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Review: One Love

May 11, 2011

Image from Amazon

Summary: Fourth time’s a charm! The French super-producer’s fourth artist album is brimming with hedonism, positivity, guest stars, and the most unsubtle beats this side of Justice. Perhaps not coincidentally, it’s his first big crossover record in the U.S.

Fun Facts

  • This album feels as though it’s been released in a bajillion different versions. It first came out as One Love, with 12-15 tracks depending on which country you bought the album in and whether you bought it on CD or digitally. It came out again as One Love 2010, which changed the track sequence, added some new songs, and increased the guest count. It came out yet again in 2011 as One More Love, which condensed the track listing but added one more new song, a collaboration with Rihanna titled “Who’s That Chick?” Somebody – Guetta, his managers, or the labels who distributed the album – is milking the hell out of this album. For this review I will be using the 2009 14-track version of One Love that came with a mix CD. It is not the most comprehensive version of the album, but it’s pretty decadent and covers a lot of the core tracks that are in all of the album’s versions.
  • One reason the album blew up like it did in America was that this was the first time Guetta began working heavily with American hip-hop and R&B artists. Kelly Rowland shows up on 3 songs. Will.I.Am appears on 2 songs. Akon, Ne-Yo, Kid Cudi, and Apl.de.Ap each appear on a song. And while she’s not American, English singer Estelle (who was popular in the States for “American Boy”), sings the title track (and does a damn fine job of it!)

Ups

  • Guetta’s production is incredibly accessible and catchy for hard club music. A key part of that is that he keeps his rhythm sections mostly simple. The big singles “When Love Takes Over,” “Sexy Bitch,” “Memories,” and “One Love,” all stick to very basic but heavy 4/4 beats and simple but hard basslines. That sounds like a criticism, but the simple rhythmic components give the songs appeal on a very visceral level. That allows Guetta the freedom to play with the synth lines or the vocalists some room to shine while everyone is dirty dancing.
  • For what’s pretty much a dance pop record, Guetta plays the keys pretty hard. The synths on songs like “I Wanna Go Crazy,” and “Choose” are bathed in distortion, like they’re dancefloor napalm. When he uses cleaner piano on “Memories,” and “When Love Takes Over,” he mixes it high and uses it to make melodies to make catchy hooks for the singers to ride on. Sometimes he goes for a little 90s throwback cheese like on “Missing You,” which feels like an Ace of Base outtake, but it’s all still really fun.
  • Several of the guests are good matches to Guetta’s unsubtle hedonism. Kelly Rowland uses her power pipes to cut through the darkness like a lighthouse beacon shining through a storm. She and Guetta should do a whole album together. Will.I.Am and Apl.De.Ap rap and shout on “On The Dancefloor” with the same reckless abandon that they showed on The E.N.D. (which Guetta helped produce.) Chris Willis, who has sung and produced with Guetta since 2000, is a fine showman on “Gettin’ Over” and “Sound Of Letting Go.”

Downs

  • The big stumble on the album is actually on a remix of one of Guetta’s biggest hits, The Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling.” The FMIF (which stands for “Fuck Me I’m Famous”) remix shares the same intro as the original, but then does a bait and switch. You would think that tonight’s gonna be a good night, but then everything drops out into this screechy, off-key trainwreck of failed dance pop. What’s more the “remix” part of the song barely counts, as it uses virtually no elements of the original song: almost no vocals (save for a brief cut-up of Will.I.Am), no bass line, no guitar, not even a “mazeltov!” It feels like false advertising. A good remix shouldn’t feel like a practical joke (unless it’s by Kid606.)
  • Guetta also makes a failed early attempt at dubstep (which is like uptempo rave music played at half time) at the end of the album. “If We Ever,” while well-sung by Makeba, feels like a big buildup to nothing.
  • Though it’ll go without saying, not a lot of material on this album is going to pass Alyx Vessey’s dance music test. 13 of the 14 songs are about partying, love, relationships, or objectification (the affirmation-themed title track is an exception). That’s not a unique failure, most of dance music is like that, but it’s indicative of the larger problem of the album which is….
  • Musically Guetta isn’t taking many risks (aside from working with a relatively unknown singer like Novel or Makeba). His consistency is often in danger of becoming homogenous, and if you’re not paying attention it just might become just that. It’s a good thing that when Guetta mixes everything together on disc 2, he throws in more songs and changes their arrangements because otherwise he would wear out his welcome very quickly.

Conclusion: One Love’s extravaganzas are efficient dance music delivery systems – incredibly catchy, visceral, and human. Lots of people want to cut loose, to get over bad breakups, and/or to dance really close with loved ones (or strangers) to pounding, pounding house music, and there are lots of songs here that can fill those needs. The songs on One Love are big and stupid and some are horrible noise blasts or bridges to nowhere. There’s star power, hot synths and pounding beats. With few exceptions there isn’t a whole lot to find beyond the bacchanalia but somehow it works, dammit!

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