From dark underground clubs to festival and stadium stages and the top of the charts, smiley French DJ and producer David Guetta has done it his way, writes JIM CARROLL
IT’S THE SOUND of the crowd on a Saturday night, those ubiquitous pop anthems such as I Gotta Feeling, When Love Takes Over and Titanium. They’ve become the soundtrack to everything from a sports team celebrating another win (how many times have you heard I Gotta Feeling used in that context on those TV video highlight montages?) to another weekend spent whooping it up.
All of the tunes mentioned feature the handiwork of a permanently grinning, 40-something veteran French DJ and producer. David Guetta was a fixture at underground clubs in Paris alongside Laurent Garnier back in the 1990s, but it’s his recent studio successes that have made him one of pop’s most valuable players in the past few years.
It’s highly unlikely Guetta would be top of the bill at big shows in Dublin and Belfast next weekend – and banking large fees for his trouble – if he was still playing the kind of tunes he was spinning back in the day. The underground is one thing, but the big stages require something else entirely – and that’s what Guetta has worked on.
What’s fascinating about Guetta’s successful run of hits is how obvious they all seem in hindsight. It’s as if the formula was hiding in plain sight and it took the French producer to discover it and put the elements together.
Deconstruct a Guetta hit and you’ll usually find a soulful voice – such as Kelly Rowland, (ex-Destiny’s Child), on When Love Takes Over – singing over banging, booming, fairly mainstream pop-house beats. Add in an occasional soar or a bit of a breakdown and you have the Guetta blueprint. Big voice plus big beats – hip-hop plus house, basically – equals ker-ching!
But when Guetta first tried this template out back in the early years of the last decade, no one really paid that much attention. On his debut album, Just A Little More Love, released in 2002, eight of the 13 tracks featured collaborations with US soul singer Chris Willis. All of these are strikingly similar to the tunes he produces now.
“My thing was always to bring soul into electronica – that was my sound from the very start,” Guetta explained in an interview with The Ticket last year. “You mentioned Chris Willis and Just A Little More Love and that’s what we were trying to do then. It became clearer and clearer over the years that this approach was right. At first, I was a little shy about what I was doing, but then I went for it 100 per cent because I could see it was working.”
While 2007’s Pop Life fared better with the public – especially Everytime We Touch, aided and abetted by Willis’s vocals and songwriting and production from Swedish House Mafia – it was 2009’s One Love that really established the pop power and panache of the Guetta template. After that, there was no looking back for the Frenchman as the mainstream came in search of his magic.