David Guetta - 7 (Review)

Martin_Canine DAVID GUETTA

In the very, very late 2000s and early-to-mid 2010s, there was no way getting around the name David Guetta. After his national breakthrough, the French producer of a more commercial end of a techno subgenre called house music managed to gather himself a bunch of popular names - Akon, Kelly Rowland, half of the Black Eyed Peas, Ne-Yo,... - and released an album called One Love that was a sleeper hit all across Europe. Its songs stormed the charts, it was a best seller in every store that sold CDs and it caused a hype for a hybrid genre nobody knew existed before. The album was reissued numerous times, in countless editions with several alterations. But with success, polarization began. Europe has a strong passion for techno, but it usually likes the style as a multitude of scenes of their own, with the individual subgenres having clear underground cultures. Guetta did not appeal to many of the house fans - he was too mainstream, with aesthetics pleasing a wider mass. But his style caught on. Soon established artists started copying him, his trademark production style - the drum kits he used, his harmonies and the synth lines - was inspiration for artists such as Rihanna, Taio Cruz, Pitbull and more. Later on, he himself had his breakthrough in America with Nothing But The Beat, and for a span of a couple of years, the international charts were dominated by the sound Guetta brought to light. Love him or hate him, but he definitely had a major impact on the music of an era.

When he had his European breakthrough, he had to compete against other, purer house artists doubting his credibility within the scene, when he was an American star as well, his main issue was being surrounded by household names who performed his style, almost causing him to go under next to his own clones. In 2018, the craze for his style has somewhat decreased, sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on the country. The USA completely abandoned EDM in favor of hybrid hip hop, in Central Europe it still coexists with the other styles. In times when Europe and the USA musically drift apart more and more, it was interesting how Guetta would design his next project.

Theoretically, he did a good move. 7 is one of several double albums that were released this year (Drake’s Scorpion, Migos’ Culture II, Vanessa Mai’s Schlager, just to name a few), but unlike most of them, it isn’t simply an overlong record, but has two discs that are entirely different in premise. His trademark genre “house pop” is basically non-existent. On disc 1 we get pop, on disc 2 we get house - each of them in their purest form.

With Bebe Rexha, Justin Bieber, Anne-Marie, Sia, Nicki Minaj, Martin Garrix, Jason Derulo, Lil Uzi Vert and more, Guetta assembled an all star cast to provide vocals or production for the first half of the huge project, and every fan of the contemporary charts should be more than excited for having such names team up on one album. Guetta largely abandoned EDM in favor of a sound that fits the current mainstream expectations. In that sense, we get a Kanye West-ish soul sample and an urban touch on She Knows How To Love Me and a very RnB-ish trap jam on 2U. Songs like these perfectly blend into 2018’s pop landscape, although they aren’t ahead of them. Goodbye is one of the lesser songs to jump on the Afrotrap wagon that currently floods the European market. There’s a bit too much going on at the same time in order to truly convey a holiday feeling. Let It Be Me sacrifices an uplifting verse and beat by ripping the chorus straight out of the classic Suzanne Vega tune Tom’s Diner - not that sampling would be a bad thing per se, but you really shouldn’t get the constant urge to turn the song off and listen to the original instead. And Drive is a typical example of a modern tropical house song without any rough edges. All of these songs were produced and written highly professionally, and there’s little to criticize on a technical level, but they lack any personality whatsoever, and never come close to the level of memorability Guetta achieved with tunes like Memories, Turn Me On or Titanium.

But there are also a couple of nice surprises. The greatest tune is not unlikely Say My Name, a late summer hit with a hypnotic melody and a drop so otherworldly you could never predict it. Then there’s Battle that is epic and loud in tone, much in contrast to the smooth sounds Guetta settled for otherwise. I’m That B---h is one of the very few EDM moments on this disc, and it’s a hella techno club track. Wild and fit for raving. On the other hand, Motto is a very fine trap song that could have as well been a highlight on one of the rappers’ albums.

Unfortunately there’s also the opposite case, although not as often:
Don’t Leave Me Alone and Para que te quedes have drops so weird and underwhelming they kind of kill every urge to enjoy yourself. The latter is almost as disappointing as his 2014 failure Shot Me Down. And then we have Light Headed, which is one huge mess. Sia’s vocals are oddly lo-fi compared to the other elements of the song and autotuned so ugly that she ends up sounding as if she was less talented than she actually is. Also, what the volume of the synths in the drop? It feels as if it couldn’t decide. Nothing seems to fit together.

As for the second disc, it has less to talk about, but is ironically the better listen. Presented under the pseudonym Jack Back, the disc feels like a DJ set of a real underground producer with nothing hinting at the fact that a pop superstar is behind the tape. Naturally, there’s house, but more interestingly also a bit of trance hidden in there (Afterglow, Orion), that reminded me of the “Trancemaster” series. Almost all of the songs are instrumental, with the exception of the opening and closing tracks (and a very rare use of a text to speech software), allowing you to fully sink into the rhythms and let yourself go. It’s an experience that is well known to actual techno fans, but that might come off as unusual to the artist’s main fanbase. There’s no potential hit on disc number two. Instead, it’s about feeling the vibe take over oneself - in which David Guetta probably succeeds more than in creating his next big radio single.