Review Summary: Nothing but the beat, when nothing at all would have been far more sufficient
I suppose we can blame the explosion in house music that occurred at the turn of the century for allowing David Guetta to stick his foot in the door. Despite being self proclaimed as the man at the heart of the French electro movement, his early attempts at solidifying and cur-tailing the sound into a more mainstream direction were really only met with derision and disdain, passable attempts by a wannabe messiah that were quickly labeled as "meaningless" and "dull" (imagine what these critics are saying now). After being hurt by the critical arrow more than enough times to send any well meaning artist running back to the nightclubs to spend his remaining days contemplating the meaning of the word talent, Guetta did what anyone else only interested in $ signs would do: he sold out, and with the best of them, no less. Cue his re-birth as not a house musician, but as a pop wunderkind, with only his critically-derided beginnings his only true ties to anything resembling "electro". And granted it's taken him a few years and a few dour releases to be able to accumulate the type of connections that most would die to have, but finally after much "hard work" Guetta has finally been able to muster up a few famous friends to help him in his goal of conquering the world.
Granted these artist friends of his are the kind of people always aching to crack as many markets as possible, so the pairing isn't entirely surprising when you realize that they're all in the same boat. And you have to give Guetta points for marketing his newly polished and sparkly shtick at just the right time; the super clubs of yesteryear are almost all dead and buried, with the likes of Gatecrasher and Godskitchen either completely re-branded or gone the way of the dodo, and places like Ibiza lay trashed and pillaged after the yuppies descended and lay waste to the cocaine white beaches after subscribing to the rave belief that there lay babylon. Ministry of Sound and its insipid brand of pop house is the current bankable guarantee, and don't stop Guetta from sucking the well dry, even if the process is akin to drawing blood from a stone. As such, Nothing But The Beat
is Guetta doing what Guetta knows best, assembling the musical equivalent of wolf whistles and pre-pubescent cries of ooohh's and aaaahh's, with his all-star lineup either mumbling incoherently or shouting over the now standard extremities.
It's by no means the hardest feat in the world to compose a beat designed to do nothing more than to make one want to move and dance as if no one was watching (and believe me, there's always someone watching), and yet Guetta seems so dead set on getting it wrong. Or, getting it right once and then merely replicating the same design with staggeringly inconsistent results; what is consistent however, is his method. Where one track ends, another begins in much the same fashion. A synth line starts beeping annoyingly in the background before a kick pad comes in to accentuate the monotony. Vocals kick in, either describing a love that's finally come to its senses and flown the coop or how said person intends to find love for that night before a simple two-tone line starts stumbling over itself in an endless loop of been there and done that. Percussion kicks in, the lights start flashing, everyone proceeds to get drunk and then we all wake up the next morning feeling a little worse about ourselves.
This is hardly a critique of Guetta himself though, as most commercial house tends to follow the same blueprint like religious doctrine. But here, it feels just a little more scantily dressed, as if the life has somehow been sucked out of it and its relying purely on looks to get by. So comparing his musical output to that of an aging hooker is hardly a stretch, but Guetta makes it all too easy. And this is of course facilitated by the fact that he's not really making music for himself, but instead crafting vehicles for today's top 20 pop stars. Early fare such as 'ACDC' were hardly groundbreaking but they proved that Guetta could actually get by with nothing more than a credible hook and a catchy beat; now it's subdued verse followed by a high energy release chorus, rinse and then repeat. Which doesn't really work given that it is still, at heart, a dance album (of sorts) that should be relying on a constant stream of high end release. When he does cut back there just isn't much call to move; he adds to this even further by constantly cutting the beat away and throwing the spotlight onto the vocals. Strangely though, after doing away with all the guests on the strangely named second disc (the electronic side) he fails to improve his position as he unwisely apes the local flavor of his country by donning his spacesuit and trying his hand at Daft Punk-like cascading guitar tones. It's not so much that the music is out-and-out terrible (even though it is), it's that it seems so out of place, so "borrowed" that you can't help but shake your head at a man who is obviously so out of touch that he would stoop to such a level. Which is really a picture perfect summary of David Guetta in general; it's not like he really needs the big names to get by, they're just another marketing ploy, a selling point to convince the fans of these respective artists that Guetta is a man of the times. So when Usher comes in and sounds completely out of place trying to pull his usual r&b ballad crooning act over a standard saturday night beat, or when Jessie J continues to be annoying by just simply being present you can't help but feel a touch of sadness at the people suckered in by this ruse. Not to mention that Timbaland's contribution in the form of 'I Just Wanna F.' might just be the worst song in the history of sound. The problem here (well, one of them) is that hardly anyone here sounds on point, they don't even sound like they belong; which is because truthfully, they don't.
Nothing But The Beat
plays out like a series of remixes for hip hop artists that would otherwise be relegated to bonus tracks on single releases. Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg and Akon? They just don't belong here, and it shows. But then again neither does Guetta really, he's just a man getting by on the strength of others and making dance music for people not legally able to be in dance venues. Did MTV come calling when Guetta simply relied on everyman Chris Willis to get the job done? No, but they sure did when Kelly Rowland and Kid Cudi were sweating up a storm. So again, credit to a man who knows how to sell his music when the music itself isn't worth the price of admission. So thank you David Guetta for giving us the most pointless album of the nightclub age.