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Song of the Week: Calvin Harris Concocts the Perfect “Potion” with Dua Lipa and Young Thug

Momma, Mamalarky, and The Garden also dropped essential tracks

potion calvin harris
Calvin Harris, Dua Lipa, Young Thug’s “Potion” (YouTube)
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    Song of the Week breaks down and talks about the song we just can’t get out of our head each week. Find these songs and more on our Spotify Top Songs playlist. For our favorite new songs from emerging artists, check out our Spotify New Sounds playlist. This week, Calvin Harris gives us a first look at his upcoming Funk Wav. Bounces Vol 2, with some help from Dua Lipa and Young Thug.


    Five years ago, Calvin Harris orchestrated a well-needed left turn from his wildly popular, occasionally cheesy EDM — just when summer was on the horizon, the Scottish producer teamed up with Frank Ocean and Migos for “Slide,” a deeply funky, specific and rewarding track for an artist that often worked in a more general sphere.

    “Slide,” and its accompanying album, Funk Wav. Bounces Vol 1, completely shifted the paradigm for Harris, and he quickly moved away from the bombastic, drop-heavy tones of the past to something more nostalgic and organic. And now, after five years, some great standalone singles, and an attempt to go back to his UK House roots, Calvin Harris has returned with “Potion,” featuring Dua Lipa and Young Thug, the first single from his upcoming album, Funk Wav. Bounces Vol 2.

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    Luckily, Harris’ music has always lent itself to collaborations, and “Potion” certainly takes a page from Dua Lipa’s disco era. In a surprising turn, Harris leans away from the percussive edge that served as a through line between his EDM and days and the first Funk Wav. Bounces volume — the snare drum is no longer a seismic part of the beat, the frequent bongos add a purely natural feel, and even the bass drum is relatively light in the mix. These choices all point to Harris looking for a different way to elevate these songs naturally, but once again, Harris’ busy bass line and session piano does all the heavy lifting — the rest is up to Dua Lipa and Young Thug.

    Both of these artists do a terrific job imbuing a large amount of restraint and tact on “Potion,” never bringing the song out of its stoned, seductive atmosphere. Dua Lipa’s voice can often have a piercing pop quality, but she ditches that entirely, opting for an oozing, almost spiritual performance (giving the “potion” theme a perfect vocal compliment). Young Thug is also an artist who can bring the energy level of a song to a soaring peak, and can be a delightful loose cannon, but on “Potion,” he’s selective, careful, low key, and remarkably smooth. Harris’ work behind the boards is as meticulous as ever on “Potion,” demonstrating that he can pretty much work with any kind of artist to accomplish his vision.

    And overall, there’s something that’s deliberately small and light about “Potion.” Harris loves his summer jams (see: “Summer”), but there’s no impetus to create an Ibiza-worthy banger here: instead, it’s wildly intimate, sensual, and smooth. If “Potion” points to anything, it’s that Funk Wav. Bounces Vol. 2 may just be his most dynamic project yet.

    — Paolo Ragusa

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    Honorable Mentions:

    Momma – “Lucky”

    Brooklyn-based duo Momma have perfected the art of putting a modern spin on ’90s grunge in the vein of Smashing Pumpkins and Pavement. “Lucky,” the latest single from their upcoming album Household Name, is an impeccable alt-rock love song that somehow manages to be deliriously earnest without ever sounding mawkish.

    It’s a track about the total bliss of being in love with your best friend, and the deep desire to always want to be around them. “How’d I get so lucky?” Etta Friedman laments. “I need you near to me,” she murmurs over fuzzed-out guitars and bashing drums. It’s romantic as hell, a sonic reflection of the most pure form of love. — Cady Siregar

    Pool Kids – “That’s Physics, Baby”

    Forget cryptic, abstract songs about betrayal — with “That’s Physics, Baby,” Pool Kids detail heartbreak with the transparency of a science textbook. The lead single from their forthcoming self-titled album sees vocalist/guitarist Christine Goodwyne standing up for herself in the throes of a neglectful relationship: “Clock feels like it’s moving backwards/ And I don’t have the time,” she sings.

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    Goodwyne knows that subtleties won’t get her far, and “That’s Physics, Baby” is anything but understated. Over sprightly, mathy guitar riffs and pummeling drums, her voice bursts with a newfound confidence: “I’m a tempered glass that you never could shatter,” she sings, as if to say delicacy and strength can coexist, after all. — Abby Jones

    KANGDANIEL – “Upside Down”

    KANGDANIEL is telling all in The Story, his new album which is somehow his first full-length studio project. The writer and artist, a former member of K-pop group Wanna One, has spent the last few years locking in how he wants his individual sound to feel, exploring a series of color-based EPs and bouncy, mature bops like 2019’s “TOUCHIN’.”

    With lead single “Upside Down,” he offers a relatable anthem for anyone who feels like things never quite go their way. (The timing around the release of the new season of Stranger Things might just be a happy coincidence.) The vibrant track ushers in warmer days, offering an optimistic reprieve for anyone who connects with the feelings he describes. — Mary Siroky

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