Why David Guetta is No.1 DJ in Asia
F**k Me, I’m Famous. David Guetta’s Pop Life
David Guetta has been living the ‘Pop Life,’ just like the title of his 2007 album. As famous as the stars of Hollywood, he goes on the world tours on his private plane, and is always one of the top ranks of ‘the highest-paid DJ’s’ according to the ‘Forbes’. His music style has recently changed to be closer to pop as well.
Words: Daehwa Lee.
David Guetta is one of the DJs who are the most difficult to meet in the world. You can hear his music everywhere and therefore may feel that he is quite friendly, but this is why he is one of the hardest DJs to meet in person. It is not easy to hold him for a long time, even for a famous media. ‘DJ MAG Asia’, a recently established publisher, was allocated 20 minutes for the interview.
Such a particularity is not because he wishes to avoid exposure to the public nor he dislikes the journalists. If he doesn’t behave in such way, he will not be left anytime for himself. Even a person who cannot write a single line about the EDM knows what ‘Titanium’ is. Imagine how many interviews he might have been asked for. When I actually asked how many interviews he had done for the day I interviewed him, he did not tell the accurate number, but he answered, “A lot, actually”. The life of managing several interviews a day is an everyday life for him.
As a journalist, I know and understand to a certain extent from my own experiences that it is not easy, and actually is very tiring, to talk in front of many people and for a lot of interviews. I wondered how Guetta, who must be experiencing the toughest schedule, maintains his physical strength. “Taking good care of yourself! I’m all about eating healthy food and exercising to keep my body in the best shape. Working out really helps me feel better. Moreover, the fact that music is my biggest passion also keeps me moving forward even when I’m exhausted.”
Interestingly, one of the ways he enjoys while taking a rest is to remain still without doing anything. “I, actually, always like to zone out before my performance. It might sound a little boring, but I sit in the dressing room with my eyes closed. Just like meditation. After doing so, I can be super-hyped when I get onto the stage!”
While going through the murderous schedule, it is inevitable to have less time to make music. In order to produce the new albums regularly while going through the jam-packed tour schedule, a magic that makes the impossibility possible is necessary. Guetta always makes time to work on his music no matter how busy he may be. When it is urgent, he puts everything aside and sets music as a priority. “Well, I’ve taken 3 months off recently from almost everything to finish my album. So, I do really make time to make music. When traveling, I also work on the plane, but when I need to finish important projects, we make sure that we have time for this.”
To the bedroom DJ’s, it may look like the life of happiness with no pain. Guetta is a DJ who has achieved what the DJs dream of. He possessed the five Billboard top-tens, was nominated to be a Grammy candidate for 8 times, and sold 9 million albums and 30 million singles. For some time, he had featured three performances within a day. According to what he said in the ‘Jonathan Ross Show’, he visited three countries in a day when the album ‘Nothing But The Beat’ was released. “I just go and play for one hour with music from the album, and immediately run to take a plane and go to the next country. It had been really, really insane.”
Guetta is always grateful to his everyday life, as it is a kind of life someone else may be dreaming of. “No word can describe how blessed I feel when being able to do what I love every day.”
However, there also are the pains. “The downside of living this life is that I cannot see my family and friends all the time.”
Guetta may sometimes feel that he wishes to clear the entire schedule he hardly has time to breathe and return to the time when he had been a resident in France. “No,” he spoke by the card, “I love where I am right now. But I also wouldn’t change those times either even if I could. I cherish all those memories, and they made me who I am today.”
Becoming a world star
It was 1987 when Guetta first heard house music. Let us go back to this moment. 1987 was the year when house had moved up to number 1 on the mainstream chart for the first time. ‘Jack Your Body’ by Steve Silk Hurley had ranked number one in the British chart in January of 1987. According to the DJs of the Great Britain, there had clearly and distinctly been the vigorous party scenes but it had been boring because of the stagnant music style. The house music gave the fresh shock, and it had become an enormous trend to the extent that the cataclysms had been caused in the undergrounds of London and Manchester in 1988, although it was mistreated enough to have liquor bottles thrown here and there in the beginning. During this era of transformation, David Guetta listened to the house for the first time, when he was twenty years old. To him, who had already been performing as a DJ, ‘The 2nd Summer Of Love’ must have been a new world of which his heart started to pound.
In 2007, after 20 years had passed, Guetta had become one of the most famous DJ’s in Europe. ‘Love Is Gone’ was ranked the 9th on the British singles chart, and had become one of the most loved house music of the year. His music pieces in the latter half of the 2000’s had greatly contributed to the underground house music to come up to the mainstream. ‘When Love Takes Over’, sung by Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child, was very popular in Korea, a country which takes 11 hours on airplane.
A telephone call which he received after winning the fame with ‘Love Is Gone’ changed his life once again. Will.i.am of Black Eyed Peas proposed him to work as a producer. At the time, Black Eyed Peas had been gaining the worldwide popularity with ‘Monkey Business’. Guetta made his first step in the United States, the country of the biggest music market. It was his first time to work as a producer for another artist. It was also his first time to work in the professional-class studio.
‘I Gotta Feeling’, which was the outcome of this process, became a hit song that will remain for a long time in the history. This song was ranked number one for 14 weeks on the Billboard chart. This music had advanced the popularization of the electro house, which had been rising up at the time. electro house refers to the house, which uses the rough electronic sounds, like the rock guitar. Although it possesses the party DNA of the house, the dark and intense vibes are the special features as well. ‘I Gotta Feeling’ is a piece of music, which combined the electro house with the dance pop, represented by the sizzling bass sound. The Swedish House Mafia had ranked the 6th on the Billboard chart with ‘Don’t You Worry Child’ in 2012, but Guetta ranked the number 1 for 14 weeks 3 years earlier. Guetta certainly is a pioneer.
Guetta is one of the most famous DJs in the world now. When a new piece of work is released, it is introduced on the first screens of the music sites. People can easily listen to his music at the club, at the neighborhood mart, and from the earphone of somebody sitting on the next seat in the bus. His music exists everywhere. His popularity and influence can be found from the collaboration list as well. From Rihanna, Snoop Dogg, Akon, Nicki Minaj, Usher, Sia, Lil Wayne, Charli XCX, to Justin Bieber. He is engaged in the activities on the top floor of the pyramid of the music industry.
No.1 DJ in Asia
I went to the third day of Ultra Korea 2018, the day David Guetta performed. Guetta stood in front of the Korean audiences at 8:00 p.m., the main time of this day.
Ultra Korea is the most popular EDM Festival in Korea. This year’s event successfully attracted 180,000 spectators, and this is the highest number to be recorded. Guetta appeared at Ultra Korea in 2015 too. Both then and now, the ticket power of Guetta in Asia is enormously strong.
While Guetta was preparing for the public performance, the spectators who were scattered at four stages gathered to the main stage. Later, people filled up the entire venue, reaching to the hindmost part where the liquor booths were located. The Olympic Main Stadium, where Ultra Korea will be held, is one of the biggest event venue in Korea. When the first music piece, ‘Like I Do,’ began, the enormous crowd all went wild and began to shout as if they were watching the open chance during the soccer game.
One of the scales for determining the popularity of an artist among the public is the sing-along at the event venue. ‘Titanium’ led the crowd to shout out as soon as the intro came out. When the volume was reduced for the vocal part, the loud sing-along burst out as if it had been waited. In fact, ‘Titanium’ draws the sing-alongs not only in Korea but also in the entire world. All of the spectators at the 2018 Ultra Miami sang along together by following the direction of Guetta. How would it feel when the EDM fans in the world sing along with his own song? “I get Goosebumps every time. Honestly, it’s one of the most amazing feelings ever.”
The spectators of the festival usually love to hear a song that they know. They like it even more when the music is played by the original artist. This is why the stage of David Guetta, who has a lot of the hit songs, obtains such an enthusiastic reaction. He has five Billboard top ten songs, and the most hit songs in Asia in particular. At Ultra Korea, too, the crowds were excited to shout out whenever the hit songs, including ‘Titanium’, ‘Bad’, ‘Ain’t A Party’, and ‘Play Hard’, came out. The audiences had smiles on their faces, telling oneself that ‘It is the song I like!’
To the extent the Asian fans like Guetta, Guetta loves the fervent and favorable responses of the Asian fans as well. “People always let themselves move to the music and party, but the Asian fans REALLY let themselves move and enjoy. They don’t care whether other people are watching them or not, and just enjoy the music without any limits. Ultra has always been amazing. A lot of the preparations had taken place for the show, but the outcome was magnificent. Everything was perfect, including the spectators, atmosphere, and the entire show.”
The reason why Guetta is so popular in Asia is closely related to the special occasion in Asia. As it cannot generalize the entire Asia, let us give an example of Korea.
The popularity of EDM in Korea is markedly lower compared to that in the United States and Europe. The number of the audiences of the festivals has beaten rock, and the press unavoidably writes about ‘the era of the EDM’, but there indeed are only a small number of the people, listening to EDM every day at home and on the streets. Most people are not familiar with the musical arrangements focusing on the beats, the repetitions, and the electronic dance grammar. Moreover, many people who do not prefer the electronic sounds claim that these sounds are artificial. It is very rare or extremely difficult to release songs without vocals, especially when the songs are led by the kick drums and bass guitar. Ultra Korea, which successfully gathered the biggest number of audiences in Korea, had to endure many years to attract a lot of the audiences to be crowded on the Resistance stage, mainly featuring techno. When Porter Robinson visited Korea for the World DJ Festival in the spring of this year, most of the audiences stood up still during the long breakdown; they only reacted when the strong sounds came out.
Of course, the house, techno, and bass scenes exist in Korea. Faust, a techno club located in Itaewon, Seoul, sometimes hosts the shows of the super stars like Seth Troxler and Ben Klock. But, except for a few clubs that have been doing very well, most of them have been satisfied with the maintenance of the status quo. In addition, number of fans has been stagnated, compared to that of the DJ’s, which has continuously been increasing.
Due to the current circumstances, David Guetta’s music certainly has advantages. First, vocal melodies, which easily attract and appeal the listeners, appear in his hit songs all the time. Korean people tend to feel difficult about the dance music without any vocals. This is why the Facebook page which introduces the popular EDM with the vocals has become Korea’s largest EDM community. Furthermore, Korean people like the explosive drops rather than the continuous grooves. In this regard, David Guetta, who enjoys using the intense build-ups and drops, is more advantageous to come up with hit songs. The fact that EDM media are rare in Korea is also advantageous for him. There is almost no magazine which specializes in dance music, and if there are media for dance music, the influence is relatively small. Hence, it is hard for the artists and the albums to be widely publicized among the public if the music cannot be ranked high on the Billboard to attract attention of the mainstream media. David Guetta, whose name always emerges together with the keyword ‘EDM’, is certainly at a more advantageous position than that of anybody else.
It is probably not the situation only in Korea. As a direct example, if we take a look at the Billboard Dance/Electronic chart, there is almost no floor-friendly music in the upper ranks of the Beatport. Most of them are the radio taste pop EDM. Of course, the situation in the United States is much better than in Korea. Regarding the United States, because the size of the underground is big, there are much more people who will listen to 7-minutes long house music. But, there are some similarities between what is going on in the United States and in Korea. When a DJ gets away from the underground, one must be determined to take a huge step towards pop, possibly like Justin Bieber.
With the EDM reaching out to YouTube, the radio, and the Spotify, away from the festivals, the song structure and the popular melody has become more important. This has been the case after Chainsmokers who ranked number one on the Billboard for 12 weeks with ‘Closer’. Now, the bass music artists, like RL Grime, are releasing the pop fusion music, too. It is obviously the era of pop EDM.
Judging from the recently released singles, Guetta does not intend to go against this trend. Instead, he had strengthened the pop elements. ‘Flames’ is a good example. This song could simply be called pop, instead of pop EDM. Synthesizer is usually placed in the center for the drop part, even when EDM has strong pop elements, but it is different for ‘Flames.’ It is the vocals, taking the lead in front, both in verse and chorus parts. This is not a fusion form with pop; this is a 100% pop music.
Each and every piece of music may differ from each other but how they are directed may be similar. ‘Don’t Leave Me Alone’ is a song that is good to listen to at home rather than on a dance floor. The beginning of this song starts with dreamy sound and vocal without any beats. It sounds more like ballad music.
The change is witnessed from the song he worked with the big room producer. ‘So Far Away’, collaborated with Martin Garrix, is a sad R&B which begins with the bluesy guitar. The drop with the future bass style appears, but in general, it is a song which sounds stronger with the earphones than on the floor.
This does not mean that all of Guetta’s interest has been leaning towards the Billboard only. He is still a DJ. For example, ‘Like I Do’ and ‘Your Love’ are big rooms for the festivals. Guetta did not forget where he started from. By arranging music, optimized for the EDM Festival and the clubs, he had not been negligent on being both a pop hit maker and a DJ.
Strengthening of the pop style does not mean giving up the experimental attempts. Guetta says, “I love experimenting with sounds and coming up with unexpected things. Just wait and see what’s coming next!”
Doesn’t music business interfere with your creativity?
I have people I love around me. They give me the good energy on my side. I do not see such negative things.
What is your dream?
My dream is to make music and perform for a long time, until it is possible.
Isn’t this enormous expectation from peoples a burden for you?
I am a person too, so I am burdened, as a matter of course. But, it also becomes power which drives me to improve further every time.
You personally appeared in the ‘Flames’ music video. How was this experience?
First, although I am not an actor, I liked the idea for the music video very much. Acting a villain in my music video was really fun.
Although your role was a villain, you presented some comical acting too. Didn’t you feel the burden that this may influence your image as an artist?
October 11th, 2018