Gotta get to Guetta? Read Jim Car­roll’s take on the French su­per­star DJ,

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

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Frontpage -

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.”

“The US now is crazy. It’s like go­ing into the wild west and find­ing a new fron­tier”

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.

In re­cent times, his pro­duc­tions have be­come pop ra­dio’s meat and pota­toes, the easy, go-to tracks to get an oth­er­wise run-ofthe-mill show buzzing.

Back in 2003, it was es­ti­mated that more than 40 per cent of the tracks played on com­mer­cial ra­dio were pro­duced by the then high-fly­ing Nep­tunes. There’s no doubt that Guetta is en­joy­ing a sim­i­lar reach to­day, if any­one cares to do the data-min­ing.

The pop busi­ness is al­ways look­ing for a hit, so record la­bels, pop singers, r’n’b acts and their “peo­ple” were quick to recog­nise the po­ten­tial of work­ing with the French­man.

A list of Guetta’s past, present and in-thep­ipeline col­lab­o­ra­tors re­sem­bles a who’swho of mod­ern pop, from Black-Eyed Peas and Usher to Nicki Mi­naj, Snoop Dogg, Ri­hanna, Akon, LMFAO, Flo Rida and Jessie J. These acts give Guetta a call be­cause they’re think­ing I Gotta Feel­ing or Ti­ta­nium and want a hit of sim­i­lar qual­ity to de­fine them.

But while it’s of­ten the acts rather than the pro­duc­ers who end up with the fame and sold­out shows, Guetta’s own star and pulling power have risen hugely on the back of these mil­lion-sell­ing tracks. Whether it’s fes­ti­val stages in Ir­ish fields, club nights in a resur­gent Ibiza or huge events such as Ul­tra or Elec­tric Daisy Carnival in the United States, Guetta is very much the ruler. His cross­over from un­der­ground DJ and pro­ducer to main­stream pop star is more or less com­plete.

The US’s cur­rent full-on fling with dance mu­sic has helped acts such him­self, Swedish House Mafia and Skrillex to break it big over there. They may call it elec­tronic dance mu­sic, but Guetta just calls it “crazy”.

“It’s like go­ing into the wild west and find­ing a new fron­tier. It re­minds me of the old days in Europe be­cause there’s so much en­ergy and ex­cite­ment at the gigs. It’s so crazy. I re­mem­ber when I used to play New York or Chicago, I would get a buzz be­cause that’s where house mu­sic was born.

“But now, it’s a dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tion and the ex­cite­ment from the dance­floor – from peo­ple who are dis­cov­er­ing the cul­ture for the first time – is so unique that you have to be moved by it. In Europe, I feel we’ve be­come more blase be­cause we’ve had it non­stop for the past 20 years or more.”

It’s clear that feel­ing blase is not in the Guetta hand­book. More­over, he’ll have lit­tle truck with the un­der­ground’s views on his new pop fame or with charges of sell­ing out.

“There’s al­ways pres­sure to do things in a cer­tain way and I know I broke a lot of rules. Be­fore, there was al­most a war be­tween hiphop and elec­tronic mu­sic. It took me a lit­tle courage to do it and cope with the crit­i­cisms I re­ceived. Dance mu­sic was al­ways about cred­i­bil­ity and I think that is what kept dance mu­sic from be­ing suc­cess­ful.

“The peo­ple who came to work with me also got crit­i­cised at the start, but to­day, ev­ery­body is do­ing it.”

And ev­ery­body is likely to keep do­ing it, pro­vided the Guetta hits keep com­ing.

David Guetta plays Mar­lay Park, Dublin, on Au­gust 24 and Bel­sonic, Belfast, on Au­gust 26

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