Calvin Harris would like you to believe the following myth: first there was Madonna; then there was Daft Punk; now there is Calvin Harris. To his credit, the twenty-three-year-old singer-producer has never stated this, but his debut the apparent aspirations of his debut, I Created Disco, are bombastic enough to suggest it. The goal is understandable, to an extent. Like his predecessors, Harris is an astute club kid with pop aspirations. However, while Madge/Esther and the de Homem-Christo/Bangalter have crafted both an image and music, Harris is still just Calvin Harris, a club kid with pop aspirations.
Which is not necessarily a bad thing; it just means he has a few things to learn. At its best, I Created Disco slides across the dance floor like other top-shelf contemporary dance-pop. His breakout singles, “Acceptable in the ’80s” and “The Girls,” twitch and jitter like Mylo productions, while his deadpan affectations make for passable James Murphy impersonations. Though his posturing is irony chic, his tone is in fact more self-deprecating — fitting, considering he is too young to actually remember the ’80s and looks too McLovin to have actually honed any sexual prowess. However, solid production (fat drums, slinky bass lines and enough quirky keyboard tones to score for an arcade) give the album enough body to pass a first spin.
But Harris’s frivolous humor loses its charm when the music falls flat. In an apparent wink at Maddie egomania, he pushes himself — namely his muddled singing — to the front and center of the album. What Harris seems to forget is that Madonna, who sounded weak and tinny on early recordings, achieved what she needed in order to compensate for her weaknesses: production, songwriting and image. Harris only has one of those three. Subsequently, formulaic songs like the “Technologic”-aping “This Is Industry” and the out-of-place club thud of the title track expose him as awkward and inexperienced. Such unreachable aspirations hurt the record most and make the album more fluff than fulfilling.