You may or may not have noticed: David Guetta has been a pretty big deal lately. Guetta benefits from a time of beats and synths in mainstream music, the same wave that has given Afrojack and Benny Benassi their chances to shine, as well as a slew of other producers, artists, and songwriters. The current pop radio mainstream has been impacted, in a large fashion, by David Guetta. Not only does his name carry a number of chart-topping singles, he’s also worked with a bastion of popular artists. Basically: he’s hot.
So it's understandable, as so many artists are afflicted in this way, that Guetta would become a one-trick pony. The proof rests firmly within Nothing But The Beat
, Guetta's latest and most hyped album featuring...just about anyone he could get. You've heard just about every track on this album before, even if it's the first time you've listened to it. The truth is that the biggest issue with any dance producer is finding a voice for their music, and what frequently happens is that voice becomes the identity of your style. That's why you see people creating bands and groups to feature a vocalist with a musical style (think Andain) rather than the typical “Artist feat. Artist” format. But lately, it's been hip to be a solo dance producer, so that format is where Guetta has chosen to stay. In the past it has worked immensely well for him. He's worked with some phenomenal singers, including Chris Willis, who you may remember from the hit “Gettin' Over”. On Nothing But The Beat
, however, Guetta panders to the mainstream by giving the majority of the spotlight to known R&B/hip hop artists, people who have established that their voice sounds good over a heavy, “beat you upside the head” dance beat. These people include Snoop Dogg, will.i.am, Chris Brown, Taio Cruz
, Nicki Minaj, Akon, and Usher. This is why you've heard this album before.
A lot to like but ..
Realistically, there is a lot about the album to like. If you're not overly picky or critical, many of the tracks maintain similar beats and synths to a majority of previously Guetta-produced tracks or similarly produced tracks. You'll find songs to sing along with, songs to dance along with, and songs to drive along with. Realistically, this album should give a great many people a lot of enjoyment simply due to the fact that it is a non-stop party. Never mind if the tracks are good. Never mind if Guetta used to work with singers that truly deserved the attention. Never mind if the upward swing of Guetta's creativity hit it's apex 3 years ago, and Nothing But The Beat
is evidence of his descent. The album is bangin', right? The majority of people who will jam to this album won't have the history to understand what makes it so disappointing, and if you are one of those people, read this next sentence and then stop. This album is a 5 star senseless party album.
If you liked David's older tracks
For anyone with a discerning taste or the ability to reference tracks in Guetta's past like “Stay” or “Everytime We Touch”, here's what you will need to know: Guetta's work with Nicki, will.i.am, Chris Brown, Akon, Lil Wayne, Taio Cruz, and Snoop Dogg can essentially be skipped. The content is trite and ineffective.
Start, instead, at “Without You”, a collaboration with Usher that actually works quite well. Usher has always been a capable vocalist, and while it has been a shame that he hopped on the autotune bandwagon, it has allowed him to remain relevant in an alarming musical landscape. So the sweeping orchestra of “Without You”, leading to a Daft Punk-tastic disco breakdown is a welcome change. And heck, it's downright FUN. A possible sign of things to come? One can hope. Guetta teams up with Timbaland and Dev on “I Just Wanna F”, the black sheep of the album. The track definitely caters more to Dev's sound with The Cataracs than anything Guetta has done. Timbaland does his normal lazyboy rapping while Dev carries the track. It's distinctive and playful, riding hard on a loose alphabetical innuendo. Finally, on “Titanium”
, Guetta...basically blows the rest of his album out of the water. Teaming up with Sia was probably the smartest move he has done in recent memory when it comes to actual musical quality. The pair incorporate a strumming guitar that sounds like a reflection of “Every Breath You Take” before a staggering beat filters in, Sia's trademark pipes positively ooze with emotional inflection. The beauty of this collaboration doesn't hit in its entirety until the breakdown. “You shoot me down," Sia sings, “but I won't fall, I am titanium!” The beat drops like a thousand pounds straight off a cliff. I got actual goosebumps the first few times I listened.
Honorable mentions go out to Jennifer Hudson and Jessie J, who's contributions (“Night Of Your Life” and “Repeat", respectively) were interesting enough to warrant additional listens. Both tracks lack whatever it was that was necessary for them to be stellar, but I rest that blame firmly in Guetta's court, as I believe the production was lacking the most, not the vocalists' abilities.
Nothing But The Beat is basically a summary of the album right in the title. Guetta literally spends the majority of his creative talent on the beat. The songs, for the most part, sound old even though they are new. They are rehashes of prior hits, using techniques and instrumentation that we've heard before. The collection of work here is tired. However, with a few startling moments (“Titanium”, “I Just Wanna F”, “Without You”) it gives me hope that Guetta is finding new ways to improve his production. I'm hoping, also, that the next album brings back Chris Willis, who is sorely missing. Overall, I feel I am being generous by giving this album 2 stars.
Released August 2011 on Capitol/Astralwerks Records.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the record label. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy