Pop / Guetta Gotta Get a New Sound

Producer David Guetta's fifth album plays it too safe.

Moshe Kutner
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Moshe Kutner

It is just as well that David Guetta, the child of a Moroccan-Jewish restaurateur in France, chose not to take over the family business. Thanks to that fateful decision Guetta turned into one of the most sought-after producers in the world. His main contribution is to the pop sound that currently dominates pop and hip hop songs interspersed with dance and club beat productions.

The 2009 song, "I Gotta Feeling" that Guetta produced for the Black Eyed Peas was the first to break through and instill dance in the American mainstream. The song became the most frequently downloaded clip in the United States up until then, and turned into the prototype for dozens of clips that followed. From that moment on, pop stars, primarily of the urban genre, who hoped to match the accomplishment have stood in line to arrange a production with Guetta. Kelly Rowland, Rihanna, Kid Cudi, Kelis and the rapper Flo Rida have all appeared in Guetta clips over the past two years. He himself does not stay behind the scenes, but stands out front and stars in the clips alongside the artists, usually as the DJ getting the masses to move while flailing his arms with his mane of hair flying in all directions.

David Guetta. He’s got the formula for commercial success.Credit: Ricky Gest

In his fifth album, the double album "Nothing But the Beat," key figures from the hip hop and R and B world appear, including Snoop Dogg, Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, Timbaland and will.i.am. Guetta acquired his place by finding the formula that linked the club beats to the pop vocal renditions. His decision to stick to the same formula on the new album leaves him in a place that is safe commercially, but devoid of creative vision. The auto-tune song effect, the production embellishments and the over-arrangement perceived in the clips manages to flatten the personality of most of the singers who appear. Even the ones with an outgoing personality, such as Nicki Minaj and Snoop Dogg, are buried under the production. Far from the exclusive champagne that featured in the genre's clips, the sound of the new album is more like that of energy drink cans being hastily poured on top of a car outside the club.

"Where Them Girls At," the first single from the album with Flo Rida and Nicki Minaj, sounds like a rapper takeover of 1990s Eurodance classic, Eiffel 65's "Blue." Other segments also sound rather like overly direct quotes of commercial dance classics of the past. In a few segments, where the results are sufficiently catchy, none of this matters, as in "Crank it Up," starring Icon, a silly and so very effective summer hit that is likely to transform any random human gathering into a seething human train, replete with Hawaiian chains and tricolor cocktails.

"I Just Wanna F" is a segment featuring Guetta and Afrojack, in which Timbaland and Dev star. This is the only one challenging Guetta's safe formula - rap-dripping sleaziness with a break-beat rhythm in the spirit of Diplo's productions. This segment, which appears near the end, provides a little breath of fresh air, and primarily air, which is so lacking in this intense disc.

The disc of the album is completely instrumental and includes only segments with a club orientation. The 10 clips on it range from electro-house and commercial trance to break-beat and acid. In contrast to the uniformity on the first disc, here Guetta demonstrates his command of diverse genres, as well as his abilities in several less commercial styles that have yet to be eroded from overuse. When he decides to include these elements in his pop productions, it will be an interesting moment in his own personal creation and perhaps also a moment of innovation in the world of pop music.