A song with Calvin Harris, Frank Ocean and two of the three Migos is a strikingly absurd concept, at least on paper. Calvin Harris, an EDM DJ known primarily for his unrivaled ability to produce anemic dance-pop anthems — although the Chainsmokers might have something to say about that — would seem to be a less than ideal candidate to collaborate with a Southern hip-hop group and the foremost R&B act of the 2010s.
And yet, if there’s one thing to be taken away from Calvin Harris’s new single “Slide” featuring Migos and Frank Ocean, it’s that the trio of artists possesses a strange synergy.
The track works well because it manages to incorporate each of the artists’ strengths while minimizing their respective weaknesses. Freed from his occasionally inaccessible inclinations, Frank Ocean’s delicate croon — enhanced with an inexplicably awesome Alvin and the Chipmunks-style vocal effect — makes for a stellar hook in the opening moments of the song.
Working with non-pop acts also seems to have catalyzed a musical shift in Calvin Harris. Still making use of his affinity for earworm production work, Calvin Harris displays surprising subtlety for the normally bombastic artist on “Slide.” In contrast to the usual massive synthesizer sounds which pervade EDM tracks, Calvin Harris instead goes with a much more stripped down, funky instrumentation, with blissfully soothing effects.
Finally, in the case of Migos, rapping over a pop beat instead of their usual dreary trap style production grants the group a joyous inflection previously unseen in their music.
For Harris especially, the release of “Slide” indicates intriguing potential for his career going forward. While Harris previously limited his collaborations to mostly female pop vocalists such as Ellie Goulding and Rihanna, the success of his collaboration with Migos and Frank Ocean may open Harris up to more liaisons between the hip-hop and pop worlds. In interviews over the last few years, Harris has expressed a desire to collaborate with Pharrell. Perhaps this scenario is more likely with the success of “Slide.”
Meanwhile, Frank Ocean’s artistic trajectory seems relatively unaffected by the release of the new track. He seems to have moved on to more esoteric pastures. In a recent interview, John Mayer described Frank Ocean’s new music as “space reggae.” One can only hope Frank Ocean takes time away to continue more pop gems like “Slide.”
Whatever the future holds for these artists, “Slide” is certain to be blasted out of open car windows and pool party playlists for the duration of the coming spring and summer.