Thursday, January 31st, 2019

Calvin Harris & Rag’n’Bone Man – Giant

Yeah sure you are.


Iris Xie: Deep down, I’m kind of an optimist. That’s why I pushed through a solid minute of ambivalent hope, waiting for something better… then I heard the goofy horns, and then I questioned why I even tried. This is blue eyed soul without much soul, set to EDM. Calvin Harris remains very skilled at using elements of soul and house music without doing much to give back to either medium. It’s also a shitty Instagram filter of a song, one that turns the world discolored and distorted. I’m just gonna go listen to Gorgon City’s “Go All Night” featuring Jennifer Hudson instead for a much better execution of this concept, with big vocals and a celebratory production to match, which also doesn’t use Ylvis’s scatting, blubbery fox to make a fucking bridge. Argh.

Thomas Inskeep: Oh yay, it’s RNBM doing his “I’m a gospel singer” bit (spoiler alert: YOU’RE NOT, you’re a big white British guy) while Harris attempts to build an “uplifting,” “inspiring” club track around him, and I spend the 3:48 trying to choke back vomit.

Alfred Soto: The organ peels and house piano aren’t disqualifying, not when they do their best to offset the gospel bigness. Calvin Harris is trying after a decade of Eurodisco folderol, despite a constitutional incapacity for picking collaborators.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Rag’n’Bone Man explained that “Giant” is about the eventual role reversal between child and parent — how there comes a time when one will take care of the ones who raised them. The first verse begins with him creating an image of a divorced parent and the antidepressants they’re taking as a result. “I would be nothing without you holding me up” he explains immediately after, following it up with the new truth that is “Now I’m strong enough for both of us.” There’s a mutual learning and growth that occurs now, but the “standing on the shoulders of giants” metaphor has an implicit chronological component that doesn’t suit the sentiment here, especially since Rag’n’Bone Man calls himself the giant. At the very least, this turn of phrase shouldn’t be coupled with a line as corny as “We’ll be breaking boulders beneath our feet.” The horn-filled instrumental breaks are as ill-conceived as the lyrics.

Juana Giaimo: Rag’n’Bone Man said that he wrote this song four years ago but never found the right production until Calvin Harris appeared. However, it is in the beginning, when you still can’t hear the typical DJ tricks, that I can hear the deep feelings of fear, loneliness and willingness to fight. Then the keyboards and steady beat and the jazzy drop appears and, although the song still feels powerful, that unsteadiness and tension of the beginning is lost. 

Will Adams: I enjoy how present the horns are. Harris spreads them across the stereo field and keeps the backing nimble, allowing their textures to really cut through. It’s too bad you have to trudge through Rag’n’Bone Man bellowing platitudes to get to it.

Edward Okulicz: Every time I feel myself succumbing to Calvin Harris’s gaudy but effective populism, he does something gross like put Rag’n’Bone Man and his Serious Tasteful Man Singing over it and ruins the effect. This backing track should have enclosed a jaunty trifle, instead it’s got a song that puffs its chest out, or arches its back and sticks its tail up to look bigger than it is. I like my good bad taste to be bereft of bad good taste.

Scott Mildenhall: Classically Calvin Harris, with the bonus feature of Comedy Brass Noises and Soul Organ Soupçons. When your every other single is a reprise of your greatest hits, the ever mutating construction of a monument to your achievements, such a statement of self-actualisation is fitting, as well as inclusive. The man never ceases to find ways to repaint the wheel, and for this rootle through Rag’n’Bone Man’s bins, long may his reign continue.

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