Calvin Harris v Diplo: which is the best superstar DJ?

They’ve both got fake names, famous friends, Dua Lipa collabs and chart-conquering hits. So how to separate them? Why, by pitting them against each other in a (metaphorical) battle to the death

But in this world, nothing can be said to be certain,” Benjamin Franklin once said in 1789, “except death and taxes, and the fact that at any one time, somewhere on the planet, an extremely normal-looking man will be earning $75m to be a DJ.” And of those normal-looking men, the two biggest? If you ignore the existence of Steve Aoki, Tiësto, both the lads out of Daft Punk and almost certainly some Dutch 22-year-old whose entire career has boomed and busted in the time since I started this sentence, the two biggest are: Calvin Harris (Scotland) and Diplo (United States).

When we love some things, we must pit them against each other. We all agree we all love massive sound-of-the-summer EDM-inspired mega-bangers (Harris recently dropped Promises with Sam Smith; Diplo just did Electricity with Mark Ronson and Dua Lipa; both of these songs are Very Good) ... but who is the best producer of them? Via a series of solidly scientific metrics, we can now find out ...

Best real name

Bizarrely, Calvin Harris isn’t just called “Calvin Harris”: he has an underlying normal name, a normal name beneath his normal name, and that is “Adam Wiles” (his ex-girlfriend Taylor Swift famously sent the internet spinning while expressing gratitude to her then-boyfriend, “Adam”, when accepting a statue at the 2016 iHeartRadio awards. Nobody knew Calvin Harris wasn’t called “Calvin Harris”). Diplo, less bizarrely, was not assigned the name “Diplo” at birth: he was born Thomas Wesley Pentz Jr, and had Diploness thrust upon him. I think it’s pretty easy to see who has won this one, isn’t it? Diplo had such a cool name that he had to call himself “Diplo” to one-up it. Calvin Harris only had to change his name to “Calvin Harris” to make it more interesting.
Diplo 1, Calvin 0

Best makeover

Calvin Harris arrives for the Brit Awards 2009
Calvin Harris arrives for the Brit Awards 2009 Photograph: Dave Hogan/Getty Images

Strong round for Calvin Harris, who used to look like every single one of the Inbetweeners ran into each other at speed and morphed into the same tall Scottish bloke, whereas Diplo has pretty much always looked like a yoga-and-juice-cleanse tech CEO who goes viral for doing a slightly-too-enthusiastic TED talk about “disruption”.
Calvin 1, Diplo 0

Best side-projects

Diplo has branched out repeatedly – his Silk City and Major Lazer side-hustles, as well as the Jack Ü/Skrillex project, has resulted in some of his biggest singles – whereas one of Harris’s most notable projects was a short-lived YouTube channel (JAM.TV) where he got his guest vocalists on camera to unscrew jars of jam and marmalade. So. Pretty easy win for Diplo, here.
Diplo 1, Calvin 0


Calvin Harris is six-five, which is frankly monstrous. Diplo, at a far more normal five-10, loses this round. Sadly, this leaves us at a complete impasse.
Calvin 1, Diplo 0

Best guest stars

This is a very close one: both have worked with some of the biggest artists in the world (Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Katy Perry, MIA, Pharrell) as well as smaller artists whose status grew after guesting on their singles, but very crucially Calvin Harris has done two songs with Rihanna and, when Diplo tried to play her a song once, she said it sounded like “a reggae song at an airport”, one of the century’s greatest disses.
Calvin 1, Diplo 0

Most incessant commenter on Instagram

On Instagram, Calvin Harris comments an extremely normal amount. That is OK. Diplo does not do this. Diplo simply comments an unnatural amount on Instagram. I am talking liking … every post. If you go on the latest photo of any famous person, Diplo will be there at the bottom, dropping a couple of lightning emojis or saying something sassy about the picture itself. My theory is that Diplo doesn’t actually do all this himself – he has a huge, swarming, thousands-strong army of commenters with his login details, who work interlocking eight-hour shifts to cover every single post – but he is still possibly the world’s most prolific Instagram commenter, and if you don’t watch out Diplo will be on your Instagram too, saying “Wow” followed by the horny purple devil emoji on a photo of a stew you made. A win for Diplo, then, plus a bonus point for sheer enthusiasm.
Diplo 2, Calvin 0

Grand total

Diplo 4, Calvin Harris 3

Diplo wins by a man-bun!


Joel Golby

The GuardianTramp

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