going to end well. The music video portrays this in the form of a sobering Harris trying to remember last night’s mistakes. It’s okay, though. Harris no longer drinks.
3.) ‘Acceptable in the 80’s’ – I Created Disco
“I’ve got love for you if you were born in the 80’s.” So Harris doesn’t have love for me (#90skid), but that’s okay, because we have love for him, and more importantly, love for this jam.
It’s the song that helped put Harris on the map; his first single from debut LP, I Created Disco. It’s repetitive, sure, but not annoyingly so. It’s also written in E minor, which is kind of impressive. According to Spotify, only 4.2% of every song available on the streaming service was recorded in that key.
The music video for “Acceptable in the 80’s” is just as zany and fun as the song it’s based on, plus it features the OG extra-nerdy Harris we all wish would make a reappearance.
Did we mention it samples David Bowie’s “Shake It”?
4.) ‘5iliconeator’ – Ready For The Weekend
Harris is no stranger to the occasional instrumental track (see below). Heavily driven by a piano melody, “5iliconeator” is as calming of a song you’re likely to get out of the Scottish DJ. It’s the kind of song you listen to when you’re trying to be creative, when you’re trying to make something.
Songs like these make you appreciate Harris’ thought process behind his music. Sure, he knows the formula to make a radio hit, but every once in a while, you get a gem like this that shows his true musicality.
5.) ‘Burns Night’ – Ready For The Weekend
Speaking of instrumental tracks, Harris brings it again with ‘Burns Night.’ Burns Night is a celebration on Jan. 25 each year in Scotland celebrating the works of poet Robert Burns. Why is this song named after this day? I don’t have the answer to that. However, I can tell you all about this tune.
Actually, I can’t. There’s not much to say. It’s a repeating melodic line that crescendos, then decrescendos. It’s not complex. It’s not overreaching. Is that synonomous with Burns’ poetry? Again, I don’t know. I’m not familiar with his work.
Grade A journalism right here.
6.) ‘The Girls’ – I Created Disco
Let’s be real: I only included this song because it’s probably the most lyrically ridiculous song Harris has written. Basically, he likes all the girls and gets all the girls, even when he was just a lanky giant with dyed hair.
I’ll give him credit: he is all inclusive on this one. “I like them tall girls/I like them short girls/I like them brown haired girls/I like them blonde haired girls,” just to name a few of the many types of girls mentioned in this song.
It’s quirky, it’s fun. You’ll like it.
7.) ‘Cash Out’ – Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1
What I hate about Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1: No singing from Harris.
What I love about Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1: This entirely new funk direction Harris is taking us in. It’s different from 80% of the music on the radio and digs back into that ultra creative side of his mind. It sounds like summer, which makes me forget that I, in fact, hate summer.
One of my favorite reviews of this album comes from Jon O’Brien at prefixmag.com, in which he writes: “But after years of banishing everything that once made him such an interesting pop star to the sidelines, there are encouraging signs here that the Harris of old hasn’t been entirely lost for good.”
I get that feeling from this song. It’s effortless and cool. It features ScHoolboy Q, PARTYNEXTDOOR, and most importantly, D.R.A.M., who easily steals the show with his vocal performance.
8.) ‘Stars Come Out’ – Ready For The Weekend
“I cannot explain/Something in your chemistry/Power to your brain/Power to the minds museum.” The lyrics aren’t great. The beat is, though. Look, I didn’t claim that all the songs on this list would be awe inspiring.
However, you’ll have the rhythm stuck in your head no less than three days straight if you listen to this song. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
9.) ‘I’m Not Alone’ – Ready For The Weekend
You think we’ve already covered all the great songs of Ready For The Weekend? You thought wrong. Here we are again, this time with “I’m Not Alone.” The song was his first non-collaborative effort to hit No. 1 on the UK charts, back in 2009. And just like “Acceptable in the 80’s,” it’s written in E minor.
There’s essentially two styles to this song. There’s the dark opening verse, and then there’s the bright, pop-py hook. As per usual, the music video is weird. But who among us hasn’t tried to perform experiments on people in attempts to animate a teddy bear?
10.) ‘School’ – 18 Months
What can be said that hasn’t already been said about this gem of a musical masterpiece. (I already linked my full blog post about it above, but here’s another chance to click.)
I consider myself an avid follower of Harris’ Twitter account. The guy is hilarious. However, I somehow missed one of the most important tweets of my life back in May in response to a fan (@SupJwall) tweeting that “School” was too short:
At just 1 minute, 47 seconds, I couldn’t agree more. It’s never too late for an extended version, Calvin.
Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia.