Turn on any Top 40 or urban radio station these days and it's clear there's been a massive sonic sea change.
Gone from the biggest hits are the old trunk-rattling, snare-heavy, often Middle Eastern-inspired beats that dominated the mid 2000s. In their place is unabashed, anthemic, synth-heavy dance music propelled by stomping four-four beats.
And it's not just for pop-tart princesses either -- even old purely R&B and hip-hop artists have been unable to resist the temptation of a little dance floor thump-thump.
A big chunk of this can be credited to David Guetta. The unflappably cheerful French super-producer started out as a pure house DJ. But over the course of his global club travels, he developed a serious love for American R&B and hip-hop. So a few years ago, he thought: why not combine the two? It seemed crazy at the time -- but then came his mega-smash collabo with Black Eyed Peas, "I Gotta Feeling." And his ditty with Akon, the inescapable "Sexy Bitch." And any other number of hits for artists like Estelle, Kelly Rowland, and more.
Love it or hate it, Guetta has changed the American musical landscape -- and he's only getting started. While his 2009 solo album, One Love, was heavy on names like Kid Cudi, Ne-Yo, and Kelly Rowland, he hopes to push the crossover envelope even further with its follow-up. That album, Nothing But the Beat, is due out later this summer, and its opening singles are already creating a buzz.
Yesterday, he released a video for one of the opening singles, "Where Them Girls At," featuring Nicki Minaj and Miami's own Flo Rida. His friendship with the latter is long in the making. It was Guetta who created Flo's super smash "Club Can't Handle Me," and the two performed together live at this past Ultra Music Festival.
In fact, it was that week that Crossfade caught up with Guetta to get the scoop on the new album and his future musical plans. Watch the new video below and read what Guetta had to say.
Crossfade: When you first finished the album, you spoke about not knowing which track to choose as a first single. There were a couple in consideration, you said, and one was a "U.S. record" and one was a "European record." What makes a track a "U.S. record" for you?
David Guetta: It's the production. One is more that kind of "Sexy Bitch" sound that is more typical David Guetta but that's become the standard now in the U.S. The other one is a little more club. But at the same time, the U.S. is going so club now, anything is possible. With the two possible first singles I was considering, one is like, "Okay, we made it! Let's just do what we do!" The other one is more like, "Okay, are we going to push it even more?"
Which of the new songs do you think is most pushing your sound in a different direction?
One with Taio Cruz and Ludacris called "Little Bad Girl," production-wise. Those artists are amazing and speak to both U.S. and the rest of the world. The new sound is still what I do. I only started this two years ago, and I remember at the time explaining that my dream was to create a bridge between urban music and European dance culture. It sounded really crazy at the time, but now it's become mainstream music in the U.S., which is incredible.
So obviously, I'm not going to stop now, because that's what I love. After what we've done with the Black Eyed Peas and "Sexy Bitch," and all those records that came in a similar style -- Rihanna, Taio Cruz -- it's just crazy. I was in a car in Los Angeles listening to the radio, and it's totally, totally different from what it was a year before. It was all sounding like --
Yeah, I think so!
Do you think you were single-handedly responsible for that whole change?
Not only me, but I'm a big part of it, for sure.
Do you feel flattered that a lot of other producers are now making tracks in a similar sound? Or do you feel that there are people who are ripping off your style?
I feel very flattered. I don't believe in a rip-off, because I don't think music is owned by anybody. I think music is just in the air, and you have to reach up and take it. All of us, we come with new formulas, but you cannot protect it, and it shouldn't be protected. So I'm happy, because music on the radio sounds more like what I love. I'm not saying, "Oh, I should be the only one to make that sound!" Of course not.
In between working on your own original material, of course you've been doing a lot of records for other artists. How do those collaborations come about? Do artists come to you or do you seek them out?
Well, originally nobody knew my name, so if I was coming to them, it would have been nobody picking up the phone. Now, it's very different, and I can call myself if I want to, because they know my work. But a lot of them are calling me first, most of the time, because a lot of them want my production for their albums.
When you work with other artists for your own album, do you write tracks with them specifically in mind, or do you find the track for them after you decide to work together?
I don't really do this. I love to make beats without thinking about who is going to be performing them. It's an amazing thing for me to be able to do this, a big freedom, because I'm a DJ, first of all. So what I want to do is make people dance. Producing, for me, is like a hobby. I know it sounds crazy, because it became really big now, but I still do it like a hobby.
So if I'm going to the studio to be with someone, and I'm forced to limit myself to a range or vibe or lyrics, it doesn't make me feel good. So I'd rather make a lot of different types of music, and then say, "Oh, this would be nice for this artist or that artist."
What do you think was going on in the American music market that made everyone so receptive to your new crossover type of sound?
What I don't understand is why it did not happen before. Honestly, it was a mystery. Your market was so different from everywhere else in the world. I mean, your big hip-hop or rock records were also big in the rest of the world. But some of our huge records in Europe -- actually, not only in Europe, also Asia and South America -- would be nothing here, just underground. At the time when Internet is global, how is it possible that there was one market -- and not the smallest one, you know! -- that was totally disconnected from the rest of the world?
You have the most amazing artists on the planet. So the fact that those artists are embracing our sound, it adds something to what we do, and now it's going to come back in a new form to Europe. So it's a snowball, you know? I started something with will.i.am. and Akon, and it was like, "Oh, America is discovering a dance sound."
And now, it's coming back to Europe because it's different now. It's like, "Oh, David's making dance music with urban artists? That's crazy!" So it's new for you, but it's also new for us too. All those huge, talented people now into that sound are bringing something fresh to us, and making us see dance music in a new way. It's really exciting for the whole world.
We had so many genres that were previously hugely influential for us, like underground house sounds and dubstep and minimal techno, but just stayed underground. But in a way, those genres influence fashion, and they influence pop music, and they influence the way we live, but people don't realize it. Fashion and music -- everything comes from the streets and the underground. Then some people know how to make it cross over and make it understandable for the masses.
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I think that me being a DJ and coming from that underground culture when I was 18, and being open to music and melodies and songs, and listening to the radio in America when I was on tour, and mixing all of this -- maybe I made dance music that was more accessible to people who are not from our culture. It was about songs and melodies, so that touches your heart even if you don't understand the beat.
But it's okay, because if a song is good, it's going to touch you. It doesn't matter if it's hip-hop, pop, rock, or dance. Then slowly, people got used to that kind of drums, and those kinds of sounds, and those kinds of drums, and I'm into it!