As the biggest superstar to emerge from the second generation of superstar DJs, it’s little surprise to discover that Frenchman David Guetta has once again managed to attract another A-list line-up for his sixth studio effort, Listen.
But although the follow-up to 2011 blockbuster Nothing But The Beat features a couple of the usual suspects – Nicki Minaj on the chaotic electro-hop of “Hey Mama,” and Sia on the soaring “Bang My Head” – its list of star names also throws up a few collaborations that even EDM-loving psychics couldn’t possibly have seen coming.
Indeed, who would have predicted that Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the South African choral group best-known for imbuing Paul Simon’s Graceland with a sense of authenticity, would ever turn up on a David Guetta record? And yet, their distinctive harmonies work wonders with recent chart-toppers Nico & Vinz on The Police-inspired “Lift Me Up.”
Emeli Sandé, the nearest challenger to Adele’s soul-pop balladeer crown, also takes a leftfield turn with a convincing portrayal of a 90s dance diva on the retro Italo house of “What I Did For Love.” Elsewhere, Irish trio The Script, the kind of soft rock outfit who make The Fray sound positively edgy, prove to be an unlikely yet successful ally on the skyscraping dance-pop of “Goodbye Friend.”
But although its roll call of guest artists may be impressive, Listen still suffers from a distinct lack of ideas in the production department. On several occasions, the 47-year-old Guetta shows glimpses of intrigue – the twanging cowboy blues of “Lovers On The Sun,” and the Latin reggae of “Sun Goes Down,” to name just two examples. However, the majority of the album’s 14 tracks eventually fall into the same four-to-the-floor pattern that has become his trademark, with only closer “The Whisperer,” an emotive piano ballad which concludes with a sweeping string arrangement, having the confidence to stray and then stay outside Guetta’s comfort zone.
Overall, Listen is a vast improvement on his last two releases, occasionally showing encouraging signs of progression. But it’s also a record which suggests David Guetta is still more concerned with chasing obvious hits than preparing for when the EDM bubble he helped to blow up eventually bursts.