If I Created Disco made Calvin Harris a hipster icon, and Ready For The Weekend made him a dance floor legend, 18 Months molded the Scottish producer and DJ into the FM radio mainstay the world knows and loves today. The album was Harris’ first to hit the Billboard 200 albums chart with a debut at No. 19, as well as his first No. 1 Top Dance/Electronic Album. It made history as the first album ever to beget nine top 10 singles in the U.K. Indeed, listening to it now still plays like a greatest hits. Now, as the seminal work celebrates its five-year anniversary, we celebrate its legacy as one of the most important albums in dance music and modern pop history.
18 Months marks a turning point in Harris’ career, as well as dance music’s commercial viability. He’d made his name as a kind of nu-disco hook writer and, while predecessor Ready For The Weekend flirted with progressive house compositions on tracks like “Flashback” and “You Used To Hold Me,” 18 Months saw him unabashedly embrace big-room elements and pop-friendly song structures, taking 2012’s pop-dance style then-championed by David Guetta to more critically-appealing heights. It took American audiences by the hand and led them toward festival fields, helping the “EDM” era hit a high water mark that turned the electronic music genre from sound-of-the-moment to an outstanding fact of life.
Much of that could be attributed to the producer’s brilliant use of star power. On his first two albums, Harris sang most of the vocal parts himself. Here, he teamed with Kelis, Dizzee Rascal, Florence Welsch, Ellie Goulding and more, including Rihanna on “We Found Love,” the collaboration that helped make him an A-list star. He harnessed the power of contemporary pop, R&B and hip-hop to create a more perfect dance crossover effort, in so doing concocting a formula for success which typifies the Harris style and continues to be his trademark, even as his most recent album Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 makes a stylistic sonic departure. Those familiar voices helped audiences unversed in house music understand its appeal. It wasn’t a hard bridge to cross. Pop producers were already taking cues from electro producers of the past few years, but Harris was certainly the straw that broke the programming director’s back.
Not every one of 18 Months’ 15 tracks bear a topline. Harris may have earned the ire of some I Created Disco fans with this album’s shinier and more polished sound, but if they chose to dig deeper into the third album’s cuts, the hard electro edge of “Mansion” or the space-age slap-bass of “School” might have turned their heads. Even “Awooga,” with its stomping Dutch house synths so popular at the time, lends the LP some counterbalancing bite.
It was an album well received by critics and fans alike. And if you need any further proof of its lasting impression, you need only look to his fourth album Motion. It shows the least growth of all Harris’ LPs, in many ways trying to recreate the motions and aspects that excelled on 18 Months. It wasn’t a wholly bad album, but it could only be a shadow against the brightness of 18 Months’ game-changing success and composition.
18 Months was a perfect album for its time and it remains the kind of record anyone could slip on at a party while upsetting no one. It’s near-perfect hooks on hits “I Need Your Love,” “Sweet Nothing,” “Feel So Close,” and aforementioned mega-smash “We Found Love” are proving themselves timeless. Here’s to another five years and more of Harris’ utter brilliance, from dance floor to the radio and beyond.