David Guetta cemented his status as one of the world’s premiere DJs with the release of his last album, “Nothing But The Beat.” His latest studio album, “Listen,” is another fantastic addition to the artist’s electronic dance music catalogue, featuring collaborations from Nicki Minaj, MAGIC!, Emeli Sande, The Script, Sia, John Legend, Bebe Rexha and more.
Three thoughts run through the minds of David Guetta fans each time he releases a new album tracklist:
“How will the new Nicki track sound?”
“Is there a Rihanna collaboration?”
“Why are there so many songs with Sia?”
These are valid concerns, as his albums have become a somewhat formulaic with few standout tracks. And with “Listen,” though Guetta offers many great tracks, none of them are particularly different or special.
"Nothing But the Beat" was a game-changer for music of the early 2010s. Guetta brought us the hits “Where Them Girls At?” and “Turn Me On,” which solidified rapper Nicki Minaj’s place in pop music stardom. “Without You” gave us the EDM-influenced Usher that audiences craved after hearing “OMG” a year prior, and “Titanium” made Sia more relevant than ever in today’s pop music. These songs brought electronic dance music to the forefront of playlists; it’s only natural that fans should be interested in whomever Guetta collaborates with next.
But things have changed in the last three years. Rather than a glorious build up of synthesizers and soaring choruses, pop music audiences have moved to favor dirty beat drops coupled with hip hop and trap influences in electronic dance music. With “Listen,” Guetta seems stuck in 2011.
His music hasn’t quite evolved and the album seems rather dry and soulless at times. Though the tracks are fun to listen to, there isn’t anything particularly memorable. The title track by John Legend is easily forgettable — it lacks the passion of Legend’s bigger hits, and the drop is bland to say the least.
“What I Did For Love,” by Emeli Sande, merits an extra listen. Sande carries a signature flair; she sings with grace and poise, and her talent shines through Guetta’s rather basic music. The beginning of the song, which features simply an organ and Sande’s voice, is much more preferable to latter parts which incorporate the DJ’s extra fluff.
“The Whisperer,” the last track on the standard edition of the album, is performed by Sia. This artist slays anything she sings, and the beauty of this song is highlighted with Guetta’s minimalist approach to the instrumentation. There are a few synths in this track, and Sia’s voice crescendos and decrescendos — à la “Kill and Run” — and it is expertly executed by the songstress. The song is by far the most meaningful and inspirational on the album. In the first verses, Sia sings, “A million voices scream in my head/ And I felt sure that I would give in/ So why couldn’t I now? Why couldn’t I now/ Your voice was louder.” “The Whisperer” is pure poetry.
Overall, “Listen” provides a fantastic escape into Guetta’s world. It’s an incredibly vapid and single-tracked, but it is a relief from the traditional top-40 nonetheless. Guetta knows his craft well, and he sticks to his formula with minimal departure. The album is solid, but it most certainly isn’t his best. Though these new collaborations are entertaining, the DJ shouldn’t expect a Grammy nod this time around.