Earlier in the year I wrote about the ridiculously impressive A-List collaborations EDM mega stars Calvin Harris and Avicii have been able to attract to their latest records, featuring what can only be described as some of the world’s most revered vocalists. Everyone from Robbie Williams to Rihanna has featured on a top tier Producer/DJ’s party anthem in the last few years, so much so that I wasn’t sure who was left. Now I know. David Guetta has waited until December to drop his latest record Listen, and the list of contributors blows the rest out of the water.
We open with Dangerous, a gritty retro beat that has a hint of an 80’s power anthem about it. It wouldn’t be out of place on a Daft Punk record and sets us up for the kind of genre fusion that has been so exciting to hear over the past few years. It’s the first of two track to feature Sam Martin, the second being the surprising sound to the western inspired Lovers On The Sun, with a dark guitar riff and whistle. And the surprises don’t stop there. On a list that boasts some of the best female vocalists in the business, a surprise standout is the fantastic performance by relative newcomer Bebe Rexha. The bluesy vibe to Yesterday was definitely at the top of my list and one of the most impressive performances on the record. She features again, albeit uncredited, on Hey Mama which also shows off Nicki Minaj and Afrojack in a track that is sure to storm the charts. Another nod to jazzy blues, this raw, dark dance track is rapper Minaj at her finest. Guetta dabbles in these varied genres, sure, but the overwhelming feel to this record is that of Reggae; so much so it’s almost shocking Rihanna isn’t featured, although she is not at all missed. Sia turns it out on Bang My Head, Magic! on Sun Goes Down and Elliphant and Ms. Dynamite on No Money No Love.
Taking a new approach to production for this record, Guetta started first with the vocals and the live instrumentals and wrote and produced the tracks from there. The result is a raw, emotional connection that has been missing on his previous LPs. There are definitely the catchy, hopeful, made for a summer Coca-Cola commercial tracks like What I Did For Love or Lift Me Up, but also a degree of sadness. The lullaby in John Legend’s Listen, and the love Jaymes Young / Birdy duet I’ll Keep Loving You are the perfect examples and stunning editions to the track list. Perhaps the most unusual song heard here is the closer and second Sia song, The Whisperer. The haunting, stark piano track echoing Adele’s Turning Tables, it is missing the dance beat but still has the enormity of a Guetta track with the orchestral backing providing the oomph.
Guetta is the more vanilla type of EMD Producer, but there is no denying his formula works. He ups the ante here by featuring some of what I consider to be the greatest vocalists of this decade in Sia, Emeli Sande, Birdy and now Bebe Rexha. He may tinker in the fusion of different genres, but the signature David Guetta synth keeps it cohesive. Unfortunately it is the same thing that stops Listen being the promised revolutionary new sound. Listen doesn’t reinvent Guetta in any real way, with perhaps one or two exceptions, but reaffirms his position as the King of EDM/Pop and the man who almost single handedly sparked the craze that is this genre. And it’s not going anywhere.