Is Calvin Harris The Best Dance/Pop Superstar Of All Time?
On June 30, 2017, Calvin Harris could begin the process of cementing his status as the greatest dance/pop superstar of all time. It’s on that date that he releases Funk Wav Bounces Vol. I, his fifth artist album, and what is likely to be his fifth global top five album. Pop stars (and expressly those who produce electronic music) making dance-friendly smash hit records is now rather commonplace. However, to be a producer who curates talent that appear on your releases, and moreover be a vocalist on your own hits is a skill all unto itself. As well, to then cross that over to being a pop sensation who dominates the tabloids, the Billboard charts and pop culture in general is what Harris has done. In being a star from Food Lion to the festival, the bedroom to the boardroom, and in both the underground and mainstream, Calvin Harris could indeed be the best of all time.
“What do I have to offer that they don’t?,” Harris noted to Beats 1 Radio personality Zane Lowe in 2016 regarding the key to his crossover success and what has fueled his decade-long run as a dance/pop sensation. In fact, he offers a ton.
In the past 11 years, Calvin Harris has released 23 Top 10 worldwide singles. For sake of comparison, in that same span of time, Beyonce has released 13, Lady Gaga has released 16, and Harris collaborator Rihanna has 44. Calvin’s in amazing company. Speaking of collaborators, Harris has worked with 25 different artists to create some of these 23 Top 10 hits, spanning genres as disparate as Haim’s soft rock to Migos’ sing-song trap rap, and more. Impressively, his 2012 Rihanna pairing “We Found Love” was one of American Billboard’s top-selling pop songs of 2012, and has sold ten million plus singles since its release, making it rank at the same level as Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time” and Los Del Rio’s “Macarena” as one of the best-selling singles of all time.
Harris has had such impressive success while also staying underground-to-mainstream pop relevant at all times as well. In the same Zane Lowe interview quoted above, he continued, “I believe I had the last EDM song that was successful and it was “Summer” that was the last song that sounded like EDM that got in the charts. That’s the last EDM riff that was successful. Those are the years. It’s those three years and to hear just honest, honesty.” To this fact, his 2007 indie electro debut album was entitled I Created Disco, and by 2011, his US pop breakout single “Feel So Close” definitely shared a vibe alongside the hits of stars of that era like Swedish House Mafia. 2014’s “Summer” was a hook-driven pop song with a driving electro thump, thus making it right in line with that era’s festival boom. One year later, “How Deep Is Your Love” is a house-style crossover record primed for not the festival, but the dancefloors of clubs worldwide. And now with 2017’s “Slide,” Harris is yet again moving a step ahead by merging house and trap in a manner most unique.
Of course, if curating the progressive sound of an electro-pop generation behind the microphone and the boards wasn’t enough, he counts Chris Brown, Pitbull, Kylie Minogue and more in his songwriting credits, too. Add in his infamous washboard abs, his non-drinking, that time he dated Taylor Swift for 15 months, and his rumored wealth nearing a quarter of a billion dollars to the mix, and he’s on a whole other level.
Sure there’s stars nipping at his heels. The Chainsmokers have seven top 10 hits in four years and have only just recently released their debut artist album. As well, there’s someone like Diplo, who whether with his own work/productions for others, collaborations with the likes of Skrillex for Jack U, or in Major Lazer, has 22 hits to his credit. While not the streamlined path of Harris, it’s differently impressive.
Pop and electronic music’s current connectivity feels different from prior eras in the sense that we’re now welcoming in an era of producers who are simultaneously singer/songwriters, strong collaborators, and moreover, willing to emerge from behind the decks as rock-star like pop culture icons. Thus, for as much as Calvin Harris could be the best dance/pop superstar, it’s quite obviously likely that he’s far from the last.