Saturday, September 3, 2011

Getting’ Over Guetta? A Techno Perspective

Vertigo Shtick is pleased to introduce its new dance and electronica correspondent, Techno School, who I've asked to provide some perspective on dance/pop/urban crossover producer David Guetta and his new album Nothing But the Beat. (More info here.)

Let me make one thing clear to Mr.Guetta, wherever out there in the world you might be. Having Usher/Nicki Minaj/ sing a song to a techno beat does not a House Music Revolution make.

Got it? Good.

I've got this love/hate thing going on when I listen to David Guetta's music. Love, as we all know, is one of those complex emotions that leads to trouble as often as it does bliss. We encounter the challenges of loving others, of loving ourselves, of loving the world we live in. It's hard to find someone who's been out there for any length of time and not encountered a love that has lifted them up above the clouds and simultaneously brought them to their knees. Hate, fortunately, can be a bit more straightforward.

I hate that Guetta fails to do what he claims to stand for—bringing techno to the mainstream—and I hate that someone who essentially acts as a producer a la Timbaland-with-famous-pop-stars got to headline nearly every major electronic festival of the past year, from the Electric Daisy Carnival to Electric Zoo to Ultra Music Festival. (Surprisingly, he didn’t take over I Love Techno, one of the larger and more notable raves in Europe.)

A producer and a DJ serve different purposes, and I think David Guetta takes too much of a backseat to the featured artists in his tracks to merit the latter title. He has a very distinct sound, yes, but his songs come off like remixes of other artists’ works. “Memories,” featuring Kid Cudi, is a good example. That song could easily just be a dance/club version of a more mellow Kid Cudi track—it reminds me of the obnoxious “Day ‘N Night” remix that ended up taking over the radio in place of the original. If you took the lyrics out of "Memories," how many radio listeners with untrained ears would recognize the backbeat as classic Guetta?

"Memories" (feat Kid Cudi) - David Guetta

And I can’t take his sexism. Don’t call me a bitch, Guetta - not even a sexy one. Don’t ask where my girls at—if I told you I’m here with my friends, it’s probably because I don’t want to talk to you anymore. You are the definition of That Creepy Guy at the club. It feels to me like Guetta has sold out and is just feeding to the monster womanizing machine that is the record label. Where's the revolution in that? I’ll admit that I’m biased, not being a huge fan of lyrics in electronic music to begin with, and in a lot of cases I think DJs just try too hard. But if you're going to go that route, at least be original! Don’t be just another misogynist jerk telling me to “shake that ass” while you get drunk off Patrón on the dance floor.

You're a liiiiiitle close to me
But then the love kicks in. Despite his knack for raising my blood pressure, Guetta’s name is tied to one of my absolute favorite songs in the world, “When Love Takes Over” (featuring Kelly Rowland). I love this song so much that it is physically impossible for me to listen to it fewer than three times in a row without experiencing enormous bouts of anxiety. The hypocrisy of my emotions destroys me. Despite my trademark cynicism, the ultimate optimist’s “When Love Takes Over” steals my heart every time. (And those scales! What is it about the vocal scales that gets me? Damn, Kelly!)

"When Love Takes Over" (feat. Kelly Rowland)

And maybe it’s fitting, since this really funny thing is happening to me right now.

I am being bombarded by men. Bombarded, as in repeated phone calls and text messages from guys I meet at bars, and a lot more attempted flirting by my coworkers than I think the HR office would appreciate.  I actually found myself enjoying the company of one (just one) of these men, and he and I have been spending a lot of time together. So much time that, let's just say, I was expecting to spend a lovely quiet evening by myself last night, but somehow I ended up waking up beside him this morning. Am I becoming part of a relationship so soon?  Guarded Techno School has kept her emotional distance, but the poor guy is already calling me “babe” and talking to his friends about me. Houston, we have a problem!

I do not have the tools to properly handle this situation! Year after year in LA, I tried to get a member of the opposite sex to pay me five minutes of clothed attention, to no avail. “You’re being too picky!” I’d hear a lot, or worse, “Men are just intimidated by you.” The world expected me, it seemed, to settle for a guy I didn’t like, and to tone down my personality and intellect in order to not scare this potential man away. Yet, here I am for not even two months, and I literally am finding myself having to shoo the suitors away. What is in the water here?  Let’s hope I don’t pull a magnificent self-sabotage maneuver and break my new man’s heart. I’m trying really hard to embrace this concept of vulnerability and trust, but I think I’ll have to listen to more naïvely optimistic Guetta tracks first.And, oh, are the lyrics beautifully naïve. As kind of the antithesis to the distressed metaphor for painfully overwhelming love in Magnetic Man's “I Need Air,” Rowland belts out:
Head underwater, now I can’t breathe
It never felt so good.
Cause I can feel it coming over me
I wouldn’t stop it if I could!
(Break for epic dance party) 
I looked up some of Guetta’s new music on YouTube today—I gave up enough of my dignity buying his last album, One Love, in the name of broadening my horizons, and I’m not making that mistake a second time—and I was surprised to mostly run across instrumental versions of his record. Take all the featured performances out, and you’ve actually got some short tracks that could be the base of a great house mix. Maybe Guetta’s hiding behind all these guest artists until he feels the greater pop world is ready to accept straight-up techno. Or maybe he really just does whatever he needs in order to afford that cheesy-looking hipster shades-and-leather-jacket ensemble.

Whatever the reason, I hope he ends this fast and either bounces off the scene or takes it by force as a true DJ. We can all do better.

Techno School is currently based in Detroit.
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