“Feels” Review: Calvin Harris Taps Into Groovy California Vibes With Pharrell and Friends

By Niy Birden


There’s something so timeless that comes from a feature with veteran musician Pharrell Williams. Perhaps it’s the endless influence of old school R&B? Perhaps it’s his open mindset? Or maybe it’s the fact that somehow, he really hasn’t aged at all that much? Who knows. But no one can deny: he has a certain Midas touch. He’s even managed to make a traditional EDM DJ be able to sound like a down with the culture disco-clubbing goer.

In all honesty, the only real hint of what most people know of Calvin Harris that shows in this song is actually the soundscape in the very beginning, before any voices come through. But for a DJ like Calvin, this is actually a very good thing. Like Pharrell, Calvin Harris has created a genuine career from his versatile sounds. Pharrell opens up with his classic “Hey!” and immediately the fun begins. One thing that is notable about Pharrell is that he has this impeccable way of always making the listener feel like he is talking directly to them.

The muffled organs and 4 on the floor drum beat take you right back to those early California, rap/song combo, ‘90s-2000s hits he so masterfully created, and he starts by giving you that charming talk that he usually does on collaborations: “Hey!/Well nothing ever last forever, no/One minute you’re here and the next you’re gone/So I respect you, wanna take it slow/I need a mental receipt to know this moment I owe/Do you mind if I steal a kiss? (Chop, chop)/A little souvenir, can I steal it from you?/To memorize the way you shock me/The way you move it here (Hey)/Just wanna feel it from you (Hey)”. So you might get a kiss stolen from you, but at least you’ll be gettin’ down.

Perry then comes in with a slightly taunting chorus “Don’t be afraid to catch feels/Ride drop top and chase thrills (Hey)/I know you ain’t afraid to pop pills (Hey)/Baby, I know you ain’t scared to catch feels/Feels with me” and while it isn’t very long, her unique voice grabs the right attention immediately, enough for you to anticipate the next verse to come. Unfortunately though, the pre-determined verse from her never comes, which is actually quite the disappointment considering her latest dance anthem “Chained To The Rhythm” and her vocal capability.

Regardless, what is most interesting is the contribution from rapper Big Sean, who comes in during an almost breakdown moment in the song, solidifying the disco influence. You’d expect Pharrell to steal the moment again, but it is generously given to the rapper. Now, Big Sean is no newbie to being featured on pop songs, however given the strong black background of this genre for the song, this feature feels very authentic. Rousing, soulful, melismatic background runs that change key during one of his verses also add to the delivery of the performance, and a funky guitar riff makes you remember back to that golden moment of when Pharrell worked with Daft Punk and Nile Rogers for their hit “Get Lucky”.

Now while all artists can’t seem to get lucky with their chosen love interest who is playing hard to get, at least they can walk away with yet another pop hit. This song, is a true banger. This is the kind of song that you can hear being played at a black cookout. And we all know that songs from those get-togethers, last. It creates the perfect combination of dance, pop, and R&B. There’s no need for head-bursting electronic basses (which I love), and there’s no hint of electronic or processed music anywhere, actually, which makes it such a keeper.

Even though electronic music has been making waves with it’s chart influence and has inspired so many newer sounds, the most notable and classic dance-inducing songs for the last century have been mostly non-electronic. And there’s many reasons for that, but from the proof of the musical delivery of this song, one point stands tallest of them all: people love live music. Yes, electronic music can give you that desired bass feeling deep in your groins in a similar way to if you heard it live at a club and stood by the speakers (which is literally why people did it-gotta cater to the loins), but so can a good kick drum and slap bass.

So, massive kudos to Calvin Harris, for tapping into a classic sound without it being corny or forgettable, and thanks to the other artists for giving us something to sing along to. We look forward to the cookouts.