It’s time we had a talk about Calvin. A friend in Philly reminded me the other day of apparently how early I’d been in picking up on the nth renaissance of Rihanna with ‘We Found Love‘ (which I don’t think I really was, I just like the Scot) and the comment made me think, over the last few days, of the sensational impact that the man from Dumfries who used to soundtrack my stationary bike sessions (‘Acceptable in the 80s’, duh) has had on the music world. From humble beginnings experimenting with some high-pitched vocals, stabbing synths and really ridiculous subject matter, Calvin grew into his role as popstar on one of my favourite records of the decade, ‘Ready For The Weekend‘ (2009) and in the three years that have elapsed since, has evolved again into something of a production-DJ-world-class-nightclub-slaying juggernaut. The progression was hardly organic, nor was it predictable. I always, naively, assumed that I’d have the disco beats to myself, reveling in the knowledge that while he was sort of big in the UK, Calvin was almost an unknown in Aus. And then he totally exploded.
The thing with Florence was inevitable. If you were looking for another artist in the UK who quietly plied their wares for a few years, garnering a strong but discrete fan club, only to have the whole world suddenly paying attention after X happens (substitute for ‘getting Rihanna on board for a track’ or ‘being featured on every mega-fantasy blockbuster out there – from Snow White to Twilight’, as appropriate), you couldn’t look further then Florence and her Machine. Florence historically had a distinctly anthemic, arena quality to all that she produced but it was only really with last year’s ‘Ceremonials’ that she hit stratospheric heights. While the red-haired one’s vocals always sounded like they would go down well in the club (listen to for proof), it’s taken some time for someone brave – or recklessly ambitious – enough to put those pipes to the test. ‘Spectrum (Say My Name)’ is not the official single from Calvin Harris’ forthcoming ’18 Months’ (that’d ) but it probably should be. Midas touch might be underselling it.
The culmination of this internal monologue regarding the rise and rise of Calvin Harris, questioning how a character who doesn’t come from a particularly commercially gigantic background can keep getting it so right, came today when, lost in thought, I was startled by that phrase, popularised by Destiny’s Child 13 years ago, blasting at me from a nondescript hatchback. The demeanor of the driver is what got me. A small girl, holding the wheel at 10 and 2, sat just vaguely bobbing her head, certainly not throwing deuces, getting her groove on et al. The reaction seemed strange given how ‘Spectrum’ pulsed from her car but makes sense: Calvin Harris makes music that is accessible and club-ready, just as suitable for blaring on a demure drive as for starting a night out. Florence grounds ‘Spectrum’ in the genuine emotion of her vocals and Calvin just ratchets things up on the chorus, proffering a so-obvious-it-hurts beat that somehow manages to push Welch’s vocals further still. Unlike the largely disposable hits he’s been producing of late (‘‘ as the male approximation of ‘We Found Love’), ‘Spectrum’ has the guts, the strings and the girl to hold up over time. There’s more to say about Calvin but something tells me we’ll have ample time to talk about it.
Florence + The Machine – Spectrum (Say My Name)